Vaccinations – Protect Your Bunny Myxi-VHD Combo

Scamp’s vaccinations were due recently, and after the trouble he had last year with a reaction to his VHD jab, I was very interested in the newly released combined VHD-Myxi jab. It contains a genetically engineered version of the myxomatosis virus with VHD bolted on. It’s also water-based, unlike the older VHD vaccines, which are oil-based, and we’re fairly sure that was what Scamp had reacted to. The good news is this time he absolutely no problems and now he’s protected for a whole year against these horrible diseases.

I thought I’d post a little about vaccinations for anyone reading that hasn’t got around to vaccinating yet – this mainly applies to the UK as the US doesn’t seem to have the same issues with them as we do and routine vaccination isn’t standard. Remember I’m not a vet, so if you’ve got any worries give your vet a call.

How do vaccinations work?

Vaccinations give your rabbit’s immune system a sneak preview of what a particular disease looks like. That way it can learn to recognise the disease and prepare defences (antibodies) to fight it off if it encounters it for real. Different diseases need different antibodies to fight them off, and they take time to manufacture. If a rabbit’s body has never encountered a disease before, the disease can take hold and make them sick before they have time to make the antibodies. If you vaccinate your rabbit, it will have antibodies stockpiled ready for action and can destroy the disease before it can make your bunny sick.

Vaccinating against Myxomatosis helps your rabbit's immune system create defences

How do vaccines give a sneak preview without infecting the rabbit with the disease?

Obviously, we don’t want to give our rabbits the disease for real, so the problem is: how to you let the immune system take a look without catching the virus? Vaccines solve this problem in different ways. The myxi vaccination we use in the UK (Novibac Myxo) actually contains the Shope Fibroma virus, which is harmless but related to Myxi so antibodies made to fight it work on myxi too. VHD vaccines use the actual VHD disease but it is inactivated (killed), so it can’t cause the disease. The new combination RVHD/Myxi vaccine is genetically engineered so it isn’t strong enough to cause the diseases it protects against.

Why do we need boosters?

The immune system has a lot to keep track off and if it hasn’t seen the disease in while then sometimes it forgets what it looks like and the anti-bodies sit rusting away in the corner. A booster servers as a reminder and ensures that the immune system is still ready for action.

There is some debate over whether we really need boosters. When a manufacturer recommends an annual booster, often what they have done is tested the immune system at a year and found that it is still functioning, so they know for sure that your rabbit is protected for that year. What we often don’t know is exactly how long the immune system will remember without prompting after that. By vaccinating when the year is up, it prompts the immune system again as a precaution to make sure the protection doesn’t lapse.

What’s the new combination vaccine all about?

A new vaccine Nobiac Myxo-RHD has recently been released which protects against both myxomatosis and VHD with a single jab. There are several benefits to this:

  • You don’t have to make two trips two weeks apart for two different vaccinations.
  • It is based on the actual myxomatosis virus, which should make it even better than the old vaccination (based on Shope Fibroma) at giving protection.
  • It lasts 12 months, so you don’t have to return for a myxi booster every 6 months.
  • It is water instead of oil-based, so the type of skin reaction Scamp got to his VHD last year shouldn’t happen.

The new combination vaccine protects against myxi and VHD

I’ve heard you can’t use it if your rabbits are already vaccinated?

There is a small issue with this but it doesn’t affect most rabbits in the UK. As the VHD component is hitching a lift on the myxi virus, if your rabbit already has protection against myxi, then it might stop the new vaccine getting in and then your rabbit’s immune system won’t get to meet the VHD part and learn to protect against it.

However, that’s only the case if your rabbit has protection against the real myxi virus not the Shope Fibroma virus used in the UK myxi vaccination. So, the only way this issue will affect your rabbit is if he or she has had a vaccine somewhere other than the UK or has caught Myxomatosis in the past.

If your rabbits Myxi and VHD jabs aren’t due at the same time, it’s fine to vaccinate when the first one is due, even if that means the other overlaps.

If your rabbits had genuine myxi in the past, the left over anti-bodies might stop it getting a look at the VHD piggybacked on to the Myxi jab.

I hope that helps explain things, if you’ve got any questions just give your vet a call and discuss them. And, if you haven’t already, then please get your rabbit vaccinated – even house bunnies like Scamp need protection!

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20 Responses to “Vaccinations – Protect Your Bunny Myxi-VHD Combo”

  1. Both Buttons and Blossom had the new combo vac in the last month and were fine, no side affects etc. another benefit is that it works out slightly cheaper for pet owners. I guess it must vary but we used to pay about £25-30 per vaccine, three vaccines per rabbit a year (can’t remember if it’s the VHd that they had to have every six months?) came to about £85. Our vet charged us £49 for the new vaccine and that’s just once a year.

    • Tamsin says:

      Other way around, myxi six-monthly and VHD annually 🙂 Our vets charged £32 for the combined which is quite a bit cheaper than singles. I imagine the price might fluctuate a bit as it is new.

  2. Leigh-Ann W says:

    My 2 9 week baby mini lops had the combi yesterday and seem absolutely fine. Does cost a lot less than the seperates and with them only needing annual boosters now a lot less stress for buns too id say. I know some owners fear the single jabs might be removed as their buns cant have the VHD due to compromised immune systems in some buns so this needs to be considered by the drug companies.

    Anyways instead of costing lots I was only £61 for their 2 jabs and worming yesterday as my vets also give % off when your getting more than 1 done at a time which is a bonus. Ive never had bunnies before as pets so still learning but as I said anything that reduces stress and cost is good for us and our buns IMO.

    • Tamsin says:

      Congratulations on your new additions, and well done for getting them vaccinated 🙂 I think cost is an important factor, lower costs will definitely help encourage people to get in down and less trips makes it more convenient and as you say, lower stress for the bunnies. Scamp was not at all impressed when the vet, who he’d been having a lovely cuddle with, turned around and jabbed him with a needle!

      • Leigh-Ann W says:

        Thanks they are gorgeous blue charlies(no one but me can tell them apart as they have almost identicle markings) and a joy already, they come when I call them too. They aint daft tho and absolutely hate the wormer, only 2 days left to go but im scratched to ribbons lol. They aint gonna like me when I abandon them at that bad place again in a few months for speying.

        Oh and vet said they might have got a little lump where they had the combo, my 2 had nothing, no ill effects, same little binky babies when we got home and days after it. I was worried about effects reading up on the seperates before I heard about the combi.

  3. alicia says:

    hello Tamsin – we love your site and hold your advices in the highest reguard – we need to know what to use for treating tapeworm – our rabbit keeps poopin out the segments and would like your advice – hope to hear from ya .

    thanks and God bless , Mike and Alicia

    • Tamsin says:

      Hi Alicia, I would give your vet a call on that one. They can probably recommend a product over the phone. Pancur treats some species of worms but I’m not sure about tapeworms.

  4. alicia says:

    thanks for your response – we couldnt get a straight answer out of our vet – and it is difficult to find a tapeworm treatment for rabbits in the US – so after much research we decided today to administer prazequantel over the counter version for kittens and so far , so good – he seems fine -thanks again – keep up the good work

  5. Lucy says:

    The vhd and myxi combo jab dosent always work. My two 10 week old rabbits had the injection and still died of myxi can anybody explain why they died to me?

    • Tamsin says:

      I’m very sorry for your loss. There are several reasons why vaccinated rabbits could have caught it – for example it takes approximately 3 weeks for immunity to develop so they aren’t protected instantly. If they are exposed to myxi within that period they will still catch it.

      Vaccinations rely on an immune response from the rabbit’s body, so another reason for it not to work is that a problem with the immune system. That’s why vets do a health check before giving the jab as if they are fighting off another illness their immune system maybe to busy to develop the antibodies.

      Finally, sometimes the jab doesn’t give 100% immunity, it just reduced the severity. So sometimes vaccinated rabbits develop nodular myxi this is much milder and more survivable.

      If you or your vet hasn’t already, please do report this to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate: they log cases and it will help track any problems associated with the vaccine.

  6. Joanne says:

    Hi. Our beloved bunny Billy had has myxi jab and vhd jabs separately in April 2012 (his first jabs as we got him as a baby) then myxi booster 6 months later. He wasn’t due to have booster again until April this year when he was going to have the combined jab. Sadly last week he was not right for one day took him straight to vets who didn’t know what was wrong and he died in my arms that night. All the symptoms point to vhd. I thought that the jab would have protected him, maybe not 100%, but at least enough not to let the disease kill him. We are devastated as our dear boy was only a few weeks from his first birthday.
    Speaking to a friend, she said a few years ago 3 rabbits in our area died suddenly and they all had up to date vaccinations too. Could there be a different strain of the disease in different areas, or does it not work like that?
    Thanks for your time.

    • Tamsin says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss. The VHD jab seems very reliable, in outbreaks vaccinated rabbits survive without catching it whereas with myxi vaccinated rabbit’s can get a milder version of the disease. It does rely on the body developing antibodies though, so it’s possible that an individual rabbit can not develop immunity after being vaccinated if there immune system has a problem – that’s very rare though.

      I do recall something about a case like you mention but I’m not sure about the details. The only way to 100% confirm VHD as the cause of death is with lab testing samples, which takes time and can be expensive so often it’s rarely done. Sometimes that means sudden deaths are wrongly attributed to it because there isn’t another obvious cause of death.

      If your vet suspects VHD, they should report it to the manufacturer – there are a couple of different brands but it should be recorded in his notes which he had. They might also be able to answer your questions better than me about different strains. I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that one – as far as I’m aware though the jab should offer full protection.

      It is really terrible when you don’t have clear answers, I’m sorry I couldn’t help more.

      • Joanne says:

        Thank you for replying so quickly. The vets have been notified of his passing. Once i can talk about it without getting upset, i will talk further with them to determine what else it could have been – still very raw and trying to get our heads round it. Best wishes.

  7. Zoe says:

    Hi Tamsin. Was wondering if you (and Scamp) might consider writing a blog article about worming rabbits? Our vet has just suggested it for the first time. It’s not something we have ever done before. Do you worm Scamp? Thanks

    • Tamsin says:

      Hi Zoe, no I haven’t wormed Scamp before. I know in the last couple of years wormers specifically for bunnies have come on the market. What I don’t know is whether it’s something that really needs doing routinely or they are just cashing in on bunnies popularity. I imagine a house bunny is low risk for contracting them but that’s just guess work. I’ll add it to my things to research. If I end up worming Scamp I’ll tell him it’s all your fault!

      • vw says:

        I have 3 Dutch rabbits that all live in different cages but all share the same communal area. One of my rabbits has had worms twice. Easy to spot as was white wormy looking creatures on her poo. On fresh poo they could clearly be seen moving, they die quite quickly though. None of my other rabbits have ever had it. I purchased a worming treatment that was put on her food. It cleared up the worms. I only use it as and when needed. It has only happened twice in the 6 years I have had her and the vet was not sure why she has got it and the others haven’t or even where she has caught it from.

        Hope this helps

  8. Sara says:

    Please please please worm your rabbit! Out rabbit Nibbles, developed Encephalitozoon cuniculi
    and died 18 months ago. The vet told us that we should be worming our rabbits with Panacur once a day for a week, every 4 months. The symptoms of EC are the rabbit will wander about like a drunk, in circles. Normally at this point, there’s not a lot that can be done. We took Nibbles to the vets immediately where they gave him Panacur and painkiller, but it was too late for him. Luckily his partner bunny Clover is still with us.

    • Tamsin says:

      Hi Sara

      Although Pancur, which is used for worming, is also used against EC the doses are different.

      To treat Pancur it’s recommended to use a 28 day (1 month) course and it needs to include bleaching everything in the enclosure (and throwing away anything uncleanable) toward the end of the course as the spores are excreted in urine and can reinfect the rabbit otherwise.

      A 7 day Pancur dose would kill intestinal worms, but not prevent EC.

      Just for anyone else reading, the circling behaviour often caused by EC can also be caused by an inner ear infection, so normally a rabbit presenting the symptoms would be treated for both conditions when presenting with that behaviour. EC can also have other symptoms such as rear end weakness, cataracts and many others.


  9. Sara says:

    Hi! I’m from Canada and we finally are getting our rabbits vaccinated due to recent outbreaks in our area. But honestly I’m really nervous for any bad side affects. My one guy is a Netherland drawf and he’s super small smaller than the average I would say even my vet was shocked how little he is. & I’m worried a full vaccine would be too much for him? I have seen somewhere how another dwarf breed had seizures after his vaccine.. do you know if Vet’s will do it in smaller dosages or have you’ve heard of any reactions like this.

    • Tamsin says:

      Hi Sara,

      Keep in mind the vaccinations are often given to rabbits only 8 weeks old, so body size wise may not be too much different to your adult Netherland.

      Generally vaccination is very safe and the reactions I’ve come across are localised skin reactions i.e. a sore/scab or the rabbit acting a bit off/under the weather for a few days. A seizure would be a very very rare reaction – I don’t think I’ve come across it before even. The internet can make reactions seem more common as people tend to only talk about problems, no ones writes ‘It’s two days after my rabbit is vaccinated and they are completely normal’!

      If you are worried though, discuss it with your vet and they can discuss it with the specific manufacture (you get different brands of vaccination) and give you specific advice.

      I hope that helps 🙂

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