Rabbit Preventative Healthcare

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Rabbits are becoming increasing popular pets, and just like any other animal they require plenty of care and attention. Unfortunately, many rabbits are not properly protected against potentially fatal diseases such as myxomatosis, viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD) and E.cuniculi.

Myxomatosis is a common disease which appears to be on the increase with cases last year reaching epidemic proportions. All types of rabbit are potentially susceptible, including house rabbits with the disease being spread by blood-sucking insects such as fleas and mosquitoes. The first signs of myxomatosis are puffy swellings around the eyes, lips and ears and also arou nd the anus and genitalia. The swellings can become so severe that they can cause blindness and eating and drinking becomes progressively more difficult. The majority of affected rabbits will die.

Unfortunately there is no specific treatment so it is vital that you ensure your rabbit is protected against myxomatosis. Flea and insect control is essential. It is helpful to keep wild rabbits away from pets (contact with a wild rabbit is not necessary to contract myxomatosis, however they carry lots of fleas) and use flea control methods such as spot-ons. Insect repellent strips and nets will help with mosquito control. Your rabbit can also be vaccinated to help prevent this often fatal condition. All healthy rabbits over 6 weeks of age can be vaccinated, with booster vaccinations given every 6 months.

VHD is a viral disease of rabbits which usually proves rapidly fatal. Signs of the disease can be sudden unexplained death, or may include depression, collapse, difficulty in breathing, convulsions (fits) and bleeding from the nose. The virus can be spread between rabbits but also via people, clothing, hutches and fleas. As with myxomatosis, there is no specific treatment for VHD so it is essential that your rabbit is vaccinated. Healthy rabbits are usually vaccinated from about 10-12 weeks and then have annual boosters. Myxomatosis and VHD vaccines cannot be given at the same time.

Whilst many people are aware of myxomatosis, few will know about Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E.cuniculi). This is a widespread problem with 87% of veterinary practices taking part in a recent survey* suspecting this disease in rabbits over the previous 12 months. This parasite can cause a number of problems including fits, blindness and kidney damage. A common illness caused by E.cuniculi is the sudden onset of a head tilt which can be so severe that rabbits are only able lie on one side with their heads twisted round; this can be mistaken for a stroke. Unlike myxomatosis and VHD, rabbits with E.cuniculi can initially appear perfectly healthy but the illness can flare up at any time. The parasite is spread by infected urine as well as from mother to babies and hutches and pens can harbour infection.

Again, prevention is better than cure, as the treatment may come too late to reverse the signs of this potentially debilitating disease. PanacurĀ® Rabbit is an easy to administer paste which provides a simple method to help control E.cuniculi and intestinal worms in rabbits. The paste should be given daily for 9 consecutive days, 2 to 4 times a year and also during times of higher risk, such as when the rabbit is acquired, prior to mating and prior to mixing with others.

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