Alert issued over new rabbit virus
Chris, Yandell, Daily Echo

Alert issued over new rabbit virus

Rabbit owners in the New Forest are being urged to be on guard against a disease which can kill within days.

Vets in the district have issued a warning about a new type of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD), a highly contagious virus which is sweeping the UK.

Until recently the only strain of the virus present in the country was RVHD1.

But a new and more dangerous form of the disease RVHD2 - has crossed the Channel and is posing a serious threat to pet rabbits.

Now vets are urging owners to get their pet vaccinated against the conditions, which cause massive internal bleeding,

Protection against the first strain of the disease is included in current vaccinations and annual boosters but rabbit require another vaccination to protect the against RVHD2.

There are thought to be around a million domestic rabbits in the UK but only a small percentage have been given the life-saving jab.

A spokesperson for Seadown Veterinary Services in Frost Lane, Hythe said:

"A more virulent form of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease has come over from Europe and has caused a significant number of rabbit deaths in the last few years. The Disease can be spread via direct contact with an infected rabbit or indirectly via urine or faeces and can cause death within days."

"The virus can also survive within the environment for some time. Vaccination s essential to prevent rabbits catching the disease. However, while rabbits make lovely pets research has revealed that a staggering 73% don't have all their welfare needs met. They are rarely, if at all, being vaccinated."

Seadown vet Anna Jennings added, "If a unvaccinated rabbit becomes infected it will commonly die within a few days".

"If requested a post-mortem examination can be used to confirm the cause of death but we cannot stress enough the importance of vaccination."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has issued a similar warning.

"A DEFRA spokesman said: "Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease is a highly contagious disease among wild and kept rabbits and hares. Owners worried about their pet rabbits should speak to their vets for advice because a vaccine is available."

Symptoms can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and spasms, plus bleeding from the eyes, nose and ears.

However, owners are often unaware their rabbits are ill until they die suddenly for no apparent reason.

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