It’s been a concerning time for rabbit owners over past few weeks and rightly so! There has been a rush to get rabbit vaccinations up to date in time for the early March release of RHDV1 – K5- a strain of Calicivirus or Rabbit Haemorragic Disease Virus. There is a lot of conflicting information out there regarding this virus, it’s release and what is the best you can do for your pet rabbit in this particular circumstance.

Look no further- it’s time to get educated on Rabbit Calicivirus Disease and in particular RHDV1-K5.

Where and why is it being released?

It will be released to approximately 600 sites around Australia and is being co-ordinated by your state or territory government, in a bid to waver the wild rabbit population. Wild rabbits cause much destruction and devastation to our farming industry and significantly impact our environment. RHDV1 – K5 is a variant of the Rabbit Calcivirus Disease that already exists and poses a high risk to our unvaccinated pet rabbits in Australia in this current day-  this variant, RHDV1 – K5, is already naturally occurring in the Korean rabbit population. As rabbits are known to have a natural attraction to carrots these will be used to distribute the bait. Poisoned carrots will be placed on to properties in the early evening and any left over baits will be removed in the morning and so on. In past attempts to control the wild rabbit population, this has proven to be the most effective way of releasing the disease.

In NSW if you have any questions or concerns regarding it’s release please contact:

Local Land Services 1300 795 299
Dept. of Primary Industries 02 6391 3834

Will your pet rabbit be at risk?

All rabbits are at risk of catching this disease. The risk to your rabbit is significantly reduced if you vaccinate your rabbit with the current Calicivirus vaccine- Cylap©. A study
performed by the Department of Primary Industries has shown that the vaccine Cylap© is effective against this new strain of the virus RHDV1 – K5.

How to minimise the risk to your pet rabbit:

Vaccinate! Vaccinate! Vaccinate!

At Ourimbah Veterinary hospital we advise all owners to follow this rabbit vaccination schedule:

Young rabbits vaccinate at 4, 8, 12 weeks of age then boosters every 6 months for the rest of their life.

Adult rabbits with no previous vaccination history- 2 initial vaccinations, one month apart, then 6 monthly boosters for the rest of their life.

Precautions recommended by the Department of Primary Industries to reduce the chance of infection of pet rabbits with RHDV:

* Prevent direct and indirect contact between domestic and wild rabbits.
* Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from 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.
* Infected rabbits should be isolated and disposed of in a manner that will minimise environmental contamination.
* 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.

How is RHDV spread?

All strains in Australia including RHDV1- K5 are highly contagious. It is spread via direct contact with an infected rabbit alive or deceased, via their faeces and urine, during mating and via secretions from the eyes and mouth and can even travel via the wind. It can also be spread by contaminated clothing, shoes, food, bedding, cages or any
object that has come in contact with an infected rabbit. Insects-especially flies; also birds and rodents can contribute to the spread this disease.

Signs to look out for…

If a rabbit contracts RHDV it unfortunately usually results in death. Signs usually show 1-3 days after a rabbit has contracted this disease. After this time death usually occurs anywhere from 12-36hrs. Some rabbits may not have any notable signs and it can just appear as though they have died suddenly.
RCDV effects the internal organs such as the liver and lungs.

Infected rabbits may present with:

inability to walk
not eating
swollen eye lids

If rabbits do initially survive they will most likely die a few weeks later from the damage this disease has done internally.

If your rabbit needs vaccinating please call us today!
We run rabbit vaccination days and can let you know when the next appointment is available. It is the only way to protect your pet rabbit.
RHDV is species specific it will not spread to any other animal or human.