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Rabbit Vaccinations: Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease

We recommend vaccinating your rabbit against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (Strains 1 and 2). To cover against all these your rabbit will need two vaccines.  Both diseases are highly contagious between the rabbit population however easily prevented.

Myxomatosis is a virus carried by biting insects and mosquitos and can be passed on without direct contact. The symptoms include puffy eyelids, conjunctivitis within the first 7 days and swelling will extend around the eyes, ears and genital regions after 7 days.In severe cases the rabbit may die from the virus.
Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (RVHD) is a highly infectious disease that can affect domestic and wild rabbits. RVHD 1, the classic RVHD, has been present in rabbits for decades and vaccinated again. A new strain of RVHD (RVHD2) was first noted in France in 2010. In the last 12 months, it has become an increasing concern regarding this new strain of RVHD in the UK with confirmed cases.
This new strain is less aggressive than RVHD 1 and symptoms may appear from 3 to 9 days post exposure. Symptoms can include high temperature, lethargy, sudden bleeding from areas (nose/mouth), reduced appetite and possible seizures. Even though this strain is less aggressive if not treated can cause death in severe cases.
Myxomatosis and RVHD 1 are prevented by the administration of a combined vaccination. It takes 3 weeks post vaccination for the rabbit to build immunity to the viruses. This vaccination will provide the rabbit with 1 year immunity to the viruses.
RVHD 2 is prevented by the administration of a separate vaccination. There must be a 2 week gap between the two vaccinations and will provide immunity to the RVHD 2 strain for 1 year.
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Obesity in our older rabbits

When our rabbits become older they lead a slower pace of life, unless we monitor and adjust feeding patterns accordingly, there is a higher risk of pets gaining weight and becoming obese.

Obesity can be a contributing factor in the case of other conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and pododermatiitis.

It can also be dangerous in cases of anorexia as they will metabolise fat which can be lead to hepatic lipidosis.

Rabbits should have a diet of high fibre pellets, add lib grass, hay and greens to prevent obesity and to lose weight.
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Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease 2 – what is it?

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease is a serious disease in rabbits, and can be fatal. It is also known as Viral Haemorrhagic Disease or Rabbit Calicivirus.

There are two strains of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease – strains 1 and 2. Vaccines protecting against Strain 1 have been used in the UK for many years. The first case of RHD2 was noted in December 2014, and there is now a vaccination available for this strain in addition.

The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected rabbit via its oral, nasal or conjunctival secretions, as well as urine and faeces. It may also be transmitted via contaminated objects such as enclosures, ground, cloth and infected hay or other foods. Fleas and mosquitos are also another factor that can contribute to spread of the disease.

High risk rabbits may include show rabbits, shelter rabbits or those recently adopted. Low risk rabbits will be indoor rabbits who have no contact with other rabbits (wild or domestic).

This disease has a high mortality rate, and with most cases it is fatal in unvaccinated rabbits. The disease is also highly contagious and just one infected rabbit will rapidly spread this virus to others in the area.

The RHD2 strain is less aggressive than RHD1, with rabbits becoming ill over several days rather than sudden onset. Symptoms, although rare, can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and spasms.

Unfortunately there is no treatment for this disease, and this coupled with its sudden onset means it is unlikely we will see a good outcome.

Fortunately this disease can be prevented. Through routine yearly vaccination, both strains of RHD can be prevented for your rabbit. However, although vaccination is a big preventative measure against this disease, there are other factors that should be considered to minimise further risk. This includes reducing the risk of infection from other animals by preventing contact with wild rabbits, birds or rodents. If you have any questions regarding this disease, please contact the practice for further advice.
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The Bunny Feeding Plan

A rabbit’s diet should consist of very high levels of fibre. Without these high fibres levels, their digestive system will not work effectively and will be susceptible to gut stasis. Their teeth are designed to grow continually and therefore need fibrous food to wear them down. If a rabbit does not get enough abrasive foods, they will suffer from overgrown teeth making it painful to eat! Therefore a rabbit should have access to high quality feeding hay or grass which should make up to 85-90% of their daily diet.

Rabbits can tend to begin selective feeding with such diets as muesli style diets as they chose the higher starch and sugary elements of the feed and therefore leaving the higher fibre elements. This selective feeding unfortunately increases the likelihood of a variety of illnesses in rabbits. Therefore we recommend a nutritionally balanced high fibre nugget or pellet based diet. We also advised to feed the recommended amount of food to prevent overfeeding which may lead to obesity.


The Bunny Feeding Plan!

  1. Hay & Grass – This element should make up 85-90% of your rabbit’s diet. We recommend using a high quality and dust extracted feeding hay and replace with fresh hay daily.
  2. Nutritionally balanced high fibre nugget or pellet based diet – This should be fed as a supplement to ensure your rabbit gets the minerals they need. You should fed the recommended amount as advised.
  3. Natural snacks – some food manufacturers sell natural snacks to help with keeping your rabbit occupied and can be used to encourage foraging if sprinkled within their hay.
  4. Fresh greens – These should be fed as a treat to add variety and provide addition nutrition.
    • Everyday greens – grasses, kale, mint, celery leaves, green pepper, plantain, cauliflower leaves, dandelion leaves, wild geranium, apple tree leaves & branches, strawberry and raspberry leaves, rose bush leaves, hazel tree leaves & branches, willow tree leaves & branches, brambles, goose grass, blackthorn, nettle (dried), romaine lettuce, hawthorn, and spring greens.
    • Occasionally (can be given in small quantities) – savoy cabbage, spinach, parsley, basil, apple (pip less), banana, turnip, carrot tops, swede, dill, oregano and coriander.
  5. Fresh water – This should always be available and changed daily. Also ensure it hasn’t frozen in the colder months.
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A big thank you to our Canine Donors

Thank you to all our brave canine donors who attended our Blood Donation session on Saturday 1st June.

Did you know that one blood donation can help to save the lives of 4 dogs

Over next blood donation session will be held on 10th August.

If you are interested in registering your dog as a blood donor, please head on over to the Pet Blood Bank website to ensure they meet the criteria and to register them online – www.petbloodbankuk.org/pet-owners/canine-donor-programme/register-your-dog/
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