By Vet Ruth Simmons
Despite being the third most popular pet in the UK, rabbits are often neglected, given the incorrect diet, inadequate housing and no companionship.
We are trying hard to change this and ensure a better life for all pet rabbits out there.
During the week of the 27th of June there is a nationwide campaign aiming to improve this, called Rabbit Awareness Week.
The main focus is “Room for Rabbits,” educating people that the absolute minimum requirement for a rabbit hutch is 3m x 2m x 1m high. They should be able to stand on their hind legs, lie stretched right out and make at least three hops. They need constant access to their exercise area, such as a rabbit run.
Rabbits are also very sociable animals and we recommend they are always kept in pairs if possible.
A lot of people do not realise that rabbits should be vaccinated annually. The vaccinations are against the fatal diseases Myxomatosis and Viral haemorrhagic disease (type 1 and 2).
These diseases are prevalent in both wild rabbits and pets. They can be spread by flies, fleas and even from our clothes.
Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease 2 (RVHD2) is a new strain of the virus RVHD1. Cases of the disease were first reported in the UK in 2015 and it is now thought to be endemic in the wild rabbit population.
As with RVHD1 the virus causes internal bleeding, but often a rabbit with RVHD2 has no symptoms and can die without any obvious external cause.
Unfortunately, once a rabbit is infected the prognosis is poor. Prevention is better than anything and we strongly encourage owners to vaccinate their rabbits against these diseases.
Vaccination is very effective against both strains of RVHD from 30 days old. As the disease is highly contagious, we advise against using second-hand hutches and equipment.
At this time of year rabbits are out in the garden more and the risk of these diseases increases.
The vaccines against all three diseases are required every 12 months for protection.
Please spread the word and help us ensure a better life for pet rabbits!