Vaccinations for Rabbits

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There are three vaccines licensed for use in rabbits available in the UK:

  • two for Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD): Cylap® (Fort Dodge Animal Health) and Lapinject VHD® (Ceva Animal Health Limited)
  • one for myxomatosis: NobivacTM Myxo (Intervet UK Ltd)

In young rabbits, maternal antibodies are said to start to disappear progressively between the 4th and 7th week of life.

VHD Vaccination

Vaccination against VHD is achieved by use of the oil-adjuvanted inactivated viral vaccines, Cylap® (Fort Dodge Animal Health) and Lapinject VHD® (Ceva Animal Health Limited), whereas myxomatosis is controlled by use of a heterologous live Shope fibroma virus NobivacTM Myxo (Intervet UK Ltd). Studies with Lapinject VHD ® have shown that vaccinating at 5 weeks of age stimulates the immune system, with antibody response being maximal 2-5 weeks after vaccination and field protection in 6-8 days and the product is licensed to be given from 5 weeks of age.

Cylap is available in single-dose and in 10-dose vials; Lapinject VHD in only 5-dose vials. Once a multiple-dose vial is broached, it must be used within eight hours and then discarded. Lapinject VHD is priced competitively to avoid waste. Both VHD vaccines are oil-adjuvanted so accidental self-injection requires prompt medical attention with surgical incision and irrigation of the area – see the Data Sheets.

Development of clinical signs of VHD is dependent on the presence of transaminases in the liver of the animal and these do not appear until 2 months of age. Vaccination should be started as soon as possible so that immunity is achieved prior to the appearance of these ("disease-enhancing") enzymes. Annual boosters are required for both of the VHD products. VHD vaccines are safe to use in pregnant animals but Nobivac Myxo should not be used in pregnant or animals intended for breeding.

Myxomatosis Vaccination

Nobivac Myxo, being Shope Fibroma Virus, is obviously not homologous and timing of its use is critical. The vaccine should be administered at the time of maximum exposure and this varies seasonally with the time of emergence of the arthropod vector (usually mosquitoes). Duration of immunity is given on the Data Sheet as six months, not as long as with homologous vaccines, so the vaccine is usually administered twice yearly, in May and September but this may have to be varied with changes in climate and the reasons for your protocol should be adequately discussed and explained with the owner in advance (See the Data Sheet).

All of these products are administered subcutaneously but 10% of the Nobivac Myxo dose is administered intradermally. The procedure on the company’s data sheet for intradermal technique is technically challenging! The Cylap and Nobivac Myxo Data Sheets state that the vaccine should not be administered simultaneously with other vaccines so an interval of 14 days is usually allowed between the use of myxomatosis and VHD vaccines.