Protect Your Rabbit

Rabbit in South AustraliaAs reported on the News a few days ago.In March 2017 the Australian Government will be releasing a new strain of the rabbit Calicivirus.

The first strain of Calicivirus (named ‘Czech’) was released in Australia in 1996 to help control environmental destruction caused by increasing wild rabbit numbers. A vaccine was created to protect domestic rabbits against this strain.

In recent years the Czech strain has become less virulent (effective) due to developing immunity, therefore a new strain (named ‘K5’) will shortly be released around Australia.

A pilot study has been performed and indicates that the current Calicivirus vaccine may provide some protection against the K5 strain, however it is unknown if it will provide adequate protection and is not currently registered to protect against this new strain.

We have been informed by the vaccine company of the following updated vaccination recommendations (Note: These are not proven to work, but will maximise the amount of protection)

We are to consider giving their initial vaccination as young as 4 weeks of age, repeated again at 8 weeks of age and again at 12 weeks of age. This is followed by 6 monthly boosters for life.

Rabbits 12 weeks and older that have not received a vaccination or are overdue for a vaccination are to have 2 vaccines 1 month apart. This is followed by 6 monthly boosters for life.

Rabbits up to date with vaccinations are now recommended to receive 6 monthly boosters for life.

Please note, these are suggestions from the vaccine company. They deviate from their approved label recommendations. This means they have no data to support the benefits or detriments of the increased frequency of vaccination. We need to monitor closely if vaccine side-effects become more prevalent.

Unfortunately we cannot guarantee immunity, however we can take all precautions until further information is released.

How is it spread?

Calicivirus is spread easily from contact with an infected rabbit’s excretions. It can also be spread via contact with contaminated bedding, clothes, cages, equipment and insects (especially flies and mosquitoes).

What are the symptoms?

Fever, restlessness, lethargy, poor appetite and bleeding from the nose and bottom. In many cases no symptoms are shown and the rabbit dies suddenly. If your rabbit displays any signs of illness, please contact us immediately. Although there is no remedy for Calicivirus we can provide supportive care.

What can you do to help reduce the risks of exposure?child and rabbit

  • Keep your pet rabbit indoors
  • prevent access of wild rabbits in to your yard. Don’t feed grass clippings that might have been in contact with wild rabbits 
  • Hanging Pest Strips ( available from Bunnings)
  • Decontaminate rabbit hutches and their materials with either 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide solution on a regular basis
  • Avoid handling other rabbits than your own. If you come in to contact with another rabbit, decontaminate your hands and clothing.
  • Control fleas and other insects, especially flies, inside the house and outside.
  • Remove uneaten food from their hutch on a daily basis
  • Prevent direct and indirect contact between domestic and wild rabbits.
  • Wash hands, with warm soapy water between handling rabbits.
  • Good insect control is also important and will help reduce the risks of introduction of both RHDV and myxomatosis. Insect control could include insect proofing the hutch or keeping the rabbits indoors.
  • All cages and equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Disinfectants that can be used to decontaminate any equipment include 10 % bleach, 10 % sodium hydroxide, or parvocide disinfectants. If using disinfectants material safety data sheets must be available and consulted, prior to use. Autoclaving will also kill the virus.

We will keep you updated with any new information that is released.

For more information  World Organisation for Animal Health & Zoetis, RSPCA Australia Knowledge Base,AVA

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