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Rabbit Calicivirus

Rabbit Calicivirus
Rabbit Calicivirus

As Easter approaches and we start to think of the Easter Bunny let us also give a thought to our own pet rabbits.

Sadly I had the experience of judging at a school pet day a few years ago where an unvaccinated rabbit died suddenly before judging with confirmed Rabbit calicivirus disease.  Fortunately all the other rabbits at the pet day had been vaccinated so no further deaths occurred, but it was very upsetting for all concerned and involved the cancelling of that particular event.

Rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD) also known as viral haemorrhagic disease, was illegally introduced into NZ in the 1990’s and while not all animals exposed become infected, those that do all die.

In autumn this year a Korean variant or K5 variety of Rabbit calicivirus will be released in Canterbury, Otago, Marlborough, Southland and Bay of Plenty.

Incubation for the disease is short ie 1-3days and it is thought that the virus is transmitted by direct contact, ingestion, from urine or faeces or via insect vectors especially flies thus strict isolation from wild rabbits is not enough to protect your pet. Deaths can occur suddenly with no signs or the rabbit may just seem lethargic, have difficulty breathing or develop a foamy or bloody discharge from the nose or anus before dying.

The good news is that the disease can be prevented by vaccination. We can vaccinate rabbits at 10-12 weeks, and rabbits will then require a booster at 14-16 weeks of age.  An annual booster is recommended.

Management tips for rabbit owners:

Flies are the main vector through which the virus is spread

Remove uneaten food on a daily basis

Keep your pet rabbit indoors where possible

Rabbit-proof your backyard to prevent access by wild rabbits

Regularly decontaminate equipment and materials including cages, hutches, bowls etc, with either 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide

Limit contact between and handling of unfamiliar pet rabbits

Wash hands, shoes and clothing after handling other than your own rabbits

Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits.

Infected rabbits should be isolated and disposed of in a manner that will minimise environmental contamination.

So make sure your pet bunny is protected by calling us now for an appointment.

About the author

Yvonne Marshall-Lee

Yvonne Marshall-Lee

North Canterbury Veterinarian

Our Clinics

North Canterbury Veterinary Clinics operates four clinics throughout the Hurunui region.