Rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD), also known as haemorrhagic viral disease (RHVD), is a potentially lethal disease in rabbits older than 8 weeks of age. The virus was first discovered in China in 1984 and was purposely introduced in Australia and New Zealand for rabbit biocontrol in 1997. Thirty to eighty percent of animals exposed to the virus will develop the disease. Almost 100% of infected animals will die.
It is assumed that rabbits acquire this highly infectious virus by breathing it in, ingestion, direct contact or through infected urine or faeces. Insects are also able to carry the virus, so isolation from other rabbits is not always enough to prevent this nasty disease affecting your rabbit. Affected bunnies can die within 1-3 days of acute necrotising liver inflammation, but also can get haemorrhage in other organs, in particular in lungs, heart and kidneys.
It is spread by contact from rabbit to rabbit or by clothing/bedding material, contaminated food, cages, feeders as well as other mammals and birds (they can excrete the virus through their faeces after ingesting an infected rabbit carcass).
Flies, fleas and mosquitos can also spread the virus between rabbits. And the virus can be carried by the wind!
There is a wide range of symptoms. In mild cases, symptoms may include:
• Loss of Appetite
More severe cases will show the following signs:
• Loss of appetite
• Swollen eyelids
• Bleeding from the eyes
Rabbits that recover from these symptoms can often later develop jaundice, weight-loss and lethargy, diarrhoea or constipation and abdominal pain.
RCD is often a very swift and sudden killer, giving little warning. Rabbits may die without showing any symptoms at all. Rabbits who survive this disease are carriers and shed the virus for at least 42 days, perhaps longer.
Luckily there is a vaccine for your bunny!
The calicivirus vaccine comes in a pack of 10 which is specially ordered and has to be used within 24 hours of opening. This means many people don't vaccinate because they don't want to pay for 10 shots, and only use 1.
Your vet may have a booking list so they can do multiple bunny vaccines on one day to avoid extra costs for you and any wastage.
OTHER MEASURES TO PROTECT YOUR RABBIT INCLUDE:
• Wash your hands thoroughly before handling your rabbits, particularly when you come home from places where other rabbits may have been, or where people who have been in contact with rabbits may have been. This would include places such as feed stores, pet stores, country show grounds, etc.
• Change your clothes and wash your hands after handling or coming in contact with rabbits. Wash these clothes twice in hot water before you wear them around your rabbit.
• Know your sources of hay and feed and if they are near areas of any outbreaks.
• Quarantine any new rabbit for 5 days. Always handle quarantined rabbits last, and keep all supplies for them separate from your other rabbit’s supplies.
• Disinfect objects, using a viricidal disinfectant such as Sterigene, Safe4 or Virkon. Remember that it must stay in contact with the item and remain wet for at least ten minutes. Ensure correct dilutions are applied.
Tags: Pet, Pet and Vet, Animal Health, Veterinary Medicine, Pet care, Vet, Rabbit, Bunny, Calcivirus