Do Rabbits need shots?
No, in the U.S.A your rabbit does not need shots but the true answer to this question is dependent on where you live. If you live in Europe and certain parts of Australia then yes your rabbit needs shots. If you live anywhere else, including the United Stated of America or Canada then no your rabbit does not need shots.
What shots does my rabbit need?
If you live in Europe or in an area in Australia where you are legally required to vaccinate your rabbit then your rabbit needs shots that prevent myxomatosis and viral hemorrhagic disease. These shots are required in this area because it is quite a common disease in rabbits that live in these parts of the world.
These shots can be given once the rabbit has reached 6 weeks of age and must be injected at least 2 weeks apart. If your rabbit is required to get vaccinated the cost can range from $30-$60 USD depending on your location. This doesn’t include any other costs you may accrue at the vet; this is just the cost for the vaccines. As a reminder, if your rabbit lives in the United States (USA) or Canada they do not need any vaccines.
Why doesn’t my rabbit need vaccines?
Rabbits in some locations do not need vaccines because there are not any diseases in these locations that domestic rabbits contract that have a preventative vaccine. This doesn’t mean that if your rabbit is sick that his or her vet may not need to give them a vaccine to feel better, this means that there are not any preventive vaccines for a potential disease in rabbits that are legally required in the United States and Canada. This is due to there not being a mass disease that has an affect on domesticated rabbits in these parts of the world.
Why does my rabbit need vaccines?
If you live in Europe or certain parts of Australia you are legally obligated to vaccinate your rabbit for Myxomatosis and VHD (viral hemorrhagic disease.) You are required to vaccinate against these diseases in certain parts of the world because the disease is rampant and usually fatal to rabbits in these areas. It is possible that your vet may offer these vaccines even if you are not residing in these areas where it is legally required. You can get these shots if you like but it is not necessary and most vets won’t do it.
Mr. Bunny’s (our pet rabbit) vet does not give these shots to her rabbit patients as it is not necessary in the United States and just causes undo stress on your bunny. If you know that you may be traveling aboard with your rabbit then your vet may want to vaccinate them just as a precaution, that’s a conversation you definitely want to have with your vet.
Your rabbit, if required to have the shots for viral hemorrhagic disease and myxomatosis, will also need a booster for theses vaccines every year. The cost of the booster is slightly lower than the original vaccine, coming in at about $20-$40 depending on your location.
What is Myxomatosis?
Myxomatosis is a virus that is transmitted from blood sucking insects like mosquitoes, lice, bed bugs and fleas. The virus then moves on to the lymph nodes where it can spread throughout the body. The red flags that you should look for in diagnosing this disease are swelling of the eyelids, the lips, genital organs, and the lining of the eye.
As the disease progresses it causes blindness and is usually fatal within 7 to 16 days. The outlook for a rabbit that has contracted this disease is grim. Unfortunately, 95% of rabbits who contract this disease will die. Myxomatosis was first discovered in North and South America. Because the rabbits in both North and South America have been exposed to this disease for so long now they have built up an immunity which is why a vaccine is not required in these locations and Myxomatosis does not affect rabbits so harshly in North and South America.
Over time, the virus has spread across the pond to Europe and from there it has spread to other parts of the world as well. This disease nearly completely wiped out Australia’s entire wild rabbit community. It is important to note, that even with this vaccine, the rabbit is not guaranteed to never get the Myxomatosis virus. However, the disease is typically minor in comparison to a rabbit contracting Myxomatosis unvaccinated.
Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD), also known as Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease or Rabbit Calicivirus Disease, is a very contagious disease that affects only rabbits of the Oryctolagus cuniculus species. This is mainly European rabbits, but some forms of domestic South American rabbits can also be affected. It does not affect rabbits or hares that are native to North America.
This disease is very contagious and can be spread very easily. It can easily be spread by insects, birds, and other animals. Humans can also spread the disease if they have come into close contact with it but humans will not show symptoms or any signs of sickness. Symptoms in rabbits are: loss of appetite, fever, lethargy, and spasms. VHD causes your rabbit to die within about 48 hours.
Unfortunately, this is usually not enough time to report and diagnose symptoms to your vet. Due to this, it is highly likely that many rabbits will die each year having not ever being diagnosed. If an unexpected and sudden rabbit death occurs, it is crucial to report it to your veterinarian as a possible case of Viral Hemorrhagic Disease, in case your rabbit has been into the office lately, this can help save the lives of many other rabbits who may be visiting your vets office. They need to be aware so that they can properly disinfect their office to prevent another rabbit from contracting the disease as it is highly contagious.
Do shots hurt rabbits?
No, they hardly know what is going on, we think because of all of the stress of just being in an unfamiliar environment and the overwhelming smells of other animals sends them into such a state of shock and stress that they hardly notice the shot. Vets also usually pick a fattier part of the rabbit so they don’t feel it as much. Mr. Bunny has never reacted to a shot in the vets office.
We did travel across country with him for a big move and due to all of the stress he stopped eating and pooping. Our vet prepared us for this and sent us with shots to give him that would keep his GI tract moving. We had to give him shots in the back of the neck daily, he only ever reacted to the last shot (he had 5 shots total over the course of our trip.)
We believe he reacted to the last shot because he was more comfortable in our new home and he had lost a little bit of weight throughout the trip, so we think he felt it a little more this time and since he wasn’t stressed he was more attentive to what was going on. He did not yelp or strongly react, he just took off hopping down the hallway with a needle and syringe hanging out of the back of this neck, we were able to catch him and inject the remaining meds and he was fine.
Side effects of your rabbit getting shots
If your rabbit is required to get shots then there are some possible side effects that you should be on the lookout for. Some side effects to the VHD vaccine are loss of hunger for about 24 hours. You may also notice some swelling, irritation, and hair loss near the injection site.
Reactions are rare so if you do notice these side effects just make sure the loss of hunger doesn’t last longer than 24 hours and the injection site reactions don’t persist or get worse after 5 days. Reactions to the Myxomatosis shot include similar side effects as the viral hemorrhagic disease shot such as swelling at injection site, fever, and loss of hunger.
About the Author
My name is Vanessa and I love my buns. My current house rabbit is Mr. Bunny, he is a black and white Dutch that just turned 9 years old.
I believe that rabbits are a magnificent animal that make great pets for SOME people. My mission is to share what I have learned about rabbits over the past 20 years to improve the relationship between our pets and us. Please contact me or comment if you have any questions or comments.