A new rabbit calicivirus strain (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus RHDV-K5) is set to be released locally and in the Greater Sydney Basin from mid February to late March 2017. Pet domestic rabbits are susceptible and vaccination is advised but with upgraded protocols.
The K5 or Korean strain is spread by insects (flies, fleas), direct contact between rabbits, and via predator faeces (cat, dog, and fox). The virus only affects rabbits, and is not harmful to native animals and domestic pets other than rabbits.
Another calicivirus strain has been detected in wild rabbits in NSW in 2015 named RHDV2. It is not known how the virus entered Australia as it was first reported in France in 2010. This strain can cause death in young kittens and a proportion of vaccinated adults, and unlike the original strain tends to cause death over a more prolonged course of 3-5 days . The signs are more non specific, including lethargy, inappetance, fever, and gut stasis. The current vaccine is not fully protective against RHDV2. The updated vaccine used in Europe for this strain is not currently available in Australia.
Current vaccination recommendations for domestic rabbits against RHD virus are as follows:
Kittens at 4, 8 and 12 weeks of age, then 6 monthly for life. Adults need two vaccinations one month apart then six monthly for life.
We realise this revised protocol puts a larger responsibility upon our rabbit owning clients, and we suggest you keep your pet rabbits in insect proof enclosures or inside the home to reduce risk for both calicivirus and myxomatosis (for which we have no vaccination).
Please call reception to organise a calicivirus vaccination for your pet rabbits over the next few weeks if they have not been vaccinated within the last six months.