Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) has warned rabbit owners to protect and vaccinate their pets against RVHD-2 after it identified an outbreak of the disease.
RVHD2 is a fatal disease that can kill rabbits within hours, with many rabbits displaying no symptoms until their death is unpreventable. Vaccination is the safest and most effective way to protect rabbits against RVHD2 and a variety of other diseases, but research has shown that not enough rabbits in the UK are protected.
Research from this year’s PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report showed 49 percent of rabbits in UK homes have not received a primary course of vaccinations when young, meaning almost half a million rabbits in the UK could be at risk from a variety of potentially fatal diseases.
Rabbits who have previously been vaccinated against RHDV only will not be protected against this strain of RVHD2, so return visits to vets are being encouraged, even for rabbits who have received a primary course of vaccinations when they were young as boosters are needed to ensure immunity.
Alex Thorne at Burgess Pet Care, said: “RVHD2 is a relatively new disease which is massively on the rise in the UK. The RAW partners have already received calls and visits from distraught owners who’ve lost their rabbits to RVHD2. It’s possible that even rabbits who have been for vaccinations in the past aren’t protected against this new disease.
“For any owners seeking reassurance, we would strongly recommend that they contact their vets. We’re calling on the support of veterinary practices, owners, manufacturers and retailers across the UK to help spread this message to as many people as possible.”
Dr Richard Saunders, one of the UK’s leading rabbit experts, added: “There are three fatal viral diseases of rabbits which can be vaccinated against. Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic disease 1 and 2, which kill a high proportion of the rabbits infected, often so quickly that there is no warning before finding them dead; and myxomatosis, which can result in a slow and painful death for rabbits suffering the worst forms of the infection.
“These diseases can be prevented by vaccination and it is absolutely vital to do this even if there haven’t been any outbreaks of these diseases in your area yet. These diseases can spread rapidly and by the time there is an outbreak in your area and your rabbits aren’t vaccinated – it may be too late.”