Rabbit owners from Burton and South Derbyshire are being advised to get their pet vaccinated as cases of a deadly disease have been confirmed in the area.

A highly dangerous disease that affects rabbits, called rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease two has been found in one rabbit in Burton and a second suspected case.

The disease, also known as VHD-2 or RVHD2 is a highly contagious condition that has been spreading across the country.

Very few rabbits show signs of symptoms after contracting the disease and tend to die within three days of getting it.

VHD-2 effects both wild and caged rabbits and is often fatal, but is very difficult to eradicate due to its ability to survive for long periods of time and withstand extreme temperatures.

Bright Side Vets, in Swadlincote handled the one confirmed case of VHD-2 and the one suspected case, and head vet, Kelly Freezer has explained the difficulty that comes when trying to identify the disease.

She said: “We are currently unable to confirm VHD-2 in a live bunny, we can only treat the symptoms if they are presented to us. Sadly, confirmation of the disease is only possible in a post mortem.”

Rabbits, both wild and in captivity can be effected by the disease
Rabbits, both wild and in captivity can be effected by the disease

There are vaccinations that can help to avoid the disease, and are available at most veterinarian practices.

The name of the vaccination is Filavac, which became available in the United Kingdom during 2016 and is the main vaccine used to prevent the chance of a rabbit contracting VHD-2.

The vaccination is recommended to be reapplied once every six months to be the most effective.

Mrs Freezer continued: “We are not trying to scare our bunny owners locally but it is important that they are aware of the risks and take preventative care. This disease has no treatment as yet so the only way to ensure a rabbit's safety is to routinely vaccinate.

“We strongly recommend that rabbit owners get in touch with their own vets for advice and get their bunnies vaccinated.”

Lost Paws Rescue, a South Derbyshire pet rescue group that specialises in finding rabbits and guinea pigs new homes, have also commented on the issue and spokesman, Debbie Bloor has explained that when conditions like VHD-2 comes to an area, it causes issues with rehousing the rabbits.

She said: “We rehome lots of bunnies in the local area and this disease is causing us and many other rabbit rescue organisations around the country much concern. It’s so easy for the disease to be transferred so we are doing so much as we can minimise the risk.

“This includes vaccinations, trying not to house bunnies that have an unknown history with a vaccinated rabbit and of course good hygiene.

“I would also advise that if you are boarding your rabbits that you ensure that their vaccinations are up to date. Consideration should also be given to revaccinating your rabbit, if their last vaccine was over six months ago, at least two weeks prior to boarding.”

Bright Side Vets, in Swadlincote are encouraging any rabbit owners to come get in touch and get their pet vaccinated. Appointments can be made by calling 01283 617 020.

Is my rabbit sick?

They may not contract VHD-2, but with the summer seasons in full swing, our furry little friends are out and about more than ever.

The more time our rabbits spend hopping along outside, the more chance they might eat something or catch something, causing them to fall ill.

With pets, like rabbits, who spend a large amount of their time hidden away in cages or hutches it can be difficult to realise when they are feeling unwell. So here are a few tell-tale signs that your rabbit might be a little bit under the weather.

Appetite is everything

A sudden change in a rabbit’s appetite can be a clear sign that there is something not quite right. Whether they suddenly start eating a lot more than normal, or if you get back from a long day at work and they have not touched the contents of their food bowl.

Litter box says it all

It is not the nicest thing to have to keep your eye on, but a rabbit’s droppings can be a good indication if they are poorly. Normally, rabbits will produce a lot of evenly round droppings. But gastrointestinal illnesses can cause your rabbit to either not make any droppings at all.

Also, if droppings come in different shapes and appear less often that can also be a sign, and in some cases there can be hair or fur seen embedded in their droppings.

Breathing issues

Rabbits breath through their nose, not their mouth so if they appear to be breathing heavily, or if their chest appears to be moving more dramatically than normal, this might be a very clear sign of respiratory issues.

Feel the ears

Rabbits control their internal temperature through their ears by radiating heat through them. Their ears can become cold or hot to touch if they are sick, so a small feel of their ears can be a good indication.