What is Rabies?

Rabies is caused by a virus. It is a zoonotic viral disease which means it can affect BOTH people and animals and is usually transmitted through a bite by an infected animal. It is almost always fatal both to animals and humans once symptoms have developed.

The incubation period of Rabies varies. The average length of time for clinical signs to appear is 4 weeks after infection and can be seen in three phases:

Phase One: Local irritation of the bite wound, mild changes in demeanour, behaviour and temperament. Pupils will be dilated and eye reflexes slow.

Phase Two: Aggression, lack of co-ordination, disorientation, seizures and fits, increased salivation and photophobia (intolerance to light).

Phase Three: Paralysis, excessive salivation, respiratory failure, coma and then death.

The UK is officially classified as free from Rabies but the disease persists in other parts of the world.

There is no treatment available for animals with Rabies and if it is suspected, the pet will be kept in isolation and DEFRA notified. They will then arrange for euthanasia and a post mortem.

To travel abroad with your pet it is mandatory that the requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme are adhered to. They include a Rabies vaccination (boostered regularly), a microchip and a valid pet passport.

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Myxomatosis In Rabbits

Your rabbit should be protected against two major diseases called Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (both strains). These can be potentially fatal.

Myxomatosis is a widespread disease caused by a virus. All types of rabbit are potentially susceptible, including house rabbits.

The disease is spread by blood- sucking insects such as the rabbit flea and mosquitoes. When an infected insect bites a rabbit, a small amount of the virus is placed in their skin as the insect feeds. Within a few days the virus passes into the rabbit’s blood spreading it to several sites. The virus mainly multiplies in the skin around the eyes, nose, face, skin inside their ears and around the anus and genitalia areas. It is best to try and prevent your rabbit from coming into contact with wild rabbits as they tend to carry a lot of fleas and can themselves be infected.

Generally the first sign of infection that you will notice are puffy eyes, lips and ears as well as swellings around their genitalia. Within 24 hours these swellings can become very severe, eating and drinking becomes more difficult and unfortunately death usually occurs within 2 weeks of infection. Some rabbits do survive the disease with intensive nursing but they are usually left with severe scarring and scabs over their body.

There is no specific treatment for Myxomatosis so it is vital that you ensure your rabbit is protected against it.

The most effective way to do this is by flea and insect control and vaccination.

Spot on treatments are available to protect your rabbit against fleas and nets over their hutches will help with mosquito control.

The vaccination against both Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease can be given from 5 weeks of age, with booster vaccinations given annually and it offers the best possible chance of immunity.