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Urgent warnings over 'deadly' rabbit disease

Urgent warnings over 'deadly' rabbit disease

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 1:38am 20th May 2018. (Updated at 10:19am 21st May 2018)

Urgent warning as disease kills six rabbits in Cornwall

An urgent warning has gone out to rabbit owners, after it was confirmed a 'deadly' disease killed six bunnies in one home in Cornwall.

Head and Head Veterinary Practice Ltd, which is based in Helston, has issued advice after a client lost six of her nine pets.

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD-2) is highly contagious and often fatal, according to the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund.

Rabbits can simply be found dead or ill with no obvious cause and, because of this lack of obvious symptoms, owners often don't realise their rabbit has the infectious disease.

This then leads to the bunny not being given early enough treatment and precautions not being taken to contain the infection.

A spokesperson for the vet practice said: "We have unfortunately had a confirmed case of Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD-2) in our area!!!

"One of our clients has devastatingly had six of her nine pet rabbits suddenly die from the deadly virus.

"These rabbits were very well cared for and had not left their enclosed garden, which worryingly indicates the virus which is extremely contagious, may have been carried in by wildlife.

"There is no treatment available once a rabbit has contracted the virus and they are likely to die very suddenly without prior signs of illness.

"Please let us protect your rabbits by bringing them to be vaccinated against VHD-2 (every 6 months).

"This vaccine is given separately from the vaccine for myxomatosis & VHD-1.

"Now that we know this virus is in Cornwall, we fear it may not be the last rabbit fatality that we see caused by VHD-2".

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What do we know about the disease?

There are actually two strains - RVHD1 and RVHD2.

The first is described as a 'swift and efficient killer', while the second one can stay longer in the rabbits body without producing immediate symptoms.

However, both are lethal and the RWAF urges owners to make sure their pets are vaccinated.

So, how can pet rabbits catch RVHD?

  • Hay may have been in contact with infected wild rabbits as grass growing in the field.
  • Birds or insects may transport the virus on their feet (or in their droppings) to your rabbit grazing on the lawn.
  • The virus may be blown on the wind.
  • You might bring the virus home on your feet, or your other pets’ feet (or car wheels) from infected wild rabbit droppings.
  • You could bring the virus home on your hands or clothes.
  • Both strains of RVHD have been recorded all over the UK. All pet rabbits should be vaccinated against both strains. There is no way of predicting where the next outbreak will strike, and no practical way of shielding your pet rabbits from all the possible sources of infection. Vaccination is the only way to be safe.

How can you protect your rabbit?

  • Rabbits can be protected against both strains of RVHD by vaccination any time from 30 days of age (previous advice was 5 weeks), with a booster every 12 months when part of the Myxomatosis-RHD vaccine. 
  • The separate RVHD2 vaccine is every 6-12 months. 
  • Clean and disinfect anything that may be carrying the viruses, including water bottles, bowls, bedding and housing. 
  • This means that boarding and rescue rabbits, even with up to date vaccinations, may potentially be a risk, and establishments should take suitable precautions, as should vets who may have infected rabbits brought to them for treatment. 
  • Anything that has been touched by an unknown rabbit should be thoroughly cleaned and treated with virus killing agents. In high risk situations foot covers or foot dips may be wise measures.

Source: RWAF

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