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Please Vaccinate Pet Rabbits

lop eared bunny

People who have pet rabbits should get their animals vaccinated now so that they are protected against a new strain of rabbit calicivirus (RCD).

The RHDV1-K5 has been approved for release, and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is one of the regional councils that will be making use of this tool to reduce numbers of wild rabbits on farm land. The release is timetabled for the week of 23 April 2018.  However it could kill pet/domestic rabbits if they are not vaccinated against it. 

“We want pet owners to act now and get pet rabbits to their vet to ensure these animals are protected - the existing vaccination will work,” says Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Biosecurity Manager, Campbell Leckie.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is contacting vets and pet shops advising them of the virus release date and encouraging them to remind customers that the vaccine will work to protect against this new strain. 

However the vaccine takes 10- 14 days to work, so owners need to check that their pet rabbits are vaccinated within the next two weeks; any that have already been vaccinated may need a booster, so check with a vet.

This is not a new virus; it is a strain of the virus already widespread in New Zealand but the new strain may overcome resistance to the old disease.  RHDV1 only causes infection in the European rabbit which is designated a pest in Hawke’s Bay.  Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research information is that no other animal has developed an infection from being exposed to RHDV1. 

In addition to vaccination, the NZ Veterinary Association also recommends the following biosecurity measures for pet rabbit owners:

  • Control insects (especially flies and fleas) as much as possible both indoors and outdoors. Flies are the main vector through which the virus is spread.
  • Remove uneaten food on a daily basis.
  • Keep your pet rabbit indoors where possible.
  • Rabbit-proof your backyard to prevent access by wild rabbits.
  • Regularly decontaminate equipment and materials (e.g. cages, hutches, bowls) with either 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide. 10 minutes contact time is required, then rinse off.
  • Limit contact with and handling of unfamiliar pet rabbits.
  • Use good biosecurity measures (e.g. wash hands, shoes, clothing) after handling other people’s rabbits.
  • Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to your rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits.

 More information is available --

23 March 2018

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