When European Rabbits were introduced into Australia at the time of white settlement, nobody could have predicted how well the species would adapt and thrive in the Australian environment. Recent studies show that wild rabbits are affecting over 300 threatened Australian native animals due to direct competition for food, or from environmental destruction. Over the years, there have been many attempts to control the wild rabbit population, from poisoning and shooting to ‘rabbit-proof’ fences. In more recent years, a number of rabbit diseases have been released to good effect, but these diseases can unfortunately also affect domestic or pet rabbits.
Myxomatosis was released in the 1950’s with good initial results, but over the years the wild rabbit population has become genetically resistant to the virus. Calicivirus (RHDV1) was released in the 1990’s with similar effects and subsequent immunity.
Pet rabbits cannot be vaccinated against myxomatosis, but there is a very effective calicivirus vaccine.
Recently there have been TWO new strains of the calicivirus vaccine identified, which have already been active in the Eastern states of Australia. One is a variation on the current strain of calicivirus (RHDV1-K3), while the other is a different strain entirely (RHDV2).
While these viruses are not yet active in Western Australia, the vaccination guidelines for pet rabbits has changed to allow the best protection against them. The current calicivirus vaccine is 100% effective against RHDV1 and RHDV1-K3, and 85% effective against RHDV2.
Advised protocols for vaccinating pet rabbits now are:
- Kitten vaccinations to be given at 4 weeks, 8 weeks and 12 weeks of age
- Older kittens to have 2 vaccinations 4 weeks apart
- All adult rabbits to be vaccinated every 6 months
Other precautionary steps you can take to ensure your precious bunny is not at risk include:
- prevent contact between domestic and wild rabbits
- avoid cutting grass to feed to pet rabbits if there is a risk of contamination from wild rabbits
- good insect control (this will reduce the risks of both calicivirus and myxomatosis)
With this advice, we hope that your pet rabbit will remain happy and disease-free for years to come. Please contact the clinic if you have any concerns or questions.