top of page

Down the Rabbit hole



Rabbits vaccinations:

Rabbits, like other pets, need to be vaccinated regularly to protect them from life-threatening diseases. Even if your rabbit lives with you indoors, the vaccination is  anyway highly recommended. This is because these diseases could be transmitted by mosquito bites and other bloodsucking insects (fleas and ticks).

For which diseases to vaccinate the rabbit?

Viral hemorrhagic disease (MEV and MEV-2)


MEV: Viral Hemorrhagic Disease

Extremely contagious and lethal (morbidity and mortality close to 90%), this disease is endemic throughout the Mediterranean area but has spread throughout the . Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (MEV) is caused by a calicivirus called RHDV. 

This disease can occur in both adults and kits. Kits can receive a level of protection via maternal antibodies if the mother has either had exposure to the virus, or been vaccinated, however this isn't a guaranteed method of protection and vaccination must always be considered.


In the last decade, a new virus called RHDV-2 was isolated and found to be genetically different from the previous one. The disease manifested itself both in kits (2 - 3 weeks of age) and in adult animals vaccinated for MEV. 

Species affected by MEV and MEV-2

MEV has its reservoir in a single wild host (Oryctolagus cuniculus), this is the only species susceptible to the disease along with our domestic rabbits. Conversely, MEV-2, caused by the RHDV-2 virus, is able to infect other lagomorphs.

Transmission of the disease

Particularly resistant in the external environment, the virus can remain infectious for long periods (up to 3 months on carcasses).

Transmission between animals occurs via the following routes: oral, nasal, conjunctival, parenteral (through small wounds that become contaminated with the virus), bloodsucking insects (fleas, ticks, mosquitoes), animals that feed on carcasses such as birds, mammals, insects; inanimate carriers (food, clothing, shoes, equipment, cages, bowls, water, etc.).


Symptoms of MEV and MEV-2 in rabbits

Both the MEV and MEV-2 hemorrhagic diseases appear in hyperacute or acute forms. An incubation period of 1 or 3 days leads to the death of the animal within 12 hours. Symptoms, when visible, are: hyperthermia with fever over 40°C, anorexia, prostration, convulsions, paralysis, conjunctival discharge, difficulty in breathing (dyspnoea).


Myxomatosis is caused by a virus (Poxviurs) extremely resistant in the external environment. It is a highly contagious disease among rabbits but not contagious to humans, widespread in domestic and wild rabbits. European rabbits are highly sensitive.


The transmission routes are the same as for MEV.


Symptoms of Myxomatosis

The disease has a slower course than the MEV. After an incubation of about 3 - 5 days, the symptoms show themselves as necrotic ulcerative lesions especially in the area around the eyes. Characteristic is the diffuse swelling of the muzzle that precedes the death of the subject.

Prevention for rabbit viral diseases: vaccinations

The vaccination against these three diseases is considered a life-saving medical act for our rabbits.

The best strategy for rabbits for the prophylaxis of MEV, MEV-2 and Myxomatosis, is annual vaccination.


In subjects whose history is not known, it is useful to carry out an antibody titration for Myxomatosis and to perform serological investigations 6-8 months after vaccination to evaluate the persistence of the immunity against MEV and MEV-2.

bottom of page