Protecting your animals the Natural Way against Myxomatosis


Protecting your animals the Natural Way against Myxomatosis
Protecting your animals the Natural Way against Myxomatosis
Written by Susan Batho for The Pet Directory

Large amounts of rain, followed by hot humid weather provide a fertile breeding ground for small insects such as mites and mosquitoes, as well as skin conditions such as fungus. The very lethal virus, myxomatosis, is carried by the mosquito and transmitted from one infected rabbit to any number of rabbits in one night through the feeding of just one mosquito. 

Protect Your Animals Agains Myxomatosis

Myxomatosis is a pox- style virus, than normally kills with a secondary infection of pastorella (pneumonia).  It is a far–from-humane way of controlling the wild rabbit population in Australia, that was introduced in the 1950’s.  Whilst we are not allowed to immunise against the myxo virus in Australia at present (they do immunise their domestic rabbits in other countries), there are steps we can take that will provide a measure of safety to our animals.

Prepare the yard and sheds by making sure there is nothing to capture and keep water in such as old food bowls, or empty flower pots.  Still water is a good breeding ground for mosquitoes. Remember to change your animal’s water bowl regularly. I have both a bird bath and a non-working fountain in my garden and I add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to them both.  This forms a very thin coating of oil that stops the mosquitoes from breeding in that water. 

Mosquito coils and citronella lamps burning at night will discourage all flying insects – not just mosquitoes.   However during the heat of summer, it is not always feasible to have something burning in the shed or yard, especially when your animals may already be suffering with the heat.  A gentler way is to place plants that will discourage insects about the yard where your bunny/ies live.  Mints, especially spearmint and peppermint, are an excellent start, as is the citronella daisies.  Planting small shrubs also encourages finches and swallows that naturally feed on small insects.  These small birds eat up to 400 insects a day as well make a very pleasant addition to your environment. Your garden can be one of your weapons against unwanted pests.

Myxomatosis is a pox- style virus, than normally kills with a secondary infection of pastorella (pneumonia)

Adding mosquito netting to the outside of your rabbit hutch, is a very effective way of physically stopping the mosquitoes.  This can be done using stick-on Velcro on the edges of squares of netting, or by simply tacking it to the outside.  You may not be able to watch your bunny play through the netting, but it is far better than losing them.  Even just throwing over a mosquito netting and tucking it in once the sun starts to set will help. Also remember that mosquitos do not like still air, so making sure their pen is placed in the way of a breeze or use a hutch fan.

When cleaning the hutches, spraying with a commercial spray such as Coopex (which lasts up to three months) will prevent flies from breeding the cage and discourage mosquitoes.  You have to exercise a lot of care with cleaners and sprays, though, making sure they are completely dry before you put the animal back, otherwise you may find the lining of their sensitive noses re-acting  or worse, their lungs affected.  I prefer a more organic insect spray – using tea tree in water mix which can even be sprayed onto the back of your animal.  A spray-around at dusk after their supper is the most effective time.  I also use a cleaner that was designed by an established breeder that cleans, sterilises and protects.  Once more I make sure it is dry before putting my rabbit back.

Karen's Cleaning Recipe

1 litre of hospital grade disinfectant
½ cup of bleach
½ cup eucalyptus oil
a few drops of tea tree oil
This is a concentrate.  You make it up then at the rate of 1 to 20 parts of water – makes up to about 24 litres.

For mites, an application of kitten strength of Advantage (just a couple of drops) will protect your rabbit – especially since their bedding and eating hays often come with mites attached, but it should be emphasised that this kind of protection depends of the insect biting the animal and getting a lethal dose.  With mosquitoes, they carry infected blood from one animal to another by biting them, so we need to prevent them from biting in the first place if we can.  You must also check with your vet which flea preventer is suitable for rabbits as not all are.  In fact some can cause fitting and death when applied.

By being aware of the way myxomatosis is transmitted, we can help protect our bunnies from the virus.   I’ve even added an automatic delivery system fly spray to my home to protect my animals.  It is based on citronella and takes care of them for me when I am not there. 

For more information on Myxomatosis visit the Myxomatosis Hotline website which provides a map kept up to date daily on outbreaks of Myxo in Australia.  There is a forum where you can ask questions and have them answered by experts and other rabbit owners and registered club breeders.


Author Susan Batho is a high profile member of the Australian rabbit community and a member of the Rabbit Breeders Association of NSW

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