Unfortunately for our local rabbit patients, a national wild rabbit control program commenced mid-February. This means that local councils will be releasing a strain of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV-K5) into the environment. Unfortunately, this disease does not differentiate between wild and domestic rabbits.
What is RHDV-K5?
RHVD-K5 is a strain of Calicivirus. It is released into the environment as a live virus in a solution that has been put into chopped carrots. Once contracted by rabbits, it is then spread by insects (predominantly flies, fleas and mosquitoes), as well as via direct contact between rabbits or predators (such as dogs, foxes and cats). Although other animals may contract the disease, it only has a detrimental affect on rabbits. It is NOT harmful to native animals or domestic pets.
What does this mean for your rabbit at home?
Unfortunately, this means that your rabbit is home is susceptible to contracting the disease. Even if your rabbit has no direct contact with other animals, it may still contract RHVD-K5 via mosquitoes, flies or fleas. Signs of the disease include squealing, fever, convulsions, coma and death within 12-36 hours. In less severe cases, rabbits may show sings such as anorexia, uneasiness, paralysis, swollen eyelids, ocular haemorrhages or loss of skin.
What can you do?
Thankfully, there are precautions that you can take to help keep your rabbit safe. First and foremost, you should vaccinate your rabbit. If given every six months, this vaccine will help to build your rabbit’s immunity, thereby decreasing their risk of contracting the disease. Applying fine fly-screen mesh to your rabbit’s cage will help to prevent infectious insects from entering, however this will not stop spread via direct contact with an infected animal. Using flea control on your rabbit will also help to lower their risk. Ensuring that you have secure fencing to prevent the entry of wild rabbits and animals will also be beneficial, but can be difficult to monitor if you are in an area densely populated with rabbits and wildlife. The best method of control is therefore a combination of techniques, coupled with the RHVD vaccination.
Please do not hesitate to contact the Ark Vet on (02) 9416 1300 if you would like further information regarding this disease, or for more information on what you can do to help keep your rabbit safe.