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Fatal Rabbit Diseases Spreading

Two diseases which can be fatal to pet rabbits of all ages are becoming prevalent across Guernsey.

Both myxomatosis and Rabbit Hemorrhagic Viral Disease variant 2 (RHVD-2) are spreading in pets and wild rabbits around the island.

GSPCA manager Steve Byrne says the only way to prevent death is to get pet rabbits vaccinated.

"There's very, very little that the vets can actually do to make them comfortable and, sadly, it's one of these diseases where the only option is to look to ease their suffering by putting them to sleep.

If they are vaccinated it really can help save their lives as the vaccine can help suppress the disease and it's much easier to treat them because they only get mild symptoms.

We are seeing a huge increase in rabbit numbers, and obviously with those high numbers of rabbits it's much easier for those diseases to spread.

It's really important all pet-owners do what they can to prevent the diseases from spreading.

If their animals aren't vaccinated get them inside away from where the wild rabbits are until they are vaccinated and, only then, think about putting them back outside."

Myxomatosis is often fatal in bunnies, around 10-14 days after the initial infection.

Symptoms can take up to two weeks to appear. Owners should look out for the following warning signs:

  • Puffy eyes
  • Lethargic behaviour
  • Lack of movement
  • Swelling and redness
  • Ulcers
  • Nasal and eye discharge
  • Blindness caused by inflammation of the eyes
  • Respiratory problems
  • Loss of appetite

RHVD-2 is fatal to rabbits much faster. After the initial contraction, rabbits can die within two to three days.

The symptoms include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Bleeding under the skin
  • Blood clotting
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice.
  • Bleeding

RVHD-2 affects rabbits of any age, unlike the original strain of RVHD which is very rarely seen in rabbits under the age of 8-10 weeks and can kill within hours of infection.

Mortality may vary on a case-by-case basis, and possibly depending on the breed.

It is believed the virus is passed by fleas and other parasites but little is known about it as it was only discovered in France in 2010.

It's recommended that new rabbits and bunnies be quarantined for two weeks before introducing them to others.

The GSPCA we has seen 323 rabbits so far in 2021.

Steve Byrne said the vast majority were 'incredibly ill' and the most common illness in recent weeks has been myxomatosis.

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