“Vaccination is our only protection”
The only practical and reliable way to protect your rabbit against Rabbit Calicivirus Disease is by vaccination. The disease progresses very quickly and usually by the time you realise your rabbit is ill, death is imminent.
Your veterinarian will give you the best advice as to when to start vaccination. One dose is necessary at 10-12 weeks of age. An earlier vaccination can also be given in some circumstances if earlier protection is warranted.
Protection does not last forever. Immunity to this disease will wane over the course of a year leaving some rabbits susceptible.
A 6-monthly visit to your veterinarian will allow both a general health check and a booster vaccination against RCD. This will maintain immunity against RCD.
Your veterinarian will issue you with a vaccination certificate at the time of initial vaccination. It is important to keep this in a safe place as it may be required at rabbit shows, by breeders or as proof that your rabbit has been vaccinated.
The certificate should be presented to your veterinarian each year at the time of the 6-monthly booster vaccination so that it can be kept up to date.
Ask your veterinarian for further details about either Rabbit Calicivirus Disease or the vaccine.
As with the use of any immunologicals or therapeutics, some side effects to vaccination can be expected in a few rabbits. These can include –
- depression and loss of appetite for a day or so after vaccination.
- site reactions seen as swellings that can sometimes lead to irritation with patches of hair loss about one week after injection.
- death due to anaphylactic reactions or complications with pre-existing disease conditions.
Fortunately these are rare.
Reports of loss of reproductive potential following vaccination have been made. These reports are associated principally with dwarf rabbits vaccinated during heat stress conditions. Dwarf rabbits have a semi-dominant lethal gene that results in lower reproductive success rates and higher mortality of kittens up to weaning as compared to other rabbits. Heat stress conditions and high humidity have recognised adverse effects on male and female reproductive potential in all rabbit breeds. No adverse reproductive effects have been reported in standard breeds of rabbits held in controlled environmental conditions: As a general principle, vaccination is advocated when these stress conditions are absent.
- Only vaccinate healthy rabbits.
- Avoid vaccinating rabbits at times of environmental stress such as high ambient temperatures and high relative humidity. These environmental conditions may adversely affect the reproductive potential of rabbits, particularly in some breeds of rabbits such as dwarf rabbits.
If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to phone one of our clinics.
By Macarthur Veterinary Group