Do Pet Rabbits Need Any Shots or Vaccinations?

Deadly diseases like myxomatosis and rabbit hemorrhagic disease threaten the lives of pet rabbits across the globe, but vaccines help halt these fast-acting viruses in their tracks. Do your bunny a lifesaving favor and find out whether your furry friend needs vaccinated. From Europe to North America and Australia, we detail regional vaccine recommendations so you can make the best health decisions for your rabbit. Get the facts on vaccine timing, potential side effects, and smart steps all rabbit owners should take to avoid exposure. Don’t leave your rabbit’s health to chance – get the inside scoop on shots that could save your pet’s life!

Do rabbits need any vaccinations?

Rabbits can be susceptible to certain deadly diseases that can be prevented through vaccination. The specific vaccinations recommended for pet rabbits depends on where you live in the world. In general, there are two main diseases that pet rabbits are commonly vaccinated for: myxomatosis and rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD).

Vaccination is an important preventative measure to protect the health of pet rabbits. Like any other pet, rabbits rely on their owners to provide them with proper veterinary care including immunizations. Work with your rabbit-savvy veterinarian to determine the right vaccination schedule for your bunny based on factors like their age, health status, and geographic location.


In most European countries, pet rabbits are routinely vaccinated against myxomatosis and RHD as both diseases are endemic in wild and domestic rabbit populations across Europe.

Myxomatosis first emerged in domestic European rabbits in the 1950s and within a decade had spread across the continent decimating both wild and domestic rabbit populations. The myxoma virus that causes myxomatosis continues to circulate among rabbits in Europe, so vaccination is recommended to protect pet rabbits from this deadly disease.

RHD first emerged in China in 1984 and rapidly spread through domestic and wild rabbits in Europe in the late 1980s. Outbreaks of RHD continue to occur among wild and domestic rabbits in most European countries. There are now two strains of RHD that infect rabbits in Europe – RHD1 and RHD2 – so the vaccine given protects against both strains.

Since these dangerous infectious diseases pose an ongoing threat to rabbits living in Europe, veterinarians almost universally recommend pet rabbits receive vaccines for myxomatosis and RHD. The vaccines are considered core vaccines that all pet rabbits in Europe should receive.

North America

In North America, there is more variability in vaccination recommendations for pet rabbits based on the regional risk of myxomatosis and RHD.

Myxomatosis has never become established in wild or domestic rabbit populations in North America. Limited outbreaks occurred in domestic rabbits in California and Washington state in the 1930s-50s but the disease was successfully eradicated. Since the risk of myxomatosis exposure is extremely low in North America, the vaccine is considered non-core and only recommended for rabbits in certain higher risk situations.

RHD is also not currently present in any wild or domestic rabbits on the North American mainland. The earliest emergence of RHD was on Vancouver Island in Canada in 2018, likely introduced by imported rabbit meat from Asia. RHD2 has since been detected in domestic rabbits in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario as of 2023. But RHD remains limited in distribution in North America.

In areas where RHD2 has been detected, such as some parts of Canada, veterinarians may recommend vaccinating pet rabbits against RHD. In most areas of the United States, the RHD vaccine remains in the non-core category reserved for rabbits at higher risk of exposure.

Australia and New Zealand

In Australia and New Zealand, myxomatosis is widespread in wild rabbit populations and so vaccination against myxomatosis is recommended for pet rabbits.

Myxomatosis was intentionally introduced in Australia and New Zealand in the 1950s as a form of biological rabbit control aimed at reducing environmental damage caused by invasive wild European rabbits. While somewhat successful at suppressing wild rabbit numbers, the myxoma virus also spread into domestic rabbit populations. Outbreaks in pet rabbits continue to occur regularly.

RHD has not yet emerged in any wild or domestic rabbits in Australia or New Zealand, so the RHD vaccine is not routinely recommended.

To protect pet rabbits against myxomatosis in these countries, veterinarians advise vaccinating rabbits with the approved myxomatosis vaccine on schedule. Rabbit owners should also take measures to prevent potential exposure by keeping rabbits indoors and using mosquito control.

When to get your rabbit vaccinated

For core vaccines recommended for pet rabbits based on geographic risk factors, veterinarians usually advise beginning the vaccination series at around 8-12 weeks of age once maternal antibodies have declined.

Rabbit kits receive antibodies from their mothers through the placenta before birth and antibodies from colostrum in mother’s milk after birth. These maternal antibodies provide some temporary protection but fade over time. After about 2-3 months, vaccine-induced immunity is required.

The timing of the first vaccine dose may be adjusted based on individual factors like breed size, health status, and time of weaning. Your veterinarian will make vaccinations schedule recommendations tailored for your bunny.

Most rabbit vaccines require at least two doses spaced 2-4 weeks apart initially to produce protective immunity. Then rabbits require booster vaccinations at regular intervals to maintain immunity throughout their lives. The frequency of booster shots is generally either 6 months or 1 year depending on the vaccine and manufacturer recommendations.

For rabbits traveling or otherwise at heightened risk of disease exposure, an additional vaccine may be given 2-4 weeks prior to potential exposure for added protection. Follow your veterinarian’s expert advice on properly vaccinating your rabbit.

Side effects of vaccinations for rabbits

Vaccines given to rabbits are generally safe but mild side effects can sometimes occur. Potential adverse reactions are usually temporary and may include:

  • Soreness, swelling or lumps at the injection site

  • Decreased appetite for 1-2 days

  • Lethargy or decreased activity

  • Low grade fever

  • Sneezing, ocular discharge or nasal discharge

More severe vaccine reactions are very rare in rabbits but could include:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Facial swelling or hives

  • Collapse or seizures

Notify your veterinarian immediately if your rabbit exhibits concerning symptoms following vaccination. With supportive care, rabbits normally recover well even if a vaccine reaction occurs.

The benefits of protection against deadly infectious diseases far outweigh the small risks associated with vaccination for pet rabbits. Always monitor your rabbit’s health closely for a few days after vaccinations.

Is it okay to allow your rabbit to go outside without being vaccinated?

It is generally not recommended to allow pet rabbits access to the outdoors unless they are properly vaccinated. Unvaccinated rabbits are vulnerable to infectious diseases if they encounter viruses in the environment or get bitten by infected mosquitoes or fleas.

Outdoor housed or free-range pet rabbits can come into contact with viruses shed by wild rabbits, questing mosquitoes carrying viruses, or environmental contamination. Disease risk is heightened if other neighborhood rabbits are unvaccinated or wild rabbits roam nearby potentially spreading viruses.

Two of the most serious viral diseases posing threats to unvaccinated pet rabbits allowed outdoor access are myxomatosis and RHD. Let’s take a closer look at these highly contagious and often fatal rabbit diseases and the risks they pose to unvaccinated rabbits.


Myxomatosis is a viral disease of rabbits caused by the Myxoma virus in the Poxviridae family of DNA viruses. The disease originated in South America in tapeti rabbits and was first described in laboratory rabbits in Uruguay in 1896. In the 1950s, the myxoma virus was released in Australia and Europe to curb wild rabbit populations but it also spread into domestic rabbits.

How it's spread

The Myxoma virus spreads between rabbits mainly by biting insects. Mosquitoes are the primary transmission vector, able to spread virus by biting an infected rabbit then biting and feeding on another susceptible rabbit. Fleas and mites can also transmit the virus mechanically between rabbits in close contact.

Direct contact transmission between rabbits can also occur if an infected rabbit’s open sore or lesion comes into contact with mucous membranes of another rabbit. The virus can persist in the environment, so an uninfected rabbit can pick up virus from contaminated objects or bedding.

A mosquito-borne virus, proximity to bodies of stagnant water where mosquitoes breed increases risk of myxomatosis for unvaccinated rabbits allowed outdoor access. The virus can be carried on mosquitoes’ mouthparts and survive for months in vector hosts.


The most effective way to protect pet rabbits from myxomatosis is vaccination. Effective vaccines help create acquired immunity to the Myxoma virus and prevent development of disease if a rabbit is challenged with field strain virus. Both killed and attenuated live vaccines for myxomatosis are available for rabbits.

Unvaccinated pet rabbits should be housed indoors to avoid potential exposure to virus-carrying biting insects or direct contact with an infected rabbit. Screens on enclosures can help keep mosquitoes and fleas away. Prompt mosquito control around the home and rabbit housing also helps reduce disease transmission risk.

Quarantining new rabbits from different sources for at least 30 days before introducing them with your existing rabbit helps prevent accidental disease transmission through contact. Always avoid introducing rabbits of unknown vaccination status into your household flock.


Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is caused by calicivirus strains RHDV1 and RHDV2. Death rates in infected adult rabbits often exceed 90%. RHD was first described in China in 1984 then rapidly spread through domestic and wild rabbits in other parts of Asia, Europe, and elsewhere.

How it's spread

RHDV is extremely contagious between rabbits in close contact. The virus transmits through direct contact with infected rabbits through routes like respiratory secretions or contact with blood. Indirect environmental contamination also readily spreads virus between rabbits sharing space and objects.

Insects do not play a major role in transmission of RHDV but the virus can spread mechanical on fur and feet of rabbit vectors. Carcasses, feces, and fomites contaminated with virus all poses infection risk. Humans can also inadvertently carry RHDV on clothing, shoes, or hands and introduce virus into a naïve rabbit population.

Wild rabbits and hares in the environment can be asymptomatic carriers of RHDV and transmit to unvaccinated pet rabbits with outdoor access. Unvaccinated house rabbits allowed to free roam outdoors are vulnerable to encountering virus from multiple sources in the environment.


As with myxomatosis, vaccination is the primary means of protecting pet rabbits from RHD. Inactivated RHDV1 and RHDV2 vaccines are available to create acquired immunity to both strains of this deadly rabbit disease. Rabbits must receive at least 2 initial doses then ongoing boosters according to label recommendations to maintain protective antibodies.

Keeping pet rabbits fully indoors with no outdoor time is advised to limit the risk of RHDV exposure. Proper sanitation and disinfection helps eliminate any inadvertent environmental virus brought indoors. Newly acquired rabbits should undergo quarantine before joining a household group.

Avoid introducing rabbits of unknown origin or vaccination status into your home. Seek immediate veterinary care if unvaccinated rabbits show any signs of illness including high fever, bleeding, seizures, or death to limit spread of contagious viruses. Protect your pet rabbits with safe indoor housing and proper preventative vaccines.


Responsible rabbit owners take steps to protect their pets from infectious diseases through proactive vaccination and preventative husbandry practices. Work closely with your rabbit-experienced veterinarian to determine the right vaccine protocol for your rabbit based on age, health status, and regional disease risks. Provide safe indoor housing away from potential sources of virus transmission. By keeping your pet rabbit healthy through vaccination and smart biosecurity measures, you can help ensure your bunny lives a long and fulfilling life as part of your family.

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