How to keep your rabbits safe from disease

How to keep your rabbits safe from disease

Here at the RSPCA, as always, we're extremely proud to be involved with the annual Rabbit Awareness Week initiative.

This year, everyone has had to adjust to a new way of life - but, along with the other organisations involved with this amazing event, we were all keen that 2020 would still have a Rabbit Awareness Week!

To make this possible, we've created a virtual festival and gone digital - all to help raise awareness around the five welfare needs of rabbits! To find out more about Rabbit Awareness Week, you can follow Rabbit Awareness Week on Facebook. You can also download your Rabbit Awareness Week pack to find out how you can get involved!

Keeping rabbits safe from disease

Rabbit Awareness Week is all about raising awareness of the welfare needs of rabbits. One of these important welfare needs requires owners to protect their pets from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

So today, as part of Rabbit Awareness Week, we're highlighting the dangers posed to rabbits from three common rabbit diseases - myxomatosis, RHD and RHD2. Don't worry, we've got everything that you need to know to keep your bunnies safe and healthy!

Common rabbit diseases you should know

Myxomatosis is a household name, among rabbit owners and animal lovers alike, but there are also other lesser-known diseases that affect rabbits. Such as; Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) and a new strain of RHD - known as RHD2.

All three of these diseases affect wild and domestic rabbits, causing intense suffering. Sadly they're often fatal and there are no effective treatments. Fortunately, there are vaccines available which are essential to protecting your rabbits against these diseases!

How are these rabbit diseases spread?

Myxomatosis, RHD and RHD2 are viruses which persist in the environment. This means that they can be transported on clothes, shoes and other objects. They can also be carried by insects or spread by coming into contact with an affected rabbit.

This means that all rabbits (whether they live outdoors or inside the home) are at risk. We strongly recommend that all rabbits, irrespective of where they live, are vaccinated against all three diseases.

What vaccinations can protect my rabbits from disease?

When it comes to vaccinations, you need to speak to your vet. They can talk you through the best options for your individual rabbits. There are a few different options available:

  1. Your rabbits can have two separate injections. One covers myxomatosis and RHD and can be given from five weeks old. The second protects against RHD2 and can be given from 10 weeks old.
  2. Or, your rabbits can have one combined vaccination which protects them against myxomatosis, RHD and RHD2. This vaccination can be given from five weeks old. However, this vaccine may not be suitable if your rabbits have previously been vaccinated against myxomatosis but not RHD2. This is why it's so important to talk to your vet, to make sure your rabbits get the right protection. They can also advise you on the best ages for your rabbits to be vaccinated.

After these initial vaccinations, your rabbits will then need booster vaccinations at least annually which your vet will also be able to advise you on.

How can I arrange vaccinations for my rabbits during the pandemic?

If your rabbits are yet to be vaccinated against myxomatosis, RHD and RHD2, or it's time for their booster injections, you should speak to your vet as you would under normal circumstances. During these uncertain times, vets are still working hard to make sure they can provide care for their patients. Whilst things may be a little different to what you have experienced when taking your rabbits to the vets previously, lots of practices are still providing vaccinations for rabbits.

Many vet practices are busier than usual, so do try to contact them well in advance of when your rabbits are due their vaccinations. Not all practices may be able to offer vaccinations at the moment, but it's worth talking to them to discuss alternatives, for example, temporarily registering with another practice.

Can I do anything else to protect my rabbits from disease?

Regular vaccination is the only way to ensure that your rabbits are protected from these diseases and it's really important that you keep up to date with your pet's vaccinations. Some vets will send out reminders when your rabbits need their vaccinations, but it's a good idea to also keep your own records so that you know when their boosters are due.

Whilst taking your rabbits for regular vaccinations is by far the most effective way to protect them, there are a few other things you can consider doing to reduce the chances of your rabbits coming into contact with these common diseases:

As insects can transmit myxomatosis, RHD and RHD2, it's a good idea to deter flies and mosquitoes. You can do this by using insect-proof screens. Try to make sure that your home and all pets (even cats and dogs) are treated for fleas as advised by your vet, as fleas from cats and dogs can also infect rabbits.

Regularly clean and disinfect your rabbits' enclosure and any areas that your rabbits access, using a rabbit-safe disinfectant. You should also change your rabbits' bedding and litter regularly. Never use housing or bedding from any rabbits who could have had these infections.

You should also prevent contact with affected domestic rabbits and all wild rabbits. As well as, preventing your rabbits from going into any areas where affected rabbits have been.

Find out more about rabbit health

Find out more about myxomatosis, RHD and RHD2 as well as rabbit vaccinations.

Remember, if you have any specific questions or concerns about myxomatosis, RHD or RHD2, we always recommend talking them through with your vet.

Happy Rabbit Awareness Week!

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