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Today, when I was in the woods with my dogs and children, we walked into a clearing and found a young rabbit wandering in circles.

The dogs couldn’t believe their eyes and of course jumped in, thinking it was dinner time. I managed to grab them, but this left me with a dog in each hand, and no way of attending to the poor bunny. Eventually, I got both dogs onto their leads and tied them up.

Of course the kids were hysterical by this time, and the rabbit was in a bad way. Its eyes were swollen shut and it had lumps all over its body. It had myxomatosis.

This is a horribly contagious disease that can kill up to 90% of rabbits that it infects. It is sometimes spread by contact with infected animals, or by exposure to something that has been in contact with a sick bunny. But more frequently it is spread by an insect, such as a fly or mosquito, that has landed on a rabbit with Myxomatosis. If this insect lands on your rabbit’s food or bites it, your bunny can get sick.

Sometimes rabbits with Myxomatosis will survive but most often they die, even with careful and expensive medical treatment and nursing. If a rabbit is presented with signs of this disease in summer, with no history of vaccination, then most vets will recommend euthanasia on humane grounds.

If you have a pet rabbit, please make sure it is vaccinated against Myxomatosis. Some vaccinated bunnies still get ill but it’s a much milder form of the disease and they rarely die.

Using Advantage or Xeno100 on your rabbits will help prevent flea infestations and bites from mosquitoes.

And if you live near a lake or pond, then mosquito control is more important and it is wise to use a mosquito net to cover the hutch during  summer evenings. Dry bedding also discourages mosquitoes, so make sure you  keep your rabbit’s home clean and dry.

We were walking in Bayhurst Woods, which are part of Ruislip Woods in Hillingdon. If you live nearby and your rabbit hasn’t been vaccinated in the last 6 months, you should contact your vet and arrange an appointment now.

If you live elsewhere, there is also a good chance that a wild rabbit colony near you is harbouring Myxomatosis. Don’t hedge your bets when it comes to your family pet, get them vaccinated against this fatal disease.