Flystrike

One of the biggest dangers of the summer for rabbits is flystrike.

Generally we think of it happening when rabbits have dirty bottoms, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. Blowflies (bluebottles and greenbottles) can lay their eggs anywhere on a rabbit’s body. The eggs are tiny and hard to spot and they are laid deep in the fur so that makes it even trickier! Owners should examine their rabbits at least once a day, especially in warm weather.

The flies will lay eggs anywhere they smell blood or dirt, so wounds are a target, but dirty or wet bottoms are the usual place to find the problem. Rabbits with a poor diet, that are overweight or have mobility problems are most often at risk. .

What you need to do

  • Check your rabbits daily throughout the year and twice daily in warm weather.
  • Check your rabbits’ diet is high in fibre and low in carbohydrates. This means the main food should be hay or grass and they should eat about their own size in this every day. They should also get a small amount of leafy greens and an eggcup full per rabbit per day of nuggets.
  • If any of your rabbits are overweight their health is in danger for many reasons and flystrike is one of these, so talk to your vet about a healthy diet so that your rabbits can lose weight.
  • If any of your rabbits seem to be having problems with movement see your vet. There are medicines that can be given that will help them to be more mobile and better able to keep themselves clean
  • Clean out your rabbits’ home every day. Remove wet or dirty bedding and replace it with fresh. Once a week give your rabbits’ home a really thorough clean and disinfect. Dry it thoroughly before refilling with clean bedding
  • If your rabbits are at risk then treat them with Rearguard. This is applied to your rabbit’s body every couple of months. It inhibits the development of maggots from fly eggs. Insect repellents/insecticides containing Permethrins can be used, to deter and kill flies, but always take your vet’s advice on such treatments, to avoid using those which contain Fipronil, which is toxic to rabbits You can’t rely on this alone, you still need to check your rabbits daily.
  • Look into planting things that repel flies around your rabbits’ hutch and run.
  • Buy a mosquito net from a camping shop and drape that over your rabbits’ hutch and run.

Indoor rabbits are at risk too, so don’t be complacent.

What to do if your rabbit has fly eggs or maggots

This is an emergency your rabbit needs to see the vet immediately, evening, weekend, holiday, it doesn’t matter, you cannot wait

Don’t wash your rabbit. Your vet will need to clip the fur and wet fur is almost impossible to clip.
Pick off any maggots you can see but don’t let that delay you getting your rabbit to your vet.
If you’re very lucky and treatment takes place in time it’s possible your rabbit may be saved, but unfortunately in some cases it’s kinder to let them go. Take your vet’s advice on this

Remember, prevention is always better than cure

Summer 17 Campaign Update

Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.

Rabbit Interactive CPD

Our popular ‘Rabbit Interactive’ CPD (continuing professional development), which is sponsored by Burgess Pet Care, is rolling out some ‘road shows’ later this year. There is still a huge demand for airway management and dentistry education and we are very proud to have the only Vet CPD provided by Specialists. We will be issuing vets with certificates to show they have passed the course and we hope it will give owners reassurance to see these certificates in practice and know that their vets are up to date with the best techniques.

This is in addition to the ‘rabbit friendly’ vet list which is on our website. Make sure you ask your vet if they are rabbit friendly and if they have joined the list.

Our website

Talking of our website, we have been working on a new one for a while now and by the time you get this issue of Rabbiting On the new website should be live. There are lots of sources of information out there and it can be hard to know who to believe. Our website is checked by our Education Team, headed up by Dr Richard Saunders, and thanks also to Dr Elisabetta Mancinelli and Dr Brigitte Lord for their help. So you can rest assured it is evidence based, correct and up to date. We were very honoured to have the wonderful Dr Emily Blackwell write the handling and transport sections of the new website for us. We can’t mention the website without
thanking Reena and Nitesh for their brilliance and patience. We’re pretty impressed with it, if we do say so ourselves, and hope you are too!

Lizzie’s Top Tips

Those of you who have been members for a long time might remember Lizzie Smith, who was one of the

Lizzie is delighted to be involved with the RWAF again

founding members of the then BHRA. Lizzie has recently returned from Malaysia where she set up a new campus for Newcastle University. Lizzie has a huge amount of experience with marketing and social media, and now that she is back in the UK we have been fortunate enough to benefit from her expertise with some new campaigns. The first one was our take on an Easter campaign, which involved making the reality of rabbit ownership in to 10 facts, so that owners were aware of the amount of time, expense and space involved in caring for them properly. The campaign was a great success with 2091 shares and a whopping 344,111 people reached! Huge thanks to Lizzie from us all at RWAF. We have more campaigns in the pipeline so please keep sharing and helping us to spread the right messages.

Lizzie says “I am absolutely delighted to be back working with the RWAF team again after spending time abroad. The RWAF is an organisation that is very close to my heart so I am really looking forward to helping to develop more social media campaigns and to working with you, our members, in order to help to educate more rabbit owners and to spread the word that a Hutch is Not Enough!”

The problems with ‘short-faced’ pets – it’s not just a dog problem

In recent months the issue of health problems in short-faced or brachycephalic dogs has been highlighted to the public, in the media and following high profile events like this year’s Crufts. However, now three major animal welfare charities have united to send the message that this problem is not limited to dogs alone.
International Cat Care (iCatCare), the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) and the RSPCA have come together to raise awareness that breeding cats and rabbits with exaggerated flat faces can cause health and welfare problems, as in dogs.

Photos of short-faced breeds superimposed onto ‘normal animals’ are shocking across every species

Short-faced cats like Persians can have all the same issues as dogs – breathing and dental problems, skin fold infections and also problems giving birth, to name a few. Claire Bessant, chief executive of iCatCare, said, “It is very depressing to see the life which has been deliberately dealt to some breeds of cats because of a human desire to develop a certain look. I urge cat lovers to speak out and help others to understand that this is not something we should be doing to cats, and not something we should be tolerating. One of the best and most beautifully naturally designed animals – the cat – would not normally have any of these problems; we have created them through selective breeding. We should not be encouraging people to breed these cats by calling them ‘cute’, by being amused at their facial characteristics, or by the fact that they snore – rather we need to understand that this is human intervention that is wholly detrimental to the welfare of the cats and is simply cruel. International Cat Care takes an ethical view of all cat breeds and our website (http://icatcare.org/advice/cat-breeds) outlines the problems that exist for some breeds, including very flat-faced cats in the Persians and Exotic breeds. Our stance is that we should never deliberately breed cats for any feature or characteristic that impairs their welfare.”

Sadly, rabbits have also fallen foul of the human desire for shorter, ‘cuter’ faces. Richard Saunders, head vet at the RWAF, said “Breeds like the Netherland dwarf and the popular Lionhead breed have become more and more brachycephalic. In rabbits this is disastrous. Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously throughout their whole lives and must line up exactly to wear down evenly. The short face means the bottom jaw is longer than the top one, just the same as in bulldogs and pugs, and the teeth do not line up. Teeth soon overgrow, causing chronic pain, lacerated mouths, abscesses and in many cases, death. The tear duct is also distorted (as it is in brachycephalic cats) and the rabbits often have tears and even pus overflowing onto their faces. Hand in hand with the short faces come the lop ears, rather than the wild, natural upright ears. These rabbits have a high level of middle ear infections and can’t communicate with other rabbits normally, leading to behavioural problems.

“We would like to see an end to selection for “cute” faces and lop ears, and to preferentially breed rabbits with a more “wild type” face shape, which is associated with far fewer genetically induced diseases.”

RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Richards said, “Dogs who have been bred to have short, flat faces often have narrow nostrils and abnormally-developed windpipes. They can suffer severe breathing problems and many have difficulty enjoying a walk or playing. The RSPCA believes there is still much to be done to protect the future health of dogs and that all those who breed dogs should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance when choosing which animals to breed. For help when choosing a dog, please use the RSPCA/AWF Puppy Contract, and if you’re worried about the health of a particular puppy, contact a vet for advice.

“We are very concerned that these issues are now being seen in other species and would urge everyone concerned, from breeders to buyers, to do what they can to reduce the demand for such extremes.”

Emma Milne, vet and long-time brachy campaigner, is a patron of the RWAF and an ambassador for iCatCare. She said, “It’s been over 100 years since the first veterinary paper on the problems of brachycephaly in dogs. We MUST learn from what we have done to these animals and stop it in other species right now. These charities are world leaders in welfare science and the fact they have united to highlight this issue speaks volumes. I hope people listen.”

Meet our Intern placement

Vikki will be working with the RWAF for three months

We are very excited to have Vikki Neville with us for three months starting in April as an intern. Vikki is a PhD student at Bristol University studying Clinical Veterinary Science, specifically focusing on animal emotions. Her work is well respected and ground breaking and we are honoured that she has chosen to spend her placement with us. Vikki has two rabbits of her own and is dedicated to improving welfare. Vikki has a lot of ideas for her time with us; one of them will involve contacting rescue centres and getting some information on relinquishment. If you do hear from Vikki we would be really grateful if you could help her.

Vikki says “I’m really excited to undertake an internship with the RWAF. I’m really passionate about rabbit welfare and hope that my work over the next three months will contribute to the RWAF’s great work in improving the lives of companion rabbits in the UK.”

Yay Richard!

Richard has made a huge contribution to improving domestic rabbit health and welfare

We wanted to take a moment to sing the praises of our resident Vet Specialist Adviser, Richard Saunders.

As many of you will know, Richard has made a huge contribution to improving domestic rabbit health and welfare in too many ways even to count.

One of Richard’s most notable achievements – so notable that it’s been recognised with nominations for both a CEVA and a Pet Plan award – is his trailblazing work to bring the RVHD2 vaccine to the UK. Richard hopped through hoops to make this happen and as a result around 70,000 rabbits have been protected against this fatal disease in the UK already. This is all thanks to Richard’s tireless efforts.

We are a small organisation and Richard’s contribution as a vastly knowledgeable and passionate vet is vital. On a day to day basis he supports vets and members with queries on difficult cases, deals with

press enquiries and checks applications for our Rabbit Friendly Vet List. He also writes and reviews articles for Rabbiting On

Richard sits on several working groups looking into long term welfare issues and his input helps shape the strategy of the RWAF. Richard is basically magnificent. We are so grateful for all his efforts and wanted to share that with all our lovely supporters.

THANK YOU RICHARD!

Peppa the BBC rabbit

BBC Trust Me I’m A Vet final setup

Meet Peppa. He is a four-year-old male rabbit who was rescued by a lovely family in Bristol. You may have seen our appeal for a single rabbit via social media, and Peppa’s family answered our call! This was for a BBC programme featuring rabbits, dogs and cats, which will be aired this Summer. Peppa’s family had recently adopted him and knew that they wanted to improve his life but of course for new rabbit owners this can be a bit daunting. RWAF had the great pleasure of working with Dr
Nicola Rooney from Bristol School of Veterinary Science on this project. We started off by health checking and neutering Peppa, and letting him settle down. In the mean time we started to look for a suitable partner for him, and inevitably we ended up meeting the lovely Alice at Windwhistle Warren, who was able to pick the perfect match in the form of a young black lop, Betsy. On the day that Peppa went off to Alice to be paired up, the exciting job of transforming the housing in to something more suitable commenced. We really wanted to do a good job of this because it was such a great opportunity to get the messages and ideas out to other rabbit owners, so the cost of all of this was met by the RWF. Here are a few photos of the transformation – and you can read more about it on our website.

Planning application update

We mentioned this in the last issue, and you may have already heard, but we are delighted that the planning application for a rabbit breeding farm in Crowland,
Lincolnshire has been refused.

This was an issue that stirred the welfare community, with rescues, organisations and individuals voicing their disapproval.

The RWAF quickly invested in the advice of Savill’s planning consultants and on 17th January we raised a formal objection to South Holland District Council, challenging
specific parts of the application. We understood that we had to raise a watertight case because the application was a second attempt, with the developers having overcome the grounds on which the first was declined. We are always aware that even with moral protests being raised, cases like this often go against us because welfare arguments are not valid planning objections. Instead, we used some of our funds to employ a specialist, so that we targeted our objections on the particulars of the application. Having read the refusal letter it looks like our objection hit the spot and it’s fantastic that our voice has been heard.

This has cost us around £700 but we think it was money well spent, and it was the only way to do the objection justice.

There is already a rabbit welfare crisis in the UK and we do not need any more commercial breeders. Everyone can do their bit to help. Please remember, always adopt, don’t shop.

RVHD2 & Filavac with FAQs

RVHD 2 – FAQ – updated January 2017

We are pleased to note that it is now possible to order Filavac VHD K C + V from 3 UK wholesalers, NVS, Centaur and Henry Schein Animal Health Although there have been some teething problems with establishing the supply chain and there are currently some shortages, everything is now in place and the high demand from rabbit owners ought to be able to be met in the next few weeks. There was a lot of media activity following an interview that I did with The Telegraph in July 2016, and lots of vets are reporting an increase in demand for this new vaccine.

We are being asked by rabbit owners many times every day which vets stock the vaccine as their own doesn’t. Obviously we don’t know the answer to this, but it indicates that some practices may be losing rabbit owning clients if they don’t, so if you are one of those practices we urge you to consider stocking it. If you have confirmed RVHD2 cases, or cases that are suspected of being RVHD in rabbits up to date with their Nobivac vaccination, as well as informing MSD, we’d be grateful if you would let us know please, and ask the owner to contact one or both of the two Facebook groups tracking the spread of reported cases of RVHD. These are https://www.facebook.com/groups/MyxomatosismapfortheUK/ which is using a map to show where reported cases have occurred and a newer group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1744958082388756/ – you can also post there if you have the vaccine in stock to let owners know.

Because we have received a large volume of questions from vets about both the vaccine and the illness below is information from a document compiled by our Specialist Veterinary Adviser Mr Richard Saunders BSc (Hons), BVSc, MSB, CBiol, DZooMed (Mammalian), MRCVS, RCVS Specialist in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine . Questions from clients may be covered in this webinar given by Mr Saunders http://therabbitvet.com/webinar/vhdrhd-2-update-rabbit-haemorrhagic-disease

You are invited also to join our Facebook group for vets and VNs This is a closed group and you will be asked for your registration number with RCVS in order to gain membership.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/115492551808078/

Our next RWAF Veterinary Conference will be at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh. We will send further details in future emails. We also intend to begin a programme of roadshows where we will send experts to various parts of the country to work hands-on with vets and VNs on identified topics. We have been asked already about airways management and dental treatment of rabbits and also about CT scanning. These sessions will be with small groups of approximately10 professionals so that they can be given proper attention and will they will receive CPD certification. We may invite a group of practices to send vets or VNs, or we may work with a single practice, depending on demand. We will be able to give fuller details soon.

FAQ on Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 and 2

Background:

For background, whilst the “classic” RVHD has been present in the UK for decades, variant RHVD (also known as RHVD2 or RHDV variant) was first noted in 2010 in France, and has subsequently been identified in the UK (OIE Technical Disease Cards, updated July 2015; Abrantes et al, 2012; Dalton et al, 2012; Westcott and Choudry, 2014).

This virus has some differences from the classic RVHD. In particularly it may affect rabbits of any age, as
opposed to RVHD1, which is rarely if ever seen in rabbits under 8-10 weeks of age. It has also been reported that the variant gives rise to lower mortalities than classical RVHD, this is not necessarily borne out by reports (Abrantes et al, 2013), and this may be thought to be due to be the case due to its phylogenetic placement alongside non-pathogenic strains. Mortality may vary from collection to collection, and possibly from breed to
breed.

The only vaccine for rabbits currently available with a UK License is Nobivac Myxo-RHD (MSD Animal Health), which was made available in 2012. Not long after that, the other 3 vaccines against RHVD on the UK market ceased to be available.

This vaccine does not appear to offer protection against RVHD2, and neither do the previous vaccine brands available in the UK. However, RHD1 and Myxo remain the most significant health threats which can be vaccinated against, and so coverage with this product remains a priority.

Work from Italy and France, however, suggests that, with our reservoir of wild rabbits, we can expect to see RHD2 starting to predominate over RHD1 in the next 5 years or so.

However, there are now 4 vaccines available in the EU which have been licensed or are undergoing licensing for efficacy against RVHD2.

Three of these vaccines (Filavac VHD K C+V, Cunivak RHD and Cunipravac RHD-2 Variant) now have a Special Import or Special Treatment Certificate from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, on the basis of a clear need to do so given the current disease status.

In particular, Filavac VHD K C+V is available through a UK wholesaler, precluding the need to order it directly from France, but note that the veterinary practice ordering it still needs to obtain an SIC from the VMD. At present, stocks are available through three wholesalers, NVS, Henry Schein, and Centaur, but availability is very variable, and practices are advised to contact wholesalers directly for information on stock availability. There is no reason why other wholesalers cannot stock this product, and practices tied to a specific wholesaler may want to consider encouraging them to stock it.

The Cunivak RHD is no longer available, and we do not anticipate re-ordering this product.

The Cunipravac may be obtained by ordering directly from the manufacturers. However, it is only available in relatively large vial sizes, making it impractical for practice use.

I would still be interested in any other practitioners findings regarding this situation, in particular whether they have seen dead or dying rabbits with suspected RVHD1 and/or 2, especially if they have gross PM, histopathology and, especially differential testing as performed by the Moredun Institute, Edinburgh.

This webinar may be of interest:
http://therabbitvet.com/webinar/vhd-rhd-2-update-rabbit-haemorrhagic-disease

Richard Saunders
Veterinary Adviser, Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund, Enigma House, Culmhead Business Centre, Taunton, Somerset TA3 7DY

Refs:

Joana Abrantes, Wessel van der Loo, Jacques Le Pendu and Pedro J Esteves (2012)
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) and rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV): a review
Veterinary Research 2012, 43:12 doi:10.1186/1297-9716-43-12

Kevin P. Dalton, Inés Nicieza, Ana Balseiro, María A. Muguerza, Joan M. Rosell, Rosa Casais, Ángel L. Álvarez, and Francisco Parra(2012)
Variant Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus in Young Rabbits, Spain
Emerg Infect Dis. 2012 Dec; 18(12): 2009–2012.
doi: 10.3201/eid1812.120341

D. G. Westcott and B. Choudhury
Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus 2-like variant in Great Britain

Veterinary Record doi:10.1136/vr.102830

Joana Abrantes, Ana M. Lopes, Kevin P. Dalton, Pedro Melo, Jorge J. Correia, Margarida Ramada, Paulo C. Alves,Francisco Parra, and Pedro J. Esteves
New Variant of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus, Portugal, 2012–2013
Emerg Infect Dis. 2013 Nov; 19(11): 1900–1902.
doi: 10.3201/eid1911.130908

Detection of a new variant of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus in France
G. Le Gall-Reculé et al
February 5, 2011 | Veterinary Record | 137-138
doi: 10.1136/vr.d697

Emergence of a new lagovirus related to Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus
Ghislaine Le Gall-Reculé et al (2013)
Veterinary Research 2013 44:81
DOI: 10.1186/1297-9716-44-81

Other useful sources of information:

http://journals.plos.org/plospathogens/article?id=10.1371/journal.ppat.1005087

http://www.iucn-whsg.org/RabbitHemorrhagicDiseaseInEurope

https://www.harcourt-brown.co.uk/articles/infectious-disease/rabbit-haemorrhagic-disease

Webinar: http://therabbitvet.com/webinar/vhd-rhd-2-update-rabbit-haemorrhagic-disease

FAQs

Is vaccination necessary?

This will obviously involve a risk assessment of the individual rabbit(s), but the wide geographical range of the disease, and the reported losses of several hundred rabbits throughout the UK, as well as molecular testing confirmation of cause of death in many sampled, suggests that vaccination is strongly advisable. Moredun Institute has advised RWAF that cases have been confirmed throughout the UK, so you cannot assume you are in a ‘safe’ area. Additionally we believe that RVHD2 will be significantly under reported. Because RHD2 doesn’t always look like classic RHD1, a rabbit could be taken into hospital looking ill, but nobody would necessarily think to treat that potentially infectious case for RHD2

Do existing RHD1 vaccines work?

Because the mortality rate is lower with RHD2, any test using a small number of rabbits could easily show
protection just because none of them were going to die anyway. There is some anecdotal evidence that RHD1 vaccines have some short term effect, but nothing peer reviewed. Le Gall-Recule (2013) showed that cross immunity between RHD1 and 2 was, at best, partial.

Do RHD2 vaccines work?

Le Minor et al (2013) showed that Filavac produced good immunity (full protection) against RHD2 in challenge studies. (15èmes Journées de la Recherche Cunicole, 19-20 novembre 2013, Le Mans, France)

How will you get it from your vet?

Please only go through your vets, rather than contacting wholesalers directly. The wholesalers will be
overwhelmed with requests for information otherwise, and it cannot be obtained directly from them in any case. Your vets will need their own licence, which, now all the info is on the VMD site and is approved, should be straightforward to do. However, this is not as simple as writing a prescription, and your vet may not see enough rabbits for this to be a practical option for them.

What dose regime is suggested?

Please remember that the use of these products is both off licence (although under the Cascade), and subject to the VMD’s directions on importation of immunological products. As a result, although the manufacturers of the Filavac product suggest that vaccination can be at the same time as the Nobivac RHD-Myxo, as long as it is not in the same site or the same syringe, standard advice with immunological products not licensed for simultaneous administration is to space them out by at least 2 weeks.

The duration of immunity has been established at at least 12 months, in laboratory conditions in healthy rabbits.

The manufacturer’s advice is to administer a single dose of the vaccine, followed by annual boosters in low risk situations, and 6 monthly in the case of breeding does at high risk. In the UK, I would suggest that high risk situations include rescue centres and breeders, unless they have a strict quarantine policy, and those rabbits which have greater contact with wild rabbits, as well as any geographical location where cases have been reported recently. All other rabbits are likely to fall into the lower risk category, requiring annual re-vaccination.

What does the vaccine cost?

Here at the RWAF we are not able to monitor or affect the prices charged by veterinary practices. It’s worth pointing out that the price of the vaccine may vary widely between practices due to pricing structures, and due to the caseload of rabbits that they see. If they are able to make use of larger vaccine vials, the cost may be shared across more rabbits and reduced, but this is not often possible, as it requires enough rabbits to be seen in a 2 hour window during which the vial may be used.

What if I buried my pet rabbit and now wonder if it was RVHD 2, will the ground be infected and a risk to
my other rabbits? (How should bodies be disposed of?)

There is not enough information out there to know the correct answer to this. We know it can live for 200 days in ideal conditions, so there is in theory a potential risk but we are speculating here. The best way to dispose of the body of any rabbit that died a sudden or unexplained death is to ask your vet to get it cremated for you. Double wrap them in plastic, and disinfect the outside, before taking to your vet, to reduce the risk of disease spread.

Once rabbits have recovered from RVHD2 do they still carry it? Do they still shed? Can I bond to another rabbit safely without risking them?

There is not enough information known about RVHD2 to know the correct answer to this with any certainty. In theory they should be safe to bond after 200 days, in practice it may be safe sooner than this, but we really don’t know.

Can you recommend a cleaning protocol?

90% of any disinfection is cleaning, that is the most important aspect. After thorough cleaning of the area to remove any scale or residue, use Ark-Klens , which is a benzalkonium chloride disinfectant and as such it should be effective against EC and myxi, to routinely disinfect the housing. Periodically use Virkon (as an inorganic peroxygen compound) to kill any other viruses.

Anigene HLD4V has been confirmed as effective against RVHD2 at a dilution of 1:50. It is important that the correct dilution is used.

Note: Other benzalkonium chloride disinfectants and inorganic peroxygen compounds may be available, in addition to those named above.

Other than vaccination can I prevent my rabbit getting RHD? Will they get it from hay?

They are very unlikely to get RHD (1 or 2) or Myxomatosis from hay or barn dried grass. Risk / benefit analysis would be in the favour of feeding these foods. Foraged foods may potentially carry RVHD. Try to obtain plants from areas out of the reach of wild rabbits, and do not collect forage from areas of known wild rabbit RVHD infection.

Biosecurity advice was given in the webinar (link above) but summarised here:

Use foot dips or change footwear between going outside, especially into areas frequented by wild rabbits
Quarantine new animals, feed them last, use new equipment such as bottles / bowls for them.
Barrier nurse any suspicious cases

Try to exclude wild rabbits and unless they can be excluded from the garden consider stopping the practice of moving pens around the garden and even consider a double fence round rabbit runs.

What are the risks of “over-vaccination” and vaccine ingredients?

Vaccinating with an RHD 1 and 2 vaccine (Filavac), 1-2 times per year, on top of an existing RVHD1 and Myxomatosis vaccine (Nobivac), obviously increases the vaccine frequency and amount given to each rabbit.
This is not perfect, but the alternative is missing out one of these vaccines, and the risk of “over-vaccination” is considered lower than the risk of insufficient protection.

Filavac is an inactivated, adjuvanted vaccine, and so cannot lead to clinical RVHD in the animal.

Concerns are often raised about vaccine ingredients (adjuvants and excipients) such as aluminium hydroxide and sodium metabisulphite. This is too large a topic to discuss here, but, without dismissing these concerns out of hand, and after weighing the risks against the benefits, vaccination has a strongly net positive benefit against the diseases discussed here.

There are known vaccine side effects discussed in the data sheets for these vaccines. They are usually limited to small local transient skin reactions, and transient mild lethargy. Oil based vaccines such as Cunipravac RHD2 Variant carry a known risk of significant skin and subcutaneous tissue damage, and great care must be taken to ensure no vaccine enters the intradermal route, to minimise this risk.

The frequency of vaccination, and a risk:benefit analysis for each individual, should be discussed between client and veterinary surgeon before deciding on an appropriate regime and vaccination plan. There is a risk to any animal (or person) to having any vaccination, which is why animals (or people) should only be vaccinated if they are healthy.

For further general details on companion animals, the BSAVA and WSAVA vaccine guidelines should be consulted. Note that under their definitions, in the UK and mainland Europe, RHD2 would be considered a “core” vaccination.

https://www.bsava.com/Resources/Positionstatements/Vaccination.aspx

http://www.wsava.org/guidelines/vaccination-guidelines

Titre testing against this strain is not commercially available, at least at present in the UK.

It’s also worth being aware that other countries are slightly ahead of us in arranging vaccine importation and use for domestic rabbits. In Holland, vaccination has been underway with Filavac for several months before its use in the UK, and they also use the Nobivac Myxo-RHD vaccine.

Where can I send samples to get RVHD2 confirmed?

The following labs currently offer testing for RHD1 and 2. The OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) guidelines suggest that liver is the best sample by far, but that spleen and blood are also good tissues to sample, as the virus becomes widespread throughout the body via the blood. The use of swabs to obtain samples from the tissues is possible, but to avoid false results, plain swabs (ie NOT in bacteriology medium such as agar gel or charcoal based material), with metal or plastic handles, not wood, should be used.

The use of faeces or urine samples or conjunctival swabs is less well evaluated, and we would not currently recommend testing via these methods when a test that is validated in the live animal (blood) is available

http://www.moredun.org.uk/…/rabbit-haemorrhagic-disease-vir…

http://www.battlab.com/PCRTests.pdf

http://www.palsvetlab.co.uk

Batt Laboratories, University of Warwick Science Park, The Venture Centre
Sir William Lyons Road, Coventry, CV4 7EZ
Tel: 0247 6323275 Fax: 0871 7505323

Testing on tissue samples for Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease. The PCR has a price of £45 and includes differentiation between RHDV1 and RHDV2. For live animals we recommend conjunctival swabs, urine and/or faeces. Blood is also possible, but mainly in case of suspect viraemia. For dead animals liver sample can also be submitted (without formalin). Turnaround time is 2-4 working days.

We offer RHDV test (conventional PCR) followed by sequencing for RHDV1/RHDV2 discrimination.

We run the test whenever is required, we don’t have specified turnaround time, however there is the option to run it with urgency if you (or another clinician) suspects an outbreak. In this case the best option is to e-mail or phone me directly, so I can confirm the likely test date.

Moredun Research Institute
Pentlands Science Park
Bush Loan, Penicuik
EH26 0PZ, Scotland UK
Ph: +44-131-4456128 Fax: +44-131-4456111

In case of an outbreak they should be able to confirm presence/absence of RHDV within 3-4 days, however they might require an additional week to confirm the type

They are happy to accept samples from private vets as well as from APHA (or SAC in Scotland. Accepted samples are liver (validated) spleen and blood (appropriate organs according to OIE, however we have not validated it for these). Fresh tissues should be sent in virus transport media if possible. Frozen samples also accepted. There is written confirmation from the HSE that we are not required to have a SAPO licence if we handle these samples for diagnostic purposes, however I would recommend to send them as biological substance category B at minimum.

The PCR costs £ 39.60/sample plus VAT (price will change on the 1st of April to £40.39+VAT). They can invoice the practices directly if we are given all the relevant information with the submission form. The most important information is a contact e-mail where I can send the test report (or a fax number if an e-mail is not available).

What about Epravac?

“The recent licensing of EPRAVAC RHD2 vaccine for use in the UK is important in that it further recognises the concerns of the regulatory authorities and drug companies that RHD2 is a serious health and welfare concern to UK rabbits. However, there are a few caveats here, related to its origin as a vaccine for meat rabbits. The vaccine duration of action has not been determined, as meat rabbits are typically slaughtered very early in life. In fact, the product characteristics state: “Vaccinate only fattening rabbits. No information is available on the safety and efficacy in other categories such as breeding or pet rabbits.”

In addition, the vaccine is oil adjuvanted, necessitating the following user warning:

*Eravac is an emulsion containing mineral oil. Accidental injection may cause severe pain and selling, particularly if injected into a joint or finger – this could result in the loss of the finger if prompt medical attention is not given. If someone is accidentally injected with this product, they must seek medical attention immediately even if only a very small amount is injected. The package leaflet should be shown to the doctor. If pain persists for more than 12 hours after medical examination, the doctor should be contacted again.*

For these reasons, we feel that other vaccines, such as Filavac, covering RHD2 are preferable for the pet and rabbit population in the UK. As ever, rabbit owners are urged to discuss the specifics of their rabbit’s care with their own vets, and those vets are welcome to contact RWAF for further discussion should they wish to.”

Charities unite to highlight brachy health issues

Charities unite to highlight brachy health issues in cats and rabbits; it’s not just dogs we need to worry about. In recent months the issue of health problems in short-faced or brachycephalic dogs has been highlighted to the public, in the media and following high profile events like this year’s Crufts. This week however, three major animal welfare charities have united to send the message that this problem is not limited to dogs alone. International Cat Care (iCatCare), the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) and the RSPCA have come together to raise awareness that breeding cats and rabbits with exaggerated flat faces can cause health and welfare problems, as in dogs. Short-faced cats like Persians can have all the same issues as dogs – breathing and dental problems, skin fold infections and problems giving birth to name a few.

Claire Bessant, chief executive of iCatCare, said,

“It is very depressing to see the life which has been deliberately dealt to some breeds of cats because of a human desire to develop a certain look. I urge cat lovers to speak out and help others to understand that this is not something we should be doing to cats, and not something we should be tolerating. One of the best and most beautifully naturally designed animals – the cat – would not normally have any of these problems; we have created them through selective breeding. We should not be encouraging people to breed these cats by calling them ‘cute’, by being amused at their facial characteristics, or by the fact that they snore – rather we need to understand that this is human intervention that is wholly detrimental to the welfare of the cats and is simply cruel. International Cat Care takes an ethical view of all cat breeds and our website (http://icatcare.org/advice/cat-breeds) outlines the problems that exist for some breeds, including very flat-faced cats in the Persians and Exotic breeds.Our stance is that we should never deliberately breed cats for any feature or characteristic that impairs their welfare.”

Sadly, rabbits have also fallen foul of the human desire for shorter, ‘cuter’ faces. Richard Saunders, head vet at RWAF, said,

“Breeds like the Netherland dwarf and the popular Lionhead breed have become more and more brachycephalic. In rabbits this is disastrous. Rabbits’ teeth grow continuously throughout their whole lives and must line up exactly to wear down evenly. The short face means the bottom jaw is longer than the top one, just the same as in bulldogs and pugs and the teeth do not line up. Teeth soon overgrow causing chronic pain, lacerated mouths, abscesses and in many cases death. The tear duct is also distorted (as it is in brachycephalic cats) and the rabbits often have tears and even pus overflowing onto their faces. Hand in hand with the short faces come the lop ears, rather than the wild, natural upright ears. These rabbits have a high level of middle ear infections and can’t communicate with other rabbits normally, leading to behavioural problems. We would like to see an end to selection for “cute” faces and lop ears, and to preferentially breed rabbits with a more “wild type” face shape, which is associated with far fewer genetically induced diseases.”

RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Richards said:

“Dogs who have been bred to have short, flat faces often have narrow nostrils and abnormally-developed windpipes. They can suffer severe breathing problems and many have difficulty enjoying a walk or playing. The RSPCA believes there is still much to be done to protect the future health of dogs and that all those who breed dogs should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance when choosing which animals to breed. For help when choosing a dog, please use the RSPCA/AWF Puppy Contract and if you’re worried about the health of a particular puppy, contact a vet for advice. We are very concerned that these issues are now being seen in other species and would urge everyone concerned, from breeders to buyers, to do what they can to reduce the demand for such extremes.”

Emma Milne, vet and long-time brachy campaigner, is a patron of RWAF and an ambassador for iCatCare. She said,

“It’s been over 100 years since the first veterinary paper on the problems of brachycephaly in dogs. We MUST learn from what we have done to these animals and stop it in other species right now. These charities are world leaders in welfare science and the fact they have united to highlight this issue speaks volumes. I hope people listen.”

Photographs of short-faced breeds superimposed onto ‘normal animals’ are shocking across every species;

Brachy breeds – not just dogs! Rabbits too.

We see a range of common problems in rabbits which have been bred for shorter, “cuter” faces, such as the Netherland Dwarf and Lionhead, due to the shortening of the upper jaw relative to the lower, giving a slightly undershot appearance. In rabbits, with their continuously growing teeth, which need to grind against their opposing number to maintain their length and shape, the consequences are more severe than in dogs. The front teeth grow in an uncontrolled fashion, jutting out of the mouth, and preventing them from eating. And their roots become elongated and distorted at the same time, causing problems below the gum line, such as blocking the nasolachrimal duct. That short top jaw means that this duct, the tube carrying tears from the eye to the back of the nose, is already tortuous and easily blocked. This is one of the reasons (along with the effects of front tooth dental disease), why rabbits may have tears or even pus overflowing from their eyes, an unpleasant and potentially painful condition. The effective “crowding” of the back teeth inside the mouth may also be a factor in the huge number of rabbits which go on to develop dental disease there.

Rabbit breeding facility – letter of objection

This is our letter of objection to the proposed rabbit breeding facility. Although welfare is our concern, it is not a planning concern, so any objections should be based on the relevant planning policy.

This is the planning application: http://planning.sholland.gov.uk/OcellaWeb/showDocuments?reference=H23-1295-16&module=pl

Objection to planning application ref: H23-1295-16 – Proposed building for the breeding of pet rabbits on Land off Whale Drove, Whaplode Drove, PE12 0UB

I am writing to register an objection to the above planning application on behalf of the Rabbit Welfare Fund (RWF), who have several concerns relating to the development proposal. The following points of objection are raised in respect of the application to erect a building for the breeding of pet rabbits on land off Whale Drove. The main areas of concern over the planning application have been broken down into material considerations, with an assessment of how each aspect fails to meet the relevant planning policy. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out three dimensions to sustainable development as economic, social and environmental. While the proposed scheme at Whale Drove could contribute towards the local economy, in respect of the social and environmental benefits the proposals are seriously flawed. The social and environmental aspects will be considered more fully in the following paragraphs. By failing to meet the social and environmental requirements of planning policy, the proposal cannot be considered sustainable and is not in compliance with the NPPF or Policy SG4 (Development in the Countryside) of the South Holland Local Plan 2006 and Policy 10 (Employment Development in the Countryside) from the emerging Local Plan. The agent’s supporting Planning Statement claims that the proposed use is an agricultural use and therefore is compatible with a rural location. In fact, the rabbit breeding facility is not classified as an agricultural use if the rabbits are being bred for domestic pets. The use could only be classified as agricultural if the rabbits are being bred for their meat or fur. On the basis that the proposed pet breeding facility is not an agricultural use, nor a land-based rural business, the development does not need to be located in a countryside location. Policy 10 (Employment Development in the Countryside) of the emerging Local Plan does not make any provision for businesses that are not agricultural or land-based in rural, countryside locations. Accordingly the proposed development is incompatible with the countryside location and the proposed location is unsustainable and contrary to Policy 2 (Spatial Strategy) of the emerging Local Plan. This type of business should not be located in the open countryside, which ordinarily its protected from development in order to preserve the countryside and the landscape character. As such the proposal is thought to be contrary to Policy 29 (Design of New Development) of the emerging Local Plan and would be incongruous in this countryside location. No evidence has been submitted to demonstrate that there are no suitable buildings or sites within a settlement available for the purpose identified. Furthermore the proposal is not justified by a business plan. Both of these requirements are identified in Policy 10 (Employment in the Countryside of the emerging Local Plan, and hence the proposal fails to meet the policy criteria. As mentioned above, no business plan has been submitted with the proposals, and on the basis of the Inspector’s comments in the previous appeal decision for the site, there is doubt over whether the business can run profitably. The RWF have serious concerns over the viability of the business, on the basis that pet ownership of rabbits has dropped from 1 million in 2014 in the UK to 0.8 million in 2016 in the UK (TNS). With the demand for rabbits in the UK falling, the long term viability of the business is put into further doubt. If the business is not sustainable in the longer term, then planning permission should not be granted, as the harm caused to the landscape character by the erection of a new building, completely unrelated to any other built form in the locality cannot be justified in any way, and again, would be contrary to Policy 10 of the emerging Local Plan. Given that the location of the development is remote from all services and the site is not served by any sustainable methods of transport, the proposal will generate an increase in traffic accessing the site (which is in an unsustainable location) generated through workers accessing the site and customers coming to view and collect animals. This is contrary to paragraphs 30 and 37 of the NPPF. A commercial business such as this should not be located away from more built up and more accessible areas. Further concerns regarding the proposal relate to a security/crime risk at the site, due to no 24 hour on-site presence being available. This problem is exacerbated through the fact that the site is in such an isolated location. Finally, the RWF are also concerned over the welfare of rabbits that would be bred at the proposed facility. Very limited detail is included within the planning application on the enclosures, and as a commercial breeder the applicant would need to meet relevant legislation in terms of providing the correct standard of breeding cages and also transportation of the animals. On the basis of the information submitted with this proposal it is not understood whether the relevant welfare standards can be met, which casts further doubt over the viability of the business, should the facility then be required on welfare grounds to breed rabbits at a lower intensity. I trust that the local planning authority will give due weight to the points of objection identified in this letter and resolve to refuse this planning application accordingly.

Time to Make Your Rabbit Resolutions!

We can all be a bit critical of New Year’s resolutions but some do stick, so here are some resolutions for anyone who wants to help pet rabbits – amongst the most neglected and misunderstood pets. Please take a look at the suggestions below and make some rabbit resolutions! And yes, some resolutions do only last a month, so we’ve included some January specific ideas too! Please share!

  1. Order an ‘On the Hop’ booklet and give it to someone you know who has a bunny, they could use some extra advice and information. https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr…
  2. Raise money for the RWAF’s “A Hutch is Not Enough” campaign at no cost to you by using Give as You Live when you shop on-line. https://www.giveasyoulive.com/charity/rabbitwelfarefund Or use Easy Fundraising, which does exactly the same thing: http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/rwaf Or The Giving Machine: http://www.thegivingmachine.co.uk/beneficiary.php
  3. Adopt a bunny! If you have a single rabbit then think about adopting another. Sociability is a huge part of a rabbit’s make-up so every bunny needs some bunny to love. Rescues have been inundated this winter and most are full and not able to help any more. Please check out saveafluff.co.uk or rescuereview.co.uk to find a rescue local to you, and talk to them about adopting a friend for your bun.
  4. If you can not adopt, then you can support your local rescue by offering to help clean out, or donate hay and food.
  5. Spread the word – during January please pledge to share one of our posters or messages every week. Help us educate lots of other rabbit owners about good diet, housing, companionship and health issues because sadly, many owners don’t know what their rabbits need to live happy and healthy lives. Please share this post for starters and keep an eye out for future postings and get busy with that share button! If and when we share a poster, please print it off and ask a local pet shop, garden centre, school or place of work to display it.
  6. Change your cover photo to our ‘A Hutch is Not Enough’ image (attached to this posting) for a month.
  7. Order one of our “A Hutch is Not Enough” car stickers for only £2 and help spread the word! If you don’t have a car then any window will do! https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr…
  8. Look for the leaping bunny logo: www.leapingbunny.org and make sure any cosmetics and household products you buy are not tested on bunnies (or any other animals). M&S, Superdrug, Co-op, Sainsbury and Barry M are among the brands that all offer cruelty free options.
  9. If you are not already a member then please join us! You will love Rabbiting On Magazine. We do our best to keep our members up to date on the latest health, behaviour and welfare issues and use recognised experts, so you can trust us. And of course there are plenty of pictures of our favourite pets too! Join up on a subscription and get all 4 issues as they come out each year. https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr… Please note these links are for UK delivery only, for outside of the UK please contact us at info@rabbitwelfare.co.uk
  10. Last but by no means not least – please remember to always give your bunnies the lives they deserve. They need plenty of space, the right diet, companionship, health checks and an enriching environment to allow them to display their natural behaviours. Let them be rabbits! Thank you everybody, have a fantastic new year!

Permethrin

Re the inadvertent presence of permethrin in a brand of cat flea control products http://pettradextra.newsweaver.com/…/1is1zfxy1hl1p2fkpfehwg… it’s worth reviewing the situation for rabbits. This chemical is VERY toxic in cats, and much less so in rabbits, but given the unknown nature of the situation, in particular how much is present in the product, we would strongly advise against using this product on rabbits, and to return it immediately. As a general rule, it’s important to only use flea control products designed for and licensed for rabbits, unless given under the direction of your veterinary surgeon. In particular, products containing the drug Fipronil are contra-indicated in rabbits