“I THINK Jemima has a cold,” her young owner had ventured as he placed her on the table, and her runny eyes and nose gave that impression.
But my heart sank as I noticed the swelling around her ears and mouth.
“It looks like an infection,” I agreed, “But I’m very much afraid that what she’s got is myxomatosis.”
We see this disease every year, and anyone who has witnessed affected rabbits in the wild will know how they gradually become debilitated and die as the swelling around their face makes it difficult for them to eat.
Fortunately a vaccine will greatly reduce the risk to your pet, and this is one of the reasons Rabbit Awareness week (May 10 to 18) is held now, because it is an ideal time to protect your pet before the biting insects which spread the disease become too active.
The vaccine also protects against another fatal virus disease, VHD, so really there is no reason not to immunise your rabbit each year.
As well as spreading disease, flies can also cause problems in their own right.
Blow fly eggs laid around the soiled rear end of rabbits rapidly hatch out into maggots in the summer, a very distressing problem to encounter.
Sprays and spot-ons can deter the flies, but really the solution is to check your rabbit carefully for signs of soiling and maintain good hygiene at all times.
Another parasite which is commonly found in rabbits, but does not always cause signs of disease, is E. cuniculi.
Again, cleanliness is important, as the parasite is spread in the urine, but a paste treatment, given four times a year, will help to keep the disease at bay.
Sadly, we weren’t able to help Jemima, but if you vaccinate your rabbit each year, treat it regularly for parasites and watch out for flies in the summer, you’ll be doing your best to keep your pet healthy.