Do house rabbits need to be vaccinated?

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Ok, this is going to be a short post, because it turns out that no, some rabbits don’t need to be vaccinated.

Here in the UK it’s recommended that you vaccinate your rabbits, whether they’re house rabbits or not, but in the US, you don’t. I assume the diseases we vaccinate against here aren’t over there.

What vaccines are rabbits typically given?

If you get a rabbit from a rescue, it will usually come pre-vaccinated. They get one vaccine that protects again both myxomatosis and Rabbit (Viral) Haemorrhagic Disease (R(V)HD).

However, some rescues also vaccinate against R(V)HD2. Some vets say that it isn’t necessary, but some rabbit boarding places insist that rabbits have the R(V)HD2 vaccine, so it’s up to you. If you plan on travelling a lot and boarding your rabbit, they’ll probably need both vaccines.

If the vet questions the second vaccine, then either switch vets or show them the website of whoever’s boarding your rabbits. It should say that an R(V)HD2 vaccine is a requirement for admitting your bunny.

How much do rabbit vaccinations usually cost?

I believe we paid about £60 for one rabbit to have both vaccinations. The vaccinations must be given at least two weeks apart, I believe to decrease the chance of the rabbit having a bad reaction.

How often do I need to vaccinate my house rabbit?

It’s recommended that rabbits receive boosters every year. If you get a rescue rabbit they’ll give you a record of your rabbit’s vaccines.

I’m hearing differing reports of how old rabbits have to be when they receive their first vaccination, but five weeks seems a little young to me, so I’ll go with the RSPCA’s recommendation of 10 weeks.

How long do rabbit vaccinations take to work?

It varies from rabbit to rabbit, but usually a week or two.

Rabbit boarding places will probably require that your rabbit had their last vaccination two weeks before they arrive.

If you consider that the vaccines must be two weeks apart, you need to make sure the first vaccine is given at least a month before you plan on going away.

What is the likelihood of a house rabbit catching a disease?

Whilst keeping your rabbit inside vastly decreases the chance that they’ll catch diseases, it’s still recommended that you get them vaccinated.

A rabbit doesn’t need to be in direct contact with a wild rabbit to catch a disease. Your rabbit may not go outdoors, but we do, and we can bring in diseases on our clothes. It can also be in your rabbit’s hay.

It may be unlikely that your rabbit will get myxomatosis, but it’s really not worth the risk.

Are the vaccinations dangerous to rabbits?

None of my rabbits has ever had a reaction to being vaccinated. There have been reports of rabbits feeling a bit poorly or off-colour for a day or two, but many rabbits sulk after any trip to the vets, so it’s hard to figure out the actual cause.

Do rabbit vaccinations have any side effects?

Apparently some rabbits can get a mild case of myxomatosis after the injection, but the vet can treat it. Myxomatosis was once a death sentence to rabbits, but there are a lot of reports of wild rabbits getting over myxomatosis with no outside intervention, so it’s losing its vigour.

This isn’t an excuse not to vaccinate your rabbits though – rabbits breed quickly (they’re famous for it!) so it’s more a case of rabbits that have antibodies that can fight myxomatosis are living longer and passing their genes on, rather than the actual disease weakening.

Why you should get your rabbit vaccinated even if you don’t think your rabbit can catch any diseases

Here in the UK, myxomatosis is extremely common in wild rabbits, so whilst it’s not likely that house rabbits will get it, it’s not unheard of. The prognosis for many rabbit diseases is bleak, mainly because rabbits are so good at hiding when they’re ill.

More importantly, there is no cure for either myxomatosis (though vets can treat it if it’s extremely mild) or R(V)HD. Euthanasia is usually the only option. R(V)HD2 has a lower fatality rate but no symptoms apart from sudden death.

Vaccinate your bunnies, people.

Final thoughts on getting your rabbits vaccinated

I must admit I only researched all of this because I was writing this article.

The reason I’ve been so diligent about vaccinations in the past is that I’ve heard of bunnies suddenly dying with suspected R(V)HD and I like to be prepared in case we need to go away and need to get the rabbits into boarding quickly. This has literally never happened, but I like to be prepared!

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