June is here, and kicks off with Rabbit Awareness Week. Rabbits are the third most popular pet in the UK, but a recent BVA survey found that 73% of vets had seen rabbits who were not being adequately cared for. Failure to provide a suitable diet, housing rabbits in too cramped conditions, and being kept alone, or with other species which were not suitable, were the primary concerns.
But, putting all these factors aside, arguably the most direct threat to rabbit welfare is the failure to vaccinate. Vets have reported that a shocking 98% of their clients didn’t fully understand the risks of diseases like myxomatosis or RVHD1. Many of them had not got their rabbits vaccinated for any illnesses, and seemed unaware that it was even a thing they should be doing.
The theme of this year’s Rabbit Awareness Week is highlighting the need to vaccinate, and specifically to vaccinate against rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease type two (RVHD2). In February, an out break of RVHD2 killed six rabbits in a rescue centre in Oldham. There had been ten rabbits in total, and many of them had evidently not been vaccinated, leading to the sad situation. Exactly how the virus had got there remains something of a mystery. The rabbit pen was closed off and members of the public were not allowed to handle them, so the only probable way the virus been introduced is via the hay, which had come from a local farm and was likely tainted with urine or faeces from an infected wild rabbit. The idea that a rabbit is safe from the virus if it is kept away from infected rabbits is sadly far from true. In fact, RVHD2 can be carried by birds and insects and their droppings, soles of shoes, car tyres or other pets’ feet, owners’ hands or clothes, and even the wind. The reality is that there is no way to adequately shield a rabbit from RVHD2. The only meaningful method of protection is vaccination.
The alarming nature of RVHD2’s virulence and undetectability demonstrates how important it is to ensure that owners are aware of the need to vaccinate. As a vet, you can help by informing your clients of the serious danger RVHD2 poses, as well as stocking the vaccine. It is established that rabbits are brought to vets less often than dogs or cats, so you could always ask owners of other animals if they have a rabbit too. We also have a fantastic offer on RVHD2 themed webinars, available for this week only. For just £20, you can learn everything you need to know (or refresh your memory) on RVHD2, and how to protect rabbits from this terrible disease. To find out more, just click the button below: