What is myxomatosis?
Myxomatosis is a severe, usually fatal, viral disease. In some countries, it has been used as a way of reducing the number of wild rabbits. It first reached the UK in the 1950s and decimated the wild rabbit population at the time. The disease remains a risk today, to both wild and pet rabbits.
The acute form can kill a rabbit within 10 days and the chronic form within two weeks, although some rabbits do survive this.
How does myxomatosis spread?
Myxomatosis is spread easily between rabbits by blood-sucking insects, such as fleas, ticks, mites and mosquitoes. It spreads rapidly among wild rabbit populations and can easily be passed on to domestic rabbits in the vicinity by the parasites.
Myxomatosis is found throughout the UK and no area is safe from the disease.
What are the symptoms of myxomatosis?
Depending on the strain of the virus, it can take up to 14 days for an infected rabbit to begin to show symptoms. During the incubation period, a rabbit’s behaviour and eating habits may change. When the virus takes hold, the eyes, nose and genitals are usually the first parts of the body to be affected. Symptoms include:
- Swelling, redness and/or ulcers
- Nasal and eye discharge
- Blindness caused by inflammation of the eyes
- Respiratory problems
- Loss of appetite