Myxomatosis in Rabbits: Tips for Prevention and Care

Myxomatosis is a deadly viral disease affecting rabbit populations, both wild and domestic. Understanding and preventing this disease is crucial for pet well-being and maintaining the ecological balance in wild rabbit-rich areas. Myxomatosis in rabbits is controversial in wildlife management and used as a biological control agent. Moreover, they also highlight the need for education and preventive measures.

This blog aims to offer tips and advice on preventing myxomatosis in rabbits and providing proper care if affected, emphasizing the importance of informed rabbit owners, regardless of rabbit breed, in minimizing disease spread

What Is Myxomatosis?

It is a viral disease affecting rabbits, both domestic and wild, caused by the Myxoma virus, causing varying severity symptoms. Myxomatosis in rabbits can cause severe swelling around the eyes, leading to a “bulging” appearance. Skin lesions and nodules can be painful and uncomfortable. Infected rabbits may experience fever, lethargy, and appetite loss. In advanced cases, myxomatosis can cause respiratory distress and neurological symptoms.

How do rabbits get myxomatosis? 

Myxomatosis, originating in South America, naturally infected wild rabbit species without severe disease. In the 1950s, it was intentionally introduced to control rabbit populations in Australia and Europe, causing high mortality rates among both wild and domestic rabbits.

What causes myxomatosis in rabbits? Myxomatosis is primarily transmitted through arthropod vectors like fleas and mosquitoes, which feed on infected rabbits and can spread the virus to other rabbits they bite. It can also be transmitted through direct contact with infected rabbits, contaminated objects, or aerosol droplets. Understanding the various modes of transmission crucial for preventing myxomatosis in rabbits, regardless of whether a rabbit bite is involved.

Severity and Impact

It is a deadly disease in rabbits, with severity varying based on virus strain and immunity. It’s used as a population control measure in wild populations but raises ethical concerns due to its suffering. In domestic rabbits, it’s devastating, causing pain and distress. Owners should understand the disease, take preventive measures, and seek veterinary care if myxomatosis symptoms appear. Controlling the rabbit disease myxomatosis spread is an ongoing ecological and wildlife management debate.

What are the symptoms of myxomatosis in rabbits?

Myxomatosis in rabbits can present with various symptoms, which can range in severity.

  • Severe swelling around the eyes, often causing them to become almost completely closed.
  • Rabbits may display facial swelling, causing them to appear puffy or distorted.
  • It can result in skin lesions, lumps, and nodules, especially in the head, ears, and genital areas.
  • The rabbit’s weakening can be exacerbated by loss of appetite and fever, leading to dehydration.
  • Infected rabbits frequently experience a high fever, which can lead to lethargy and a decrease in appetite.
  • Causes rabbits to lose appetite due to discomfort and fever, potentially leading to weight loss.
  • Myxomatosis in rabbits can cause nasal discharge, respiratory distress, and neurological symptoms like seizures, paralysis, or difficulty coordinating movements in severe cases. Certain rabbits may experience a clear or purulent nasal discharge.
  • The rabbits affected by the condition become noticeably lethargic, spending more time lying down and less time being active.

Myxomatosis severity varies based on virus strain and rabbit immune response. Early detection, veterinary care, and preventive measures like vaccination are crucial due to high mortality rates and prevalence in affected areas.

How to prevent myxomatosis in rabbits?

Myxomatosis is a severe and potentially fatal disease in rabbits, requiring a combination of measures to reduce infection risk.


Vaccination is crucial for rabbits to protect them from myxomatosis, as it stimulates their immune system to recognize and fight the virus, reducing its severity. A vaccination schedule should be established with a veterinarian, typically given at 6-8 weeks old, with booster shots as needed.

Housing and Hygiene

Maintain clean living spaces by regularly cleaning and disinfecting rabbit cages, promptly removing waste and uneaten food, and providing clean water. Secure enclosures with wire mesh, repair holes and consider indoor housing to minimize exposure to wild rabbits and potential vectors.

Vector Control

Flea control is essential for the prevention of myxomatosis in rabbits, using recommended preventatives and maintaining a clean environment. Mosquito control involves using nets or screens in outdoor hutches and avoiding keeping rabbits outdoors during peak mosquito activity times. Housing and hygiene are also crucial.

Avoiding Wild Rabbits

Keep pet rabbits away from wild ones to prevent virus transmission. Consider predator-proof enclosures for outdoor rabbits. Avoid contact with wild rabbits in communal areas. If introducing new rabbits, quarantine them for at least two weeks to prevent virus transmission.

In addition to safeguarding your rabbits against myxomatosis, there are essential aspects of general care that play a crucial role in their overall well-being. One of these often-overlooked aspects is rabbit nail trimming.

Caring for a Rabbit with Myxomatosis:

Myxomatosis in rabbits is a serious disease that requires careful care and support. Although there is no cure, attentive care can enhance their comfort and recovery chances.

  • If your rabbit exhibits symptoms of myxomatosis, it’s crucial to seek immediate veterinary care. To diagnose the condition, provide myxomatosis treatment options, and manage the rabbit’s pain.
  • To care for an infected rabbit, isolate them, create a quiet environment, manage pain, and hand-feed them. Also ensure hydration, clean and moisturize their eyes and skin, and maintain a comfortable temperature. 
  • Consult your veterinarian for pain medications and supportive care measures. Hand-feed fresh hay, leafy greens, and critical care formulas if needed. Maintain a comfortable temperature to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Regular check-ups with your veterinarian are crucial for monitoring your rabbit’s progress and preparing for potential deterioration, as it can be severe and unrecoverable.

Can you touch a rabbit with myxomatosis?

It is a highly contagious viral disease that can be transmitted to rabbits and humans through direct contact with infected tissues, secretions, or fluids. Although the risk of myxomatosis in humans is low, it’s crucial to be cautious to protect both rabbits and humans.

Wrap Up

Myxomatosis is a severe disease affecting rabbits, causing severe suffering and death. To protect these pets and promote responsible rabbit ownership, it’s crucial to follow preventive measures and provide appropriate care if they contract the disease.

Sharing information about myxomatosis in rabbits with other rabbit owners can create a safer and healthier environment. We can positively impact the lives of rabbits worldwide by promoting collaboration and awareness.

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