Myxomatosis in rabbits

Myxomatosis is a common and highly contagious disease that occurs only in rabbits. This disease comes from the poxvirus and causes a large number of symptoms that appear after 5 to 10 days of incubation: oedemas on the head and genitals, acute conjunctivitis, fever, respiratory difficulties, loss of appetite… The rabbit becomes weak, sensitive to light and dies very quickly after being infected. Whether young or old, domestic or wild, all rabbits can be affected by this virus. So, how does it spread and how can your pet avoid catching it?

How does a rabbit get myxomatosis?

Myxomatosis manifests itself in different ways: an acute form, where the mortality rate reaches 99%, and chronic forms, less aggressive and resulting from mutations of the virus. In all cases, the origins of transmission are the same: a direct cause by contact with a sick rabbit or indirectly via a bite of blood-sucking insects (fleas, mosquitoes, mites, lice…), by an object, excrement or skin contact. For example, you can transmit the virus to your rabbit if you pet it after touching an infected rabbit. Please note that humans and all other animals are not at risk of developing this viral disease. It only affects rabbits, and more rarely hares.

What treatments are there for myxomatosis?

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment against myxomatosis: once the rabbit is infected, death occurs on average within 10 days. The only thing to do is to administer treatments that will prevent superinfection and relieve pain. On the other hand, there are means of prevention.


Even if your rabbit lives in an apartment, it is essential to vaccinate it to give it every chance to resist the virus. Schedule the vaccination around your pet’s second month of age, and plan to have booster shots once or several times a year depending on the type of vaccine used. The disease is spread all year round, but it is most prevalent in the spring and fall, when mosquitoes are abundant. It is therefore essential that your rabbit be immunized during this period. Please note that the vaccination must be done on a healthy rabbit that is not pregnant or nursing.

Other preventive measures

  • Treat all your pets against fleas and other parasites.
  • Thoroughly disinfect your rabbit’s cage and equipment.
  • Keep flying insects away from your rabbit’s cage as much as possible.
  • Keep your rabbit indoors at night, as mosquitoes show up at sunset.
  • Wash your hands if you have been in contact with other rabbits.

In summary, myxomatosis is an extremely serious and contagious disease that occurs in rabbits worldwide. It is usually transmitted by insect vectors and is usually fatal. The myxomatous virus represents a real danger for pet rabbits and it is essential to preserve them. For this, the only effective prevention is vaccination. Also, be vigilant when your rabbit goes out in the garden and protect it as much as possible from insects that could contaminate it.