A vet is urging rabbit owners to vaccinate their pets after an increase in cases of a more virulent form of a common disease.
Myxomatosis, which is relatively common in the wild rabbit population, is spread easily through insect bites or contact with an infected rabbit.
The disease affects the eyes, skin and lungs and is often fatal. A more virulent form, thought to have come from Europe, known as rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (RHD) has caused a significant number of rabbit deaths in the last few years.
Veterinary surgeon and director of Seadown vets in Hythe, Anna Jennings, said: "Vaccination is essential to prevent rabbits catching the disease.
"Rabbits make lovely pets and are often very much part of the family - they are the third most popular pet in the UK. But it is worrying that research has revealed a staggering '73% of rabbits do not have all their welfare needs met, for example, they are rarely, if at all, being vaccinated."
"We cannot stress enough, the importance of vaccination. Please always remember that regular vaccination against these life-threatening diseases is essential to keep your rabbit healthy and help prevent the spread of these very serious diseases."
The disease can be spread through contact with an infected rabbit but also indirectly via urine or faeces and can cause death within a matter of days. The virus can also survive within the environment for some time.