CAMPAIGN UPDATE Autumn 2019

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

Eravac – clearing up the confusion

We wanted to clear up any confusion over the efficacy of Eravac:

Hipra are awaiting the publication of results which prove a 12 month duration of immunity for Eravac

The effectiveness of the vaccine was compared with that of a placebo (dummy) vaccine in three laboratory studies involving 301 rabbits. After vaccination the rabbits were artificially infected with Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease type 2 virus. The studies showed the vaccine to be effective in reducing death. In one study all Eravac vaccinated rabbits survived compared with a 37% survival rate in the group that received the placebo vaccine. In the second study survival of Eravac vaccinated rabbits was 93% compared with 50% for rabbits given placebo. In the third study all Eravac vaccinated rabbits survived compared with less than 70% of the rabbits in the control group, when rabbits were artificially infected with Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease type 2 virus nine months after vaccination.

Secondly, it is important to realise that no vaccine offers 100% protection, and that sensible bio-security measures should also be employed, especially after cases of RVHD2 have been suspected or confirmed in an area, and sadly some of those unprotected rabbits will succumb to the disease, even with a protective dose. We also understand from Hipra that they are awaiting the publication of results which prove a 12 month duration of immunity.

Neutering advice

We have recently updated our neutering advice on our website
Photo credit A Cummings

We have also updated the neutering advice on our website: “Male rabbits can be castrated at any age. If you have taken on young rabbits, it’s best to have them castrated as soon as their testicles descend (10–12 weeks) although take advice from your own vet – some may prefer you to wait a little longer.

“The operation is fairly straightforward and recovery time is quite quick, provided there are no complications. Some vets perform rabbit castrations via the scrotum and some via the abdomen.

“If you have a young male rabbit castrated within a few days of his testicles descending into the scrotum, he won’t have the chance to become fertile and he can remain with a female littermate or companion. If castrated any older, be careful. Male rabbits aren’t sterile immediately after castration (mature sperm may have already left the testicles, and can live a surprisingly long time!). Whilst 90% of sperm die off very quickly, and while the chances of him getting an unspayed sexually mature female pregnant decline dramatically after castration, a period of up to 6 weeks is recommended to be completely safe, although shorter periods may be OK, and obviously allow bonding earlier.

“For females, the spay is a more major operation. Her uterus and ovaries have to be removed via an incision in her abdomen. Females are sterile as soon as they have been spayed, but if they have a male companion, you need to check he is gentle with her until the healing process is well underway. If you think he might mount your female rabbit, keep them apart for a few days, where they can see and smell each other through wire mesh. Does can be spayed from a similar age, but the uterus is very small at this point, and an age of 16-20 weeks is generally preferred. Spaying a rabbit over approximately 9 months can be more challenging due to the amount of fat which surrounds the uterus and its blood supply, and so not leaving it too late is best for her. Waiting till the classic 6 months risks her becoming pregnant, and at least 1 unwanted litter. The physical size of the rabbit is not usually a surgical challenge, but rabbits under 1kg become progressively more difficult to intubate, and so this weight is a useful cut off to await before surgery, where possible (i.e. some rabbits will be barely 1kg at adulthood, in which case there is little to be gained by waiting past 20 weeks)”. Our essentials feature on page 37 focuses on neutering rabbits.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2

Sensible biosecurity measures should be employed
Photo credit R Sibbald

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.

“This reference is interesting re survival in the wild population: https:// onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/eva.12195, and contains some data relevant to our UK population, including that:

• 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).

“Another paper is probably the most useful: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ epidemiology-and-infection/article/survival-of-rabbithaemorrhagic-disease-virus-rhdv-in-the-environment /0736D6857EE8B52C073F75989514CDD5.

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”.

Animal Welfare Officer Update January 2019 to June 2019

The last six months have been particularly busy, with a marked increase in complaints and concerns being passed by members of the public to RWAF HQ. These have predominantly been directed to the email address info@rabbitwelfare.co.uk and have related to issues involving not only breeders, but rabbits intended for food and rabbits used in entertainment.

This work has added to the self-generated and referred work on breeder and seller identification that has stemmed from the HINDESIGHT software project.

Given the scale of the issue across the country, reactive work has by necessity had to come to the fore, with proactive work being logistically more problematic, unless issues are identified in areas local to the AWO’s home base. A number of breeders and online traders have been referred to their local authorities and to the tax authorities in this period, as well as further work to identify a geographical pattern for breeders, based on stated and identified locations.
A particular case study in this period involved an individual identified in the Midlands, who is breeding and trading on a massive scale from her home address, she uses Facebook and other platforms to advertise, and breeds and keeps her rabbits in ‘accommodation’ at the rear of her address. The trader has allegedly sold sick rabbits on to members of the public, and reacted in a hostile manner when challenged about this; this information came in the form of a complaint from a concerned buyer, but also was one of those rare occasions when intelligence passed from the public, dovetailed with a proactive enquiry that was already underway into the trader based on her online trading footprint.

She has no license from the local authority to act as a seller of pet animals, so has been referred to them for action, nor does she appear to be declaring her not inconsiderable earnings to HMRC; she has been referred to the relevant authorities on both issues.

HMRC recently undertook a huge non-compliance operation on ‘rogue’ dog breeders who were evading tax on their sizeable earnings, so it is hoped that by consistent reporting and accurate estimation earnings and tax evaded we can start to make them pay attention to the murky world of rabbit breeding.

I have also dealt with two recent complaints involving individuals using pet rabbits for entertainment businesses, an activity which is covered by recent animal welfare legislation; one of the businesses was found to be licensed but there were sufficient concerns about welfare to warrant a referral to the licensing authority but the second had no such license so has been referred to their local authority for further action.

A final recent issue that arose was a little unusual, and involved a concerned member of the public referring a restaurant in SE England that was apparently offering rabbit dishes on the menu, and allowing customers to bring animals with them for slaughter on-site to be consumed in the restaurant. This is obviously of serious concern and the intelligence has been passed to the local environmental health food team for their urgent action.

With regard to breeders and online sellers, the RWAF advise the public that they acquire their rabbits from reputable rescues (adopt don’t shop!).

Sales through online platforms resulting in cash transactions and no receipts mean no recourse in the event of a problem and almost pure profit for unscrupulous traders.

You may remember that I was investigating reports of a beggar on Leicester Square in Central London, who rather than using the traditional dog to attract passers-by, is using rabbits in shopping baskets to entice the crowds and make his money. This is one of my ongoing enquiries and I am hoping to enlist the help of contacts from the local Police Station to identify him and take appropriate action if he can be found.

Additionally, I have identified a trader involved in online fraud involving the sale of ‘status’ and ‘in-demand’ puppies and monkeys, which do not exist and appear to have led to the loss of considerable sums by unsuspecting members of the public, this is another rare incidence where my suspicions and enquiries were borne out by a contact to the Dogs Trust by the National Fraud Investigation Bureau indicating that they were looking at the same individuals linked to the fraud from a different angle.

As an aside, and in a marked deviation from the world of rabbits, during my enquiries I have also identified an international seller of counterfeit watches, the modus operandi and location for which has been passed to the local police and international intellectual property protection bodies.

Statistics for six month period – Winter 2018 to Spring 2019

In the last six months I have looked at the following:

• Eight non-rabbit online traders linked to sales of puppies and monkeys, who are in fact the same fraudulent enterprise

• 271 rabbit breeders located all over the UK, but in the main in England and Wales; of these I have started formal investigations into 11 traders of which four have been completed and referred to the relevant tax and local/international authorities, and seven remain ongoing.

Summary

This has been a very busy six months, and even as I type a further two reactive complaints have arrived today from Head Office; there is no indication that the pace of complaints will slow down, and even where it does as I identify and pursue online traders with the help of the HIDNESIGHT software, new ones crop up on an almost daily basis to take their place.

Whilst these issues are by no means restricted to the rabbit trade, my investigations have shown that the problem in that area remains huge, and whilst the rewards to be made from breeding and online sales remain relatively high, with low outlay and upkeep and even lower chances of sanctions from the austerity-hit authorities, the problem is only likely to become worse.

Mark Dron, RWAF Animal Welfare Officer

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2

Sensible biosecurity measures should be employed
Photo credit R Sibbald

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.

“This reference is interesting re survival in the wild population: https:// onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/eva.12195, and contains some data relevant to our UK population, including that:

• 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).

“Another paper is probably the most useful: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ epidemiology-and-infection/article/survival-of-rabbithaemorrhagic-disease-virus-rhdv-in-the-environment /0736D6857EE8B52C073F75989514CDD5.

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”.

RVHD2 vaccine failures

“We here at the RWAF are aware of a number of posts regarding cases of RVHD2 following vaccination, and, whilst new information is constantly being obtained and updated, we wanted to make a statement.

Firstly, it is REALLY important to obtain that information, and to make sure it is being reported properly, to the correct authorities, and with as much detail as possible. Only then can accurate data be obtained and decisions made. Its possible to hear of the same case from multiple sources and forums, and equally, to not hear about some rabbits at all. So we do urge people to ask their vet to report any concerns about vaccine side effects or failure (or any drug adverse reaction) to both the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, and to the drug/vaccine company directly. Reporting it to the company as well means that they can act more quickly, and may be able to offer advice and assistance. So far, both the VMD and Filavac have monitored the situation and not found higher than expected numbers of vaccine failures.

Secondly, it is important to realise that no vaccine offers 100% protection, and that sensible biosecurity measures should also be employed, especially after cases of RVHD2 have been suspected or confirmed in an area. And sadly some of those unprotected rabbits will succumb to the disease, even with a protective dose value of 90% for Filavac and sufficient antibody titre of ≥70% for Eravac.
Currently only about 14% of UK domestic rabbits are vaccinated against RVHD2, and that means that the level of protection in the community, or “herd immunity” is poor, making spread of the disease rapid and easy for the virus.Most rabbits (85%) have been vaccinated using Filavac, and so most vaccine failures reported online have been associated with this vaccine.

While we are aware that vaccine failures have been reported, we would urge owners not to stop vaccinating their rabbits, as the current vaccines are the best level of protection we have available. Please continue to report any problems, via your vets, to the VMD and the vaccine manufacturers.

Richard Saunders BVSc DZooMed MRCVS European Veterinary Specialist in Zoo Health Management

RWAF Vet Specialist Adviser

Campaign Update Spring 2019

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

In the news

Richard, our Expert Vet, has been busy putting together articles for the Mail on Sunday Healthy Pet Magazine, and also for Pet Plan’s journal. On top of this we did an interview for The Times about our Capone Campaign and the huge effect that this is now having, with many other organisations using the software that we commissioned. The tool has really taken on a life of it’s own under the guidance of Keith Hinde and Tech4pets, and we are thrilled with the results it is achieving. Follow Tech4pets on Facebook for more information.

Click the link below to view the Times article in full

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Capone Campaign

Speaking of which, Mark, our Welfare Officer, has been working hard and has this update for us:

“Since June 2018 I have examined over 1,500 advertisements and advertisers across the UK. Of those where I have identified people selling and advertising more than once a month, I have carried forward 261 traders/advertisers for further examination and enquiries.

“Many of these are untraceable, but I have fully researched 22 and referred seven of those to local authorities and the RSPCA, with a further nine referred to other interested agencies.

“In this period (June to December 2018), I have had two responses; one council is still making enquiries and the second refused to investigate, stating that it was not within their remit and that they could not see that the breeder was committing any offences. Sadly this is a common response from many councils whose licensing teams are stretched to the limit under austerity measures, and therefore apply their resources to what is perceived to be higher-risk licensing problems. This means that they often devote little or no resource to animal welfare licensing.

“In addition I have identified a further three traders engaged in the sale of counterfeit goods. These have been referred to the local authority Trading Standards Departments. Also three traders engaged in the apparent sale of goods derived from endangered species; these have been referred to the appropriate Police units”.

Some casework examples from the second half of 2018 have been:

1 Report of factory breeding in awful conditions in Rutland at an unspecified location. A potential location was identified and passed to the RSPCA for further action.

2 Ongoing and lengthy enquiry to identify and locate a prolific seller in Kent using numerous platforms. At the time of writing we are anticipating a referral.

3 Complaints relating to sales of homeopathic remedies for RVHD2 by an online seller. The trader has been referred to DEFRA Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

4 Complaint about a local trader in Manchester selling an ill rabbit and refusing to acknowledge the buyer’s concerns. Enquiries linked him to numerous sites and many different types of animals being bred and sold. This has been referred to the local authority and RSPCA.

5 Reports of a beggar on Leicester Square using rabbits to entice the public (October 2018 ongoing).

Mark’s point about councils not investigating due to lack of resources highlights the nature of the battle we are fighting, but makes us even more determined to keep on trying because we need to do everything we can to prevent the suffering caused by unlicensed and casual breeders. The Capone campaign was so-called because the famous gangster was brought to justice not for his obvious crimes, but for secondary offences. Finding evidence of the sale of counterfeit goods is an example of this approach – anything to hinder these unscrupulous traders.

Take care

Anybody following any of the rabbit rescue groups on Social Media will probably have seen many rescues in the UK step in to help out a ‘rescue’ that had been keeping rabbits in absolutely atrocious conditions. We don’t know the history of the so-called rescue, or the person involved, but the rabbits are now safe with genuine rescues and are getting the best care possible. It is terrifying to think that someone calling themselves a rescue could behave in this way, and that the animals in their care could be so neglected. This serves as a warning to all of us that we need to do our homework when deciding to support a rescue financially, or to anyone surrendering a rabbit to a rescue for whatever reason. Please ask questions; any genuine rescue will be happy to answer them for you, and always ask around. Has anyone you trust seen or been inside? Do they give good advice? Does their website give information about the people in charge? Be wary of any organisation that does not give the names and experience of the people that run it, because this suggests that they may have something to hide.

Please take the time to do some research before you hand over any money, sign any petition and especially if you are trying to rehome rabbits.

It’s a shame that we have to be so careful because there are so many good rescues doing great work – please don’t stop supporting genuine rescues, but be sure to do your homework.

Winter Rescue

Although the RWAF is not a rescue, at times we are made aware of situations that we cannot ignore. Last month we were involved in a case where a large commercial breeding facility was closed. We worked closely with all involved and were able to get the remaining 37 rabbits to safety. They were mainly mums and babies.

As always a successful rescue relies on teamwork, so a huge thanks goes to the brilliant team at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Hospital for Small Animals exotics team. Special thanks going to vets Jenna Richardson and Kevin Eatwell for allowing us to fill their wards and for health checking all the rabbits and starting them off on a vaccination and neutering programme.

Huge thanks also to the incredible volunteers we rallied locally to offer short-term foster homes to acclimatise the rabbits to love and comfort, and to the rescues that have offered them spaces, in particular our friends at Fairly Beloved Rabbit Care who took a whopping 13 rabbits for us.

The RWAF are funding all the health checking, treatments, vaccinating and neutering cost of all the rabbits, which we expect to run in to several thousands of pounds.

Very sadly it was not good news for all of the rabbits that we managed to rescue, because some of the health problems were just too severe. However, they were given the very best chance possible and decisions were not made lightly. This is the hard side of rescue and something we are pleased we do not have to face every day, unlike the many rabbits rescues, for whom it is part of their day to day lives.

The lucky rabbits that were placed with rescue centres are doing well and several have already been adopted. We hope to bring you some happy ending stories next time.

We have just had our first invoice for the vet fees so far and it was £2,478.80, so the funds raised before Christmas online are a huge help towards this.

New website for pet owners

In November, as part of our role in the Pet Advertising Advisory Committee, we were one of a number of the UK’s leading animal welfare organisations, veterinary and industry bodies who have come together to launch a website to help guide the general public in what to look for when acquiring a new pet. More information is featured in Round Up on page 32. Visit the website at: howtobuyapet.org.uk

Webinar on RVHD2

We were pleased to work with Hipra, the manufacturer of Eravac, one of the RVHD2 vaccines on the market, to put this excellent webinar together. You need to create an account to view it, but you do not need to be a vet professional. Our thanks to Hipra for this. Go to: hipra.vbms-training.co.uk

Don’t wait, vaccinate

Pets Corner are displaying our vaccination poster

We were really pleased that Pets Corner and Nottcutts Garden centres agreed to display our new ‘Don’t wait, vaccinate’ poster in their stores. This will help us raise awareness of the need to vaccinate all pet rabbits. Our sincere thanks to them for working with us on this vital issue.

Rabbit-Friendly Vet list

The list now stands at 130 rabbit-friendly vet practices in the UK.

A reminder that this list is available on our website to anyone looking for a rabbit-savvy vet. To be included vet practices need to be a member of the RWAF and to have completed a comprehensive questionnaire that is reviewed by our RWAF veterinary adviser Richard Saunders.

Coming next issue

Coming next issue

The summer 2019 Rabbiting On will include features on:
• Bladder stones and sludge – Veterinary surgeon, Nathalie Wissink-Argilaga looks at what causes rabbits to develop bladder stones and sludge, the signs and treatments.
• What does poisonous mean for rabbits? – Veterinary surgeon, Guen Bradbury explains how rabbits naturally avoid poisonous plants.
• Physiotherapy – Veterinary physiotherapist, Gill Griffiths describes how and why physio is used to treat rabbits.
• How to nebulise your rabbit – Registered Veterinary Nurse, Rachel Sibbald guides us through the process.
And much more…Don’t miss out! Ensure that your subscription is up-to-date so you can receive the issue hot off the press in May 2019.

RWAF FOCUS – WHO IS WHO AT THE RWAF?

Ros has always had rescue rabbits

Ros Lamb – Director

Ros is the RWAF’s Fundraising Officer. She keeps in touch with the agencies that provide fundraising platforms and is always on the lookout for more. She contacts donors, where we have contact details for them, to thank them for donating. We can do that being a small organisation, unlike larger bodies that receive so many donations and cannot pass on personal thank you messages. She also oversees our annual
online auction.

Ros also mans the RWAF Helpline three days per week – if you phone us on Monday, Tuesday or Friday, it’s Ros you’ll speak to. And she answers most of the RWAF’s incoming mails. If you write to us at info@rabbitwelfare.co.uk or hq@rabbitwelfare.co.uk it’s Ros who will respond. This means a lot of contact with members of the rabbit-owning public, vets, boarding owners, rescues and so on.

She was one of the team who helped create our new website which of course is an ongoing project. She coordinates with Outreach Officer Hilary Luckett to identify rescues for our Sponsor a Rescue scheme.

Ros didn’t have rabbits as a child although there were always family pets – dogs, budgies, tortoises, parrots, fish – and when she became an adult she became a horse owner. She had four horses over the next 31 years and they all had a home for life with her. Rabbits came into her life in early 1998 and over those years she has always had a pair of neutered, bonded rabbits. A pair is as many as she has space and finances to look after properly, but when she wins the Lottery…! All of them have been rescues – of course! Some adopted from rescue centres, some privately rescued. This doesn’t amount to a lot of rabbits, but it does mean many, many years’ learning which is still going on, and happily they have all lived long lives. She became a RWAF member in the same year she adopted her first rabbit, although in those days it was called the British Houserabbit Association.

Ros was a teacher in secondary schools and further education from 1975 until she retired in 2008, and soon after that she was invited to join the RWAF management.

December First Alert and Season’s Greetings

Season’s Greetings to all our followers.  We hope you and your rabbits have a great, safe and happy festive season
….
Hurry, there is still time to enter our Bunnies of the Year competition.  Not much time though, so make sure you don’t miss this important opportunity.  We’re planning changes for the competition next year so watch out for that, but for now, RWAF members, please enter here https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product/bunnies-of-the-year-competition/ and then upload your photos of your wonderful rabbits here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/about-the-rwaf/photo-submissions/  We’ll be judging soon and then we can look forward to seeing some great new cover stars in 2019
……
Keep your rabbits safe over Christmas.  There’s a variety of dangers
  • Chewing the tree or its lighting cables.  Real dangers.  Whether you have a real or an imitation tree, put up a barrier around it and keep those electric cables where your bunnies cannot get to them
  • Holly and mistletoe are both very toxic.  Make sure your beloved pets can’t get to either.  If you have them, keep them both well away from rabbit accessible areas
  • Wrapping paper and the gifts themselves.  Nobody wants a chewed present and of course ingesting that paper with its inks and possibly sometimes polymers too is very dangerous for rabbits, so keep gifts out of reach of bunnies
  • Eating too much of the wrong thing.  We all eat some treats in the festive season, probably more than we should, but be careful not to let your rabbits get to anything that might be toxic to them or too much of what they might like.  Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and in fact is bad for most species including us.  For rabbits, the sugars may well be the biggest problem, so as with other treats, keep them away from your rabbits and if you have appropriate treats for them – low carbs, no egg, no dairy – remember, they are still just that, treats, and should only be given in very small amounts.  You don’t want to be taking your beloved rabbits to the emergency vet on Christmas afternoon!
  • Company, hustle and bustle – Christmas and New Year are times for families, visitors, people who generally wouldn’t be in contact with your rabbits, and likely not in large numbers.  It’s often noisy as well. Remember this can be very confusing and sometimes frightening for your rabbits.  They are prey animals, used to you and your immediate family so make a visitor-free zone where your rabbits can feel safe and can keep away from noise and bustle, won’t be handled inappropriately and won’t be fed the wrong things….and cannot escape out of your door when people are coming and going.
……
Sadly we are still receiving reports every single day of cases of sudden deaths.  We know people getting this message will have ensured their rabbits have fully up to date vaccinations – both Nobivac (Myxo & RVHD1) plus either Filavac or Eravac (RVHD2) – but not everybody receives this, not everybody knows about our advice and there are very clearly a lot of rabbit owners out there still not vaccinating.  Please share our new vaccination poster wherever you can.  You can download it here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Vaccinate-Poster-new.jpg
Owners don’t all follow our social media, not all of them are aware of our website and sadly for whatever reason, aren’t getting proper advice from vets, so we’re asking you to find places to display the poster.  Pet shops, vet waiting rooms, libraries, any shop/supermarket that sells rabbit food (ask them to display it beside the food), anywhere else you can think of that rabbit owners might see it, including any online social media you might visit.
We’re also adding this message to each and every email that goes out from our hq@rabbitwelfare.co.uk and info@rabbitwelfare.co.uk email addresses so please feel free to share this too
IMPORTANT – VACCINATIONS
This important information is being added to all emails.  Please disregard if your rabbits have already been vaccinated with both Nobivac Myxo RHD and either Filavac VHD K C + V or else Eravac.
There is a mutated strain of RVHD that is deadly, RVHD2.  Unvaccinated rabbits don’t stand a chance against it.  It is present all over the UK and vaccination against it is vital.  Unfortunately the standard Nobivac combined vaccine doesn’t cover it, although that is still essential to protect against Myxomatosis and RVHD1.  If your rabbits aren’t already vaccinated against it, what you need is either Filavac VHD K C + V  or else Eravac.  Discuss frequency of vaccination with your vet.  The two vaccines (Nobivac and the RVHD2 vaccine) should not be given at the same time, there should be at least 2 weeks between them.  If you need to have this done and your vet doesn’t stock the vaccine, there is a map here that shows vets who do.    Another tab on the same website shows reported cases, which we know only shows the tip of a very large iceberg, as this disease is very hard to recognise having few to no symptoms at all and so is generally unreported.
See our Health section for further information https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/vaccinations/ and please share our poster wherever you can http://www.rwaf.org.uk/vaccs
If you are in the sad position of losing a rabbit unexpectedly please let us know, along with the first part of your postcode so that we can notify the owner of this map http://rhd2map.buntools.org.uk/index.php?&p=cases and also our own social media followers.  Another tab on the map site also shows vets who stock vaccine, useful information for us all.
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We’ve been asked to share this survey.  Chloe Macgeath, who is second year veterinary medicine student at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is undertaking a research project. She says, “I have decided to do mine on rabbit behaviour, specifically looking at whether there is any behavioural differences between outdoor rabbits and those that kept entirely indoors and have no access to outdoor space. I will also look at the influence of other factors such as diet, sex and companionship.”
Her survey is online and can be found here https://rvc.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/do-rabbits-kept-entirely-indoors-show-more-behavioural-pro Let’s help her with this really interesting topic which will help owners and vets alike better understand even more about the needs of our favourite pets.
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If you don’t follow our Social Media you may not have seen the story of the rabbits we rescued recently from a commercial breeding facility.  Their story is here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/winter-rescue-appeal/
We’re very happy to see photos and videos from rescue and of those already in their forever homes, where they are finally able to exercise all the typical rabbit behaviours that they haven’t ever been able to previously.  Such a very sad start in life for these lovely souls, but a great life for them now, at long last.  We inevitably incurred significant bills – some had health problems, all needed to be vaccinated, all the adults neutered, and once the babies are old enough, we’ll be funding their neutering too, so if you haven’t already donated, please do.  People have already been very generous and although we haven’t yet had the final bill, we estimate it to be about £3000.  Even £1 will help though of course if you can manage more, that would be fantastic – and don’t forget Gift Aid if you pay Income Tax.  That will bring us in an extra 25% direct from HMRC, at no cost to you.
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Of course we can’t leave without reminding you to keep membership subscriptions up to date.  We’ve been able to introduce Direct Debit for online subscription so you no longer need to have a PayPal account to have automatic renewals.  You still can if you want, but Direct Debit costs us less per transaction (which helps keep down your membership subs costs) and doesn’t rely on you keeping your card details up to date with PayPal.  You can renew here https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product-category/memberships/renewal-memberships/
If you have friends or family who have rabbits or who are thinking of getting them, as always help them research properly by directing them to our site and encouraging them to join us https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product-category/memberships/new-members/
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Advanced news!  Fiona Firth’s very useful and popular book, Bonding Rabbits, is going to be back in print very soon, new, lively format and published & sold exclusively by the RWAF.  Keep your eyes open for that, it’ll be in our shop here in our books collection https://shop.rabbitwelfare.co.uk/product-category/advice-booklets-leaflets/
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Take care everybody and have a great Christmas and a very happy, safe and healthy New Year

Campaign Update Winter 2018

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.

Vet list

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.

Please share our new vaccination poster

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)͟.

A number of causes are being explored to explain the sudden deaths of numerous hares-(R Hale)

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: d.bell@uea.ac.uk. Please try and keep the body refrigerated whilst contacting Diana to arrange for a full post-mortem analysis.

Richard filming for our You Tube channel

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

Watch this space for more videos in 2019

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!

 

Baby Eden looks set to follow in her mums footsteps-(E Boyd)

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.

Vaccination – please share this message

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please everybody share this poster and message in your emails and on social media, and on any rabbit or pet group you might be on.

Rabbits need vaccination every year to protect them against RVHD2 as well as against Myxomatosis and RVHD1. Unfortunately that can’t be given in one jab. There are two. For Myxi/RVHD1 they need the Nobivac combined jab and then for RVHD2 there is a choice of either Filavac or Eravac. There should be at least 2 weeks between the jabs.

The poster was updated this week and can be downloaded here   https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/campaigns/resources/

We are actually finding that by sharing to general pet groups we are getting the message to new people who weren’t aware.

**RABBIT OWNERS NEED TO KNOW, ALL THESE DISEASES ARE DEADLY**

**ALL THESE DISEASES CAN BE PROTECTED AGAINST**

Full advice is on the RWAF website on vaccinations – https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/vaccinations/
myxomatosis – https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/myxomatosis/
RVHD – https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/rabbit-vhd/
and further reading including biosecurity – https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/further-reading/rvhd-further-reading/

RVHD2 Update November 2017

This supersedes earlier advice

Please also see ‘Further Reading’ page here https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-health/further-reading/rvhd-further-reading/  (Note added 25/06/18)

There are two strains of RVHD, known as RVHD1 and RVHD2.  Both strains are lethal and you must vaccinate to protect your rabbits.  RVHD2 has been in the UK since 2013 and over time appears to be overtaking classic RVHD as the primary strain.

RVHD vaccines are very effective. Your rabbits can currently be protected against RHD1 using the Nobivac Myxomatosis-RHD vaccine with a booster every 12 months. Both strains of RVHD are covered by vaccination any time from ten weeks (Filavac) or RHD2 can be prevented from 30 days (Eravac) of age. The separate RVHD2 vaccine is given every 6-12 months. You should consult your vet for the best combination currently available for your rabbit(s).

It’s very important to clean and disinfect anything that may be carrying the viruses, including water bottles, bowls, bedding and housing.  This means that boarding and rescue rabbits, even with up to date vaccinations, may potentially be a risk, and establishments should take suitable precautions, as should vets who may have infected rabbits brought to them for treatment. Anything that has been touched by an unknown rabbit should be thoroughly cleaned and treated with virucidal agents. In high risk situations foot covers or foot dips may be wise measures.

If you are about to obtain a young rabbit that hasn’t yet been vaccinated:

  • Follow the advice given in the vaccinations section
  • Don’t use second-hand hutches or equipment without finding out what happened to the previous occupant.

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 initially available with a UK License was 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 remained the most significant health threats which could 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.

Previously there were three vaccines (Filavac VHD K C+V, Cunivak RHD and Cunipravac RHD-2 Variant) that initially had 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. That need now having been firmly established, Filavac VHD K C+V, and Eravac VHD are now licensed. Practices should check availability of these products directly with their wholesalers. Owners should check with their practices which vaccines they hold, and what the protocol for vaccinating rabbits is at the practice in question.

Stocks are sometimes very variable, and practices are advised to contact wholesalers directly for information on stock availability. I would still be interested in any other practitioners findings regarding reports of suspected or confirmed RHD1 and 2.

 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.

What dose regime is suggested?

Standard advice with immunological products not licensed for simultaneous administration is to space them out by at least 2 weeks, and this is the regime we advise with both vaccines.

The duration of immunity for Filavac 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. The duration of immunity has not been confirmed in the case of Eravac, but this is expected to be updated shortly.

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. Eravac covers only RHD2, and so there is less concern about “over-vaccination” with this product. 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 Eravac carry a known risk of skin and subcutaneous tissue damage, and great care must be taken to ensure no vaccine enters the intradermal route, to minimise this risk, as well as taking care not to accidentally self-inject. 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.battlab.com/PCRTests.pdf

http://www.palsvetlab.co.uk

http://laboklin.co.uk/laboklin/showGeneralTest.jsp?testID=8518

 

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