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The importance of vaccines for rabbits

We all want the best for our rabbits, especially when it comes to keeping them healthy. So, it’s important to vaccinate your bunnies every year against Myxomatosis and two strains of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD and RVHD2).

There’s a lot of information out there about vaccinations and it can sometimes be confusing. Put simply, vaccinations are needed to:

  • Protect rabbits from nasty, life-threatening diseases.
  • Give peace of mind.
  • Create or boost their immunity to certain diseases.
  • Prevent rabbits from passing on infectious diseases.

Sadly, a lot of the diseases your rabbit can catch if they aren’t vaccinated can be fatal. Even if your rabbit catches one and recovers, they could be left with long-term problems.


They can be injected from five weeks old, and they’ll need boosters every year with the new triple combination vaccine.

It doesn’t guarantee absolute protection from Myxomatosis, but the disease will be milder in vaccinated rabbits, appearing as a single skin lesion, or a short, fairly minor illness. Vaccinated rabbits with Myxomatosis usually survive, unfortunately unvaccinated rabbits tend not to.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD)

You’ll need to protect your rabbits against two strains of RVHD, known as RVHD1 and RVHD2. Your rabbits can be injected from five weeks old and they’ll need a booster every 12 months.

Vaccination is very effective. If your rabbit has never had a standalone RVHD2 vaccine, then it should be given as a one-off the first time you vaccinate.

Rabbit vaccination myths

Vaccinating your rabbits is the most important measure you can take to protect them. There are many misleading ideas surrounding your bunnies’ jabs. Here we debunk some common myths:

MYTH: Vaccinations can damage a rabbit’s health

Just like in humans a vaccination can make a pet feel a bit ‘off-colour’ for a day or two, but if you’re worried that your rabbit seems very unwell, check with your vet. Some rabbits can develop a mild case of Myxomatosis after vaccination, although this can usually be treated successfully by your vet. It’s worth bearing in mind that as a vaccine can take a week or two to become fully effective, there’s always a chance your rabbit was exposed to the disease before vaccination took place.

MYTH: House rabbits don’t need to be vaccinated

This is not true – Myxi is spread by fleas and mosquitoes, which fly indoors as well as outside, and RVHD can be carried inside on hay and vegetables, or even on your clothes or shoes. Rabbit diseases exist in both urban and rural areas, especially if there’s a wild rabbit population nearby.

MYTH: RVHD is not a common disease in the UK

Although less common than Myxomatosis, RVHD and RVHD2 are on the rise. These diseases cause internal or external bleeding, but the signs aren’t always obvious as your pet may just seem lethargic. If a rabbit dies without warning, and their owner doesn’t visit the vet, the reason for its death can go unknown. So, the incidences of RVHD in the UK could be a lot higher than we realise.

MYTH: Once a baby bunny is vaccinated, it’s immune to common diseases for life

Not true – rabbits can be vaccinated from five weeks old, and then need a booster every year for the rest of their lives.’ These vaccinations protect against the most common rabbit diseases: Myxomatosis (Myxi), RVHD and RVHD2.

MYTH: Myxomatosis vaccinations don’t always work

While a Myxomatosis vaccination can’t guarantee absolute protection, vaccinated rabbits with Myxi usually survive whereas the disease is likely to be fatal in unvaccinated ones.

MYTH: Rabbit vaccinations are more effective when they’re given in spring

Myxomatosis is most common in late summer and autumn, so it makes sense to vaccinate in spring or early summer for maximum immunity when the disease is at its peak. But rabbits can be vaccinated safely and effectively at any time of year. It’s also the perfect opportunity for a top-to-tail health check.