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Call for pet owners to vaccinate rabbits

Many pet rabbits will be spending time outdoors enjoying the beautiful summer weather – but this could put them at risk of catching deadly diseases.

Small animal vet Graham Lewis, from Paragon Veterinary Group, warns that owners should vaccinate to protect their pets.

He said; “Rabbits can be vaccinated against three potentially fatal infections – myxomatosis and rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease strain 1 and also strain 2.

“These vaccines are required every 12 months for protection.

“Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease 2 (RVHD2) is a new strain of the virus RVHD1.

“Cases of the disease were first reported in the UK in 2015. It is now thought to be endemic in the wild rabbit population.

“As with RVHD1 the virus causes internal bleeding, but often a rabbit with RVHD2 has no symptoms and can die without any obvious external cause.”

Unfortunately, once a rabbit is infected the prognosis is poor.

“There is no specific treatment, but supportive care can help in a very few cases,” says Graham.

“Prevention is better than anything and we would strongly encourage that any rabbit be vaccinated against these diseases.

“At this time of year rabbits start going out in the garden more and the risk of these diseases increases.”

Last year a Carlisle family sadly lost all three of their pets to RVHD.

Mum-of-four Katherine Taylor urged fellow owners to vaccinate their animals after her children were left heartbroken following the deaths of their rabbits.

Katherine said she had never heard of RVHD before her rabbits became infected with it. All three died in less than a week showing little, if any, signs of being ill beforehand.

“The main thing about it is that it’s so contagious,” said Katherine, speaking last year. “And it’s spread so easily – it’s carried on the wind, it’s carried on insects or birds, or even on your clothes. If you’ve been out in the country and you handle rabbits you can pass it on.

“I would urge all rabbit owners to make sure they vaccinate their pets just because it’s so contagious and also because it can live so long – even if you clean out the hutch it can still be there.”

Graham says that vaccination is very effective against both strains of RVHD from 30 days old. He also advises against using second-hand hutches and equipment.

“We are offering rabbit vaccinations abiding by safety measures with social distancing, so please give us a call for more information or to make an appointment,” said Graham.

You can call Paragon Vets on 01228 710208.

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