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Rabbit & Small Animal Diseases & Vaccinations

A small rabbit in an article about small animal vaccinations

Owning a rabbit or any small pet comes with the joy of having a cute, cuddly companion and the responsibility of ensuring their health and well-being. Among the most crucial aspects of pet care are vaccinations, which protect against several potentially fatal diseases. In this guide, we'll delve into the essential vaccinations for rabbits, their costs, and also touch upon care for other commonly owned small pets like hamsters and guinea pigs.

Essential Rabbit Vaccinations

Rabbits in the UK are at risk of several diseases, but three stand out due to their severity and the intense suffering they cause:

  • Myxomatosis: This disease is rampant among British wild rabbits. It spreads through blood-sucking insects such as fleas,  and direct contact, affecting the face, ears, and eyes with severe swelling, leading to blindness, fever, and often, death within 10-14 days. Vaccination significantly reduces the severity of the disease, improving recovery rates.

  • Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD): A deadly disease causing high fever, internal bleeding, and liver failure. It's highly contagious, with a near-certain fatality rate.

  • R(V)HD2: A variant of R(V)HD, it has a broader age range of infection and can be just as deadly, often with sudden death as the only symptom.

Vaccinations are the only effective protection against these diseases. There are combined vaccines available that cover both myxomatosis and R(V)HD, and separate ones for R(V)HD2. Rabbits can start their vaccinations from as early as five weeks old.

Rabbit Vaccination Cost

The cost of rabbit vaccination can vary, but it's an essential investment in your pet's health. In the UK, the price for rabbit vaccinations might range depending on the specific vaccines needed and the veterinary practice. A combined vaccine for myxomatosis and R(V)HD, along with the separate R(V)HD2 vaccine, could be considered for optimal protection. Always consult with your vet for the most current pricing and vaccination schedules suitable for your rabbit.

Preventing Diseases in Rabbits

Beyond vaccination, keeping your rabbit safe from diseases involves several key steps:

  • Regular Boosters: Ensure your rabbit receives booster shots as recommended by your vet.

  • Insect Control: Use insect-proof screens and keep your home and pets flea-treated. Flystrike is common, especially during summer months and in old, debilitated or sick rabbits. This happens when flies lay eggs on the fur, hatching into maggots which can then quickly cause serious infestations. Veterinary, rabbit-specific fly repellants can be applied to help reduce this risk, and owners should be vigilant to check the area under the tail twice a day for any signs.

  • Cleanliness: Regularly clean and disinfect rabbit enclosures with safe products and change bedding frequently.

  • Isolation from Infection: Avoid contact with wild rabbits and any domestic rabbits known to be infected.

Care for Other Small Pets

While rabbits are a popular choice, many pet owners also love hamsters, guinea pigs, and other small animals. Each species has its own specific care requirements and potential health issues. For instance, guinea pigs require a diet high in Vitamin C to prevent scurvy, a disease not seen in rabbits or hamsters. Similarly, hamsters can suffer from respiratory infections and require clean, well-ventilated living spaces to stay healthy.

Vaccinations specific to these animals are not as common as with rabbits, but preventive care, proper nutrition, and regular veterinary check-ups are key to keeping them healthy.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: At what age can my rabbit start getting vaccinated?

A: Rabbits can start receiving vaccinations from as early as five weeks old.

Q: How often do rabbits need to be vaccinated?

A: Rabbits require annual booster shots to maintain immunity against these diseases.

Q: Can indoor rabbits skip vaccinations?

A: No, indoor rabbits are also at risk and should be vaccinated, as insects and fleas can enter homes and disease can spread through indirect contact.

Q: Is there a vaccination for guinea pigs and hamsters?

A: Currently, there are no routine vaccinations for guinea pigs and hamsters like there are for rabbits. However, maintaining a clean environment and regular veterinary check-ups are vital.

Ensuring your small pets are vaccinated and well-cared for requires a bit of effort and investment, but the joy and companionship they bring are immeasurable. Always consult with your veterinarian to create a health plan that's tailored to your pet's specific needs.

Did you know you can spread the cost of your vaccinations? Our Vital Pets Club is a 12-month subscription which includes routine check-ups, annual vaccines, monthly flea and worming treatments and much more, plus discounts in shop and on certain procedures. We have a variety of plans to suit your individual needs.

A call to action promotion for Vital Pets Club, a cost saving veterinary service


Order Dr Hannah Parkin's Amazing Guide To Caring For Your New Puppy.
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