Vaccinating your rabbit is an important way to keep him/her healthy. In Australia the only rabbit vaccine available is for Calici virus, which causes rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease. The Rabbit Doctors offer vaccinations by HOUSECALL and in clinic at CARE
Calici virus (RHDV1) is regularly released into the environment in Australia, in an attempt to control the wild rabbit population. It is almost always fatal to unvaccinated rabbits, who will die within a day or so of exposure to the virus. It causes massive internal bleeding to many organs, especially the liver. Symptoms can include bloody discharge from the nose or bottom, but many rabbits are found dead with no outward signs of the disease – it is often only when several rabbits die in quick succession that Calici virus is suspected.
The virus is “fomite” transmitted – that is, anything contacting an infected rabbit can pick up the virus and transfer it to another rabbit. Clothes, hands, shoes, car wheels and the wind can all transmit the virus. It can also be transported in bird droppings and in hay, so even indoor rabbits that have no contact with other bunnies can be affected.
The vaccine should be given at 10-12 weeks of age, and a second booster recommended a month later. Thereafter 6 monthly boosters are given. Other vaccination protocols exist, but a six monthly booster provides the best protection against both RHDV 1 and 2 viruses. We are happy to discuss this in consult.
The vaccine, like many we get ourselves, can cause a transient malaise in about 10% of rabbits – they can be quiet, less active and go off their food a little for 12-24 hours. Another potential side effect is a reaction at the vaccine site – about a week after vaccination a sore can develop at the site of the injection, and the fur can fall out, but it does grown back. These potential side effects, although unpleasant, are far better than the risk of losing your pet.
Calici vaccine should only be given by a qualified vet. Accidental injection of the vaccine into human hands has led to loss of fingers!