Rabbit owners are being urged to have their pets vaccinated against myxomatosis, following a rise in the number of cases of the disease.

The warning came from Oxford vet Andrew Bartholomew, who said he had recently seen a particularly high number of infected animals.

It follows recent sightings of dead rabbits on the River Thames towpath between Godstow and Binsey.

Mr Bartholomew, who runs practices in Iffley Road and Wheatley, said: "I do think there are lots of the animals infected with myxomatosis at the moment.

"From my side of the desk we see cycles of the disease - either more or less - but never do we see no rabbits with myxomatosis.

"The cycles are governed by a variety of factors, including population numbers, climate and the amount of food available.

"And the situation at the moment is bad.

"Unfortunately I have seen a large number of pet rabbits infected with myxomatosis - and they could have been protected with a relatively inexpensive vaccination.

"People report infected rabbits as looking dozy and acting in an inappropriate manner, but it's not common to see them dead."

Myxomatosis is a viral infection transmitted by the rabbit flea, but pets can be vaccinated for as little as £10.

The disease has been blamed for unusually high numbers of dead rabbits being seen between Godstow and Binsey.

A Government spokesman said: "Myxomatosis is endemic in the rabbit population."

Reports of animal poisoning should be made to 0800 321600.