On the ever topical subject of RVHD2, we are frequently asked about the four month quarantine period that seems to be accepted. This advice did not come from the RWAF but in response to the questions regarding it we have released the following statement. It is not possible for the RWAF to issue blanket advice that covers all situations here as a lot will depend on the biosecurity and vaccination status of individual rescue centres for example. It is up to the rabbit owners to discuss this and agree what is best for them with their own vet. Sensible biosecurity measures should be employed
“Here at the RWAF we are getting a lot of questions about the survival of RVHD1 and 2 in the rabbit and the environment. There are a number of questions to answer, and the conditions in the wild vary, well, wildly. And also it’s good to have some safety margin, but it’s unhelpful to add a safety margin on top of an existing one, at each stage the issue is discussed!
“It’s very important to note that this is one of the few conditions in domestic pets where we have a large reservoir of infection in the wild, maintaining the disease and keeping it in play. This can make the idea of achieving “herd immunity” near impossible, and muddies the waters regarding whether an infection is a new outbreak from the same wild source, or re-infection in a group not given sufficient time for the virus to die away.
• The virus can survive for nine days in flies
• That whilst theoretically, rabbits who have survived infection can continue to spread it beyond the immediate period (i.e. that at times of stress they can start to shed virus again), in practice they could not make this happen
• The virus spreads at a minimum speed of 15 – 60km/week (too fast to simply be from rabbit to rabbit)
• It can cross 20 – 100km of water via birds or insects
• It can survive over the summer months before flaring up again (note that these are Australian summer months, and therefore much hotter and drier than the UK)
• Viable virus can persist for some months in tissues within a cool burrow (McColl et al. 2002; Henning et al. 2005).
The results of this study suggest that RVHD in animal tissues such as rabbit carcasses can survive for at least 3 months in the field, while virus exposed directly to environmental conditions, such as dried excreted virus, is viable for a period of less than one month. Survival of RVHD in the tissues of dead animals could, therefore, provide a persistent reservoir of virus, which could initiate new outbreaks of disease after extended delays.
“Another study showed that while viral antigen could be detected for at least 30 days post death in a decomposing liver, infectious RVHD virus survived for only 20 to 26 days (McColl, K; Morrissy, C; Collins, B; and Westbury, H. (2002), Persistence of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease virus in decomposing rabbit carcasses. Australian Veterinary Journal, 80: 298-299. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-0813.2002.tb10848.x).
“The eight month (225 days) figure reflects the longest it is possible for the virus to survive under optimal conditions i.e. held at 4C in a viral nutrient broth. This is a theoretical situation, but the experiment was stopped at 225 days, and so this longevity could be even longer in this situation (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease: an investigation of some properties of the virus and evaluation of an inactivated vaccine (Smid et al Veterinary Microbiology, 26 (1991) 77-85).
“A four month figure has been proposed in the UK and is widely used, probably consisting of three months plus a month for the delay from infection to death, and a safety margin on top”.
We have been contacted by a concerned member who found ‘rabbit treats’ for sale and contacted us. Our Specialist Veterinary Adviser, Richard Saunders has written as follows to the manufacturer Happy Pets and the retailer which has already withdrawn them from sale.
‘We are writing to you to express concerns regarding a number of products sold in your stores, with regard to the ingredients of fruit, yogurt and, particularly, chocolate. (eg the Critters’ choice chocolate drops). It’s worth noting that rabbits have both very low requirements for simple carbohydrates, and can develop potentially life threatening caecal dysbiosis if they ingest too much sugar, but that they do select sweet food items. Selling these is therefore a rather cynical case of feeding something that is popular with the animal, but very much not good for it. In a risk:benefit analysis there would appear to be no benefit whatsoever to feeding such items, and a potential risk of severe and expensive GI stasis, and potentially even death.
However, chocolate has far greater potential to cause health issues in rabbits, as it contains the alkaloid theobromine which can cause diarrhoea and death by heart failure in a number of species, notably dogs, but also rabbits. It is proving rather difficult to obtain a nutritional breakdown of this brand, but if this contains theobromine, it is quite a risk selling a product with a known toxin to a susceptible species and we would strongly recommend that you discontinue stocking it as soon as possible. A similar risk:benefit analysis clearly identifies no benefit and a very significant and well known risk of death, which would be indefensible should such morbidity or mortality result.’
Richard Saunders BVSc DZooMed MRCVS European Veterinary Specialist in Zoo Health Management
Welcome to another Campaign Update, keeping you informed of our constant fight to make things better for bunnies.
Richard’s new qualification
As if Richard Saunders was not already fantastic enough, he has added another qualification to his name. He now has the European College of Zoological Medicine, Diploma Specialist in Zoo Health Management to add to his accolades. This gives him more letters after his name, and he is now on the Scientific Committee for EBVS.
RVHD2 HIPRA webinar
Richard has recorded a webinar with HIPRA, who are the manufacturer of Eravac, on the ever-popular subject of RVHD2. As soon as it is available we will share the link to it on social media, so keep your eyes peeled.
We now have over 110 rabbit friendly vets on the rabbit friendly vet list! This is free to access to anyone via our website. Due to huge demand we have had to close applications for the rest of 2018, because we have such a backlog to get through, but we will be opening it up again in the New Year. This is great news as it shows that practices are keen to be considered rabbit savvy, and realise the rising status of rabbits in the UK. Anyone who is looking for a rabbit savvy vet can find our list here: https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-care-advice/rabbit-friendly-vets/rabbit-friendly-vet-list/
Save the dates
We are finalising the conference dates for 2019 so you might like to save these dates: 1st June– Non clinical day (owners, rescue workers) in Birmingham. 1st June– Clinical͚Rabbit Essentials͛ day, in Birmingham. This is for vets and vet nurses. It is lecture based and will cover subjects that we think are essential for every small animal practice. 22nd June– Advanced Rabbit Practice, at The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead. Lecture based, but covering more advanced rabbit care and investigation using the fantastic team at the RVC. 23rd June– Rabbit Interactive Roadshow – 2 x 3-hour workshops covering dentistry and airway management, also at the RVC, with the fabulous Craig Hunt. Small group so be sure to book early. 1st December– Rabbit Interactive Roadshow – 2 x 3-hour workshops covering dentistry and airway management, in Newcastle Upon Tyne, using the awesome Kevin Eatwell. Small group so book early to grab a place.
Full details will follow shortly. Please keep an eye on our website, and social media, or sign up to our First Alert service. You will be able to book via our shop website shortly.
Consultations and new legislation
Despite the amount of work and debate that Brexit has generated, there is still some progress with animal welfare legislation. There have been consultations for the UK for animal sentience and for Scotland with regards to breeding and licencing. This is obviously an area we are very keen on, given our Capone Campaign work, and something we can respond to with a lot of confidence. There have also been consultations on licencing of pet shops, riding schools etc., and on the 1st October 2018 the English government launched new regulations for the sale of puppies in the UK. This is great news, and we will be looking into the possibility of this legislation applying to rabbits also.
BBC Radio Shropshire – The rabbit and guinea pig debate
BBC Radio Shropshire phoned the helpline in October after an on air discussion between listeners who were discussing keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together, which caused some contention. We were invited on the next day to put the record straight, which is exactly what Richard did!
For interest, this is our official stance:
We are often asked about keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together. This is not advisable for the following reasons: ͞Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract of a number of species, including dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs, related to B pertussis, which causes whooping cough in humans. It is often described as commensal in rabbits (i.e. found in this species without causing harm), however, it can be a primary disease-causing organism, and can complicate other infections such as Pasteurella. It can, though, be fatal in guinea pigs, and so keeping them in the same airspace as rabbits is not advised.
͞Rabbits and guinea pigs have different dietary requirements, particularly guinea pigs’ need for Vitamin C. ͞Rabbits and guinea pigs are not the same species, and cannot respond appropriately to one another’s behaviours. This may result in inadequate social behaviours, up to and including severe bullying. ͞
The main reason these species used to be kept together was for companionship without the risk of pregnancy. With improvements in anaesthetic safety and more widespread neutering of both species, this is less of a problem now. Whilst we would not recommend putting them together in the first place in this day and age, we would not advocate splitting up a stable sole rabbit:sole guinea pig pairing͟.
New vaccination poster
We are still hearing of owners who do not know about RVHD2 and the need for a second vaccine. Feedback suggested that our vaccination poster did not get the message across so we have a new vaccination poster which we hope will be more effective. If you are on social media please share. You can find it on our own social media pages and website. Just to clarify, this is our advice on vaccinations: ͞You will need to give your rabbits two vaccines every year to protect them. The most common are Nobivac (protects against myxomatosis and RVHD1) and Filavac (protects against RVHD1&2), or Eravac (protects against RVHD2)͟.
A full size version of the poster is on our Campaign page, under Resources
Latest on RVHD2
In addition to the confusion over the vaccines there seem to be rumours surfacing about more diseases. Just to put the record straight we have released this statement:
͞”Here at the RWAF we are aware of 3 significant fatal viral diseases of rabbits in the UK. ͞
Myxomatosis (covered by the vaccine Nobivac Myxo-RHD); Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 (covered by Nobivac Myxo-RHD), and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (covered by the vaccines Filavac KC and V, or Eravac).
͞We are not aware of any further versions of RVHD present in the UK, although the variant K5 has been discovered in Asia and Australasia. ͞
We are not aware of any viral infections that are acutely fatal to rabbits and rodents recently arriving in the UK. ͞
If anyone has documentary evidence of any exotic diseases arriving in the UK in future please inform us and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)͟.
Myxomatosis in hares
Just as we were going to press there was an article in the news about a hare being diagnosed with myxomatosis in the UK.
Here at the RWAF we have been asked, over the past week or so, about myxomatosis in native wild brown hares in the UK. It’s important to be aware that this information is subject to change as the investigating continues, but is correct at time of posting.
Sporadic cases have been reported in the past, of suspected or confirmed myxomatosis in hares, including one which was written up in the veterinary press in 2014. However, this appears to be different in that multiple cases, from a wide geographical spread, are being reported to Dr Diana Bell, University of East Anglia and, whilst some have obvious external symptoms of myxomatosis, other dead hares look fine/in good condition or are seen dying with unusual neurological symptoms including an inability to move and seizures. A number of possible causes are being explored, including a change in virulence of myxomatosis virus, infection with Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2), or European Brown Hare Syndrome, individually or as co-infections, and it’s possible that other factors are involved.
What would really help the ongoing study into the large scale deaths of this iconic species would be for any members of the public finding a dead or ill hare to contact Dr Bell on: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please try and keep the body refrigerated whilst contacting Diana to arrange for a full post-mortem analysis.
Filming for RWAF YouTube channel
We are aware that our YouTube channel is in need of more content so we have recently spent the day with the lovely people at Vets4Pets Emmerson Green, Bristol, to film standard procedures and best practice. We hope that this will be accessible and useful to a wide range of people. Huge thanks to Sylvie Bolioli for giving up her time to do this
for us. We hope to have a lot of content for vets and owners in 2019. Again, watch this space for an update.
New RWAF Team member!
We are excited to announce the newest member of the RWAF Team – please welcome baby Eden. Emma (Boyd) gave birth to gorgeous little Eden on 15th September. It will be no surprise to read that Eden is already a rabbit fan and has a good collection of rabbit themed clothes and toys. Emma is on maternity leave until the New Year but she will soon be back in the swing of things and working alongside Rae to organise the CPD for 2019. If Eden is anything like her amazing mum then animal welfare is going to have a fantastic new advocate.
We are often asked about keeping rabbits and guinea pigs together. This is not advisable for the following reasons:
Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterial infection of the upper respiratory tract of a number of species, including dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs, related to B pertussis, which causes whooping cough in humans. It is often described as commensal in rabbits (ie found in this species without causing harm), however, it can be a primary disease causing organism, and can complicate other infections such as Pasteurella. It can, though, be fatal in guinea pigs, and so keeping them in the same airspace as rabbits is not advised.
Rabbits and Guinea pigs have different dietary requirements, particularly guinea pigs’ need for Vitamin C.
Rabbits and Guinea pigs are not the same species, and cannot respond appropriately to one another’s behaviours. This may result in inadequate social behaviours, up to and including severe bullying.
The main reason these species used to be kept together was for companionship without the risk of pregnancy. With improvements in anaesthetic safety and more widespread neutering of both species, this is less of a problem now. Whilst we would not recommend putting them together in the first place in this day and age, we would not advocate splitting up a stable sole rabbit:sole guinea pig pairing
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.
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
“With regard to the recent licensing of ERAVAC in the UK, we are pleased that another option to help prevent RHD2 is available. However, due to the lack of some product information it makes it difficult to give accurate advice at this time. We are discussing this situation, and its impact on other vaccine types, with the VMD and in the meantime can only suggest that owners and vets discuss the options and make a decision based on the specific circumstances of the rabbit(s).”
Between 1st April 2016 and 30th September 2016, according to the Veterinary Medicine Directorate newsletter “MAVIS” 2025 Special Import Certificates were issued for “Filavac”. Combining this with the results of an FOI request in July, showing how many doses were requested for each application, we estimate that somewhere around 72,500 rabbits may have been vaccinated to date. This is down to the tireless efforts of Rabbit owners in requesting this vaccine from their vets, those owners and others who have catalogued cases of RHD2 and made that information available to inform decision making, and vets, vet nurses and practice managers who have organised SICs, importing, and vaccine clinics for their practice. We are also eternally grateful to Dr Richard Saunders for making this process possible in the first place by establishing the demand for the vaccine and setting it up with the VMD, and the veterinary wholesalers for making the vaccine available. Whilst its always important to note that no vaccine offers 100% protection, and that there are occasional side-effects to vaccination, we are very pleased that its been possible to offer the best possible protection to the UK’s rabbits over the past few months. FOI Source: https://www.gov.uk/government
The recent licensing of ERAVAC 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.