Treatment & Symptoms of Myxomatosis in Rabbits

What is myxomatosis in rabbits? What are the signs and symptoms of myxomatosis in rabbits? What are effective treatment and prevention?

Rabbit myxomatosis, sometimes called myxoma, is a serious disease that can cause several different types of symptoms in pet rabbits.

It is sometimes misdiagnosed as sepsis, a bacterial infection that can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but unlike infections, myxomatosis is not easily treatable and can be fatal.

What is myxomatosis?

Myxomatosis is caused by the myxoma virus, a poxvirus that only affects rabbits. There are also different strains of this varicella virus that differ in their virulence (mainly their ability to cause disease), but both wild and domesticated rabbits can contract myxomatosis.

What is myxomatosis?

Symptoms of Myxomatosis in Rabbits

Rabbits may suddenly become very sick and red, with watery eyes (conjunctivitis), high fever (rectal temperature above 39.4 degrees Celsius), loss of appetite, and coma. If a rabbit exhibits these symptoms, it is not uncommon for it to die within 48 hours.

Sometimes the disease lasts longer, and the mucous membranes and other tissues, including the eyes, nose, mouth, ears (which can droop if standing frequently), genitals, and the anal area become swollen.

The entire face may also become very swollen, and thick pus may flow from the nose.

Rabbits may begin to have difficulty breathing due to a myxoma infection due to swelling and discharge, and the fact that rabbits can only breathe through their nose.

Unfortunately, most rabbits die within 14 days of developing these symptoms.

In more chronic cases (depending on the virus strain and the rabbit’s immunity), lumps and nodules (myxomas) may appear on the body.

Rabbits with this nodular myxomatosis can survive and develop immunity to the myxomatosis virus. This is common in wild cottontail rabbits, but unfortunately seems less likely than in domestic rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

Instead, most pet rabbits diagnosed with myxomatosis develop acute illness and eventually die.

Symptoms of Myxomatosis in Rabbits.

Causes of myxomatosis

The chickenpox virus is spread by blood-sucking insects such as fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, lice, and flies.

The virus is transmitted through direct contact between rabbits, indirect contact (passing the virus from rabbit to rabbit through items such as food plates or clothing, but it is possible) and airborne.

Rabbit fleas are often the culprit behind myxomatosis in pet rabbits.

How is myxoma treated?

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for myxomatosis, so veterinarians can only provide supportive care (fluids, antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, and pain relievers).

Since domestic rabbits are often susceptible to the virus and become ill when they develop symptoms, euthanasia is often recommended.

However, in some cases, palliative care can allow healthy rabbits to recover.

How to Prevent Myxomatosis?

The only sure way to prevent it is to make sure no bugs or parasites can get into your rabbit. For insect-borne diseases in humans, all you can do is avoid bug bites and go to areas where bugs and viruses are present.

Avoid mosquitoes

Keep away from mosquito areas and keep rabbits indoors if possible.

Use flea repellent

Even if your rabbit never goes outside, it may be a good idea to use a safe flea repellant such as pet rabbit selamectin (discuss this with your veterinarian, as you’ll need a prescription) every month. Because insects always find their way inside, you don’t want your rabbit to get fleas.

Do not let rabbits socialize with other rabbits

Avoid fairs, exhibitions, or any other place where rabbits congregate (especially if there is an outbreak of myxomatosis in your area).

Isolate sick rabbits and touch rabbits

Take steps to prevent direct transmission through clothing, food, and other items, and place mosquito nets over infected rabbit cages. Isolate any rabbits exposed to sick rabbits for 14 days and monitor them for myxoma symptoms.

Rabbit vaccination

If you live in the UK, you can vaccinate your rabbit against myxomatosis. It may not completely eliminate the disease, but it does reduce the severity of the disease, and vaccinated rabbits can and will recover.

Rabbits can be vaccinated at 6 weeks of age (immunity develops within 14 days) and boosted annually or every six months, when myxomas are common. It has been offered as a combination vaccine for rabbit hemorrhagic disease since 2012.

In fact, myxomatosis was at one point intentionally introduced into Australia’s rabbit population to reduce rabbit numbers, thereby increasing immunity to the disease and, in the long run, increasing rabbit numbers.


Myxomatosis is a dangerous disease for rabbits. I always suggest prevention is better than cure. Therefore, fully vaccinate your pet rabbit.

If you have any questions or suggestions for me, please feel free to leave a comment. I will get back to you as soon as possible.

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