More and more, owners are understanding the importance of vaccinating not only cats and dogs but also pet rabbits. The vaccines in use throughout the U.K. are those that protect our bunnies from the serious infectious diseases that spread rapidly and have the potential to be fatal.
These diseases can pass from rabbit to rabbit via direct contact but there are also several other important methods of disease transmission. These include exposure to contaminated items such as shoes and bedding or contact with wild rabbits, insects and rodents. Due to this, it is critical that both outdoor and indoor rabbits be protected with vaccinations throughout their life. The misconception that bunnies who spend their whole lives indoors do not require vaccines has long been disproven.
The best-known disease against which we vaccinate is Myxomatosis, a devastating infection that causes skin tumours to rapidly form and is typically fatal within two weeks. There is no known treatment for this deadly disease and sadly mortality rates are close to 100%.
Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease is the other viral disease which it is important to protect our bunnies against. Symptoms often come on very quickly and can include swollen eyelids, a fever, bleeding from the nose and eyes and seizures. However, the most common symptom is sudden death and clinical signs are not always seen.
Originally, we would just vaccinate against one strain of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD1) but in 2015 the RHD2 strain was confirmed in the North of England. RHD2 tends to be very difficult to diagnose, with those affected not showing the classical symptoms of RHD1. The death of those infected tends to take a few more days than in cases of RHD1 and it is not until performing a post-mortem that a diagnosis can be made as symptoms tend to be subtle. This difference in the two strains means that those affected with RHD2 tend to pass on the deadly infection to other rabbits at higher rates. As with Myxomatosis, there is no known cure for either strain of RHD and roughly 70 to 100% of those who develop the infection will pass away.
Initially, it was difficult to get hold of a vaccine that was effective against both RHD1 and RHD2 in the U.K., but thankfully this is no longer the case. Owners should be aware that the RHD2 vaccine needs to be given at least two weeks after the RHD1 vaccine. For most, annual boosters are then recommended.
As well as vaccines, rabbit owners can do their best to prevent their pets from developing infections by double-walling any outside enclosures and practising good hygiene at all times. However, these practices should never be seen as an alternative to vaccinating, which is by far the best method of keeping our bunnies safe and healthy.
Whether you have been diligently bringing your rabbits to the vet for vaccines every year or your bunnies have never been vaccinated in the past, we will be happy to see them. Every bunny we see will receive a full health check at the time of their vaccination. This is vital in rabbits as many will have overgrown teeth, long claws or dirty bottoms that may be tricky to spot at home. We will record their weight and assess their body condition, ensuring they are not over or under-weight. Our vets will also be happy to discuss your rabbits’ diet and environment, offering any advice needed.
We currently have a fantastic promotion running during April and May whereby all rabbits can receive a Myxomatosis/RHD1 and RHD2 vaccine as well as an Excel Food and Hay sample for just £64.99. To take advantage of this offer, simply call our clinic to book your appointment today.