Myxomatosis, A Fatal Disease

Myxomatosis is a fatal disease of rabbits. On the South Coast, myxomatosis cases usually occur between February and September when mosquitoes and other biting insects are most active. Because there is no vaccine or treatment for this lethal disease, prevention is the only option.

Myxomatosis is transmitted by biting insects including mosquitoes, biting flies, and fleas. Insects become infected when they bite a sick rabbit. The virus is then injected into the next animal bitten by the infected bug. The virus is harmless to all animals except rabbits. Mosquitoes, most common in warm weather, are a significant carrier of myxomatosis.

Controlling biting insects will reduce the chance that your rabbit will become infected. Draining standing water to stop mosquitoes from breeding and using flea control on your dogs and outdoor cats will help protect your rabbit. Do not exercise your rabbits in areas used by wild rabbits. Mosquitoes are most active in the early morning and early evening. If your rabbit plays outdoors, make sure it is not out when mosquitoes are active. Staple window screening over the wire on outdoor hutches to keep biting insects away from your bunny. If your rabbit lives indoors, check your window screens and screen doors.

A sick rabbit will run a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. There will be swelling around the base of the ears, around the eyes, and around the genitals. Sick rabbits will find a quiet out-of-the-way spot and sit, huddled in misery. The kind thing to do is to take them to a vet. If myxomatosis is diagnosed have them euthanized.

Any rabbit in Southern California is vulnerable. The disease is carried in wild rabbit populations, but easily spread to domestic rabbits. If you live near a marshy area where wild rabbits live, be especially careful. For the sake of your rabbit, please take every precaution in preventing this deadly disease.