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Calicivirus in Rabbits

June 12, 2015

Recently we have seen an increased number of rabbits that appear to have died from calicivirus. Calicivirus was initially introduced illegally into New Zealand in 1997, to control wild rabbit populations and is now widespread throughout New Zealand.

Calicivirus is spread by inhaling or ingestion virus particles, or direct contact with infected rabbits. The virus can also be spread by insects such as flies which touch the infected rabbit then a healthy rabbit. 30-80% of rabbits that contact the virus will develop it and then once infected, almost 100% die.

Infected rabbits can be depressed, stop eating, have difficulty breathing, may have foamy blood from nose or bottom, show nervous signs and die after 1-2 days. Some rabbits suddenly die without any other signs. Occasionally rabbits get a mild form become depressed, stop eating but then recover and become immune to the disease.

There is a vaccination available to protect pet rabbits from this disease. Research has shown that rabbits less than 8 weeks are usually resistant to infection, so vaccination is from 8 weeks onwards. If they are over 3 months they only need one vaccination. It is then recommended to vaccinate yearly as we don’t know if immunity is lifelong. So if you have a pet rabbit that you would like to protect from calicivirus please contact us to organise a vaccination.