Is your rabbit protected against Calicivirus?

A new strain of Calicivirus is soon to be released in New Zealand. Read on for how to protect your bunny

by 
Dr Rachel Gebbie
October 4, 2018

Wild rabbits pose a constant risk to farming systems in New Zealand. The original calicivirus strain released many years ago had a huge impact on reducing wild rabbit populations. But recently wild rabbit populations have made a comeback and it has been determined that some resistance has built to the original strain. Scientists have manipulated the virus and a new strain called RHDV1-V5 is now registered in New Zealand and will likely be released in New Zealand in the coming months. This new strain is expected to spread through the wild rabbit population, killing large numbers as they hope that it will overcome the natural resistance within the New Zealand pest rabbit population has developed to the existing virus.

Authorities have disclosed that proposed regions for release of the virus include Canterbury, Otago and Malborough but over time it is expected that the virus will spread throughout the country.

This new virus is designed to attack wild rabbits and aid in agricultural efficiency but it also poses a big risk to our pet bunnies as they may come into contact with infected wild rabbits, insects or grasses.

How to protect your rabbit:

1. Vaccination with Cylap®

The vaccination that is registered for use against calicivirus in New Zealand rabbits (Cylap®). This is the only vaccine available to rabbits in New Zealand and it appears to cover for the new strain of Calicivirus. It is our best protection.

Recommended usage of the vaccine is for a first vaccine to be administered at 10-12 weeks of age in baby bunnies. And then an annual booster is recommended to maintain immunity.

Please contact your local Veterinary Hospital Group clinic to book in a vaccination appointment.

2. Reducing exposure to the virus

- Control insects (especially flies and fleas) as much as possible both indoors and outdoors. Flies help spread the virus.

- Remove uneaten food on a daily basis

- Keep your pet rabbit indoors where possible

- Rabbit-proof your backyard to prevent access by wild rabbits

- Regularly clean materials (e.g. cages, hutches, bowls) with diluted bleach. Leave on for 10 minutes of contact time. Make sure to rinse off.

- wash hands, shoes and clothing after handling other people’s rabbits

- Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to your rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits

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