Vets' warning as area hit by rabbit disease

A warning has been issued about a killer disease that is devastating the pet rabbit population in the Boston area.

One pet owner lost all 18 of his beloved rabbits to RHD2 (rabbit haemorrhagic disease strain 2), which is hitting animals across the country.

Marshlands Vets Practice in Boston says it has seen a dramatic increase in cases recently, with at least one a day being presented to them.

The disease is deadly and there is no cure – the only protection is to get your pet fully vaccinated, vets warn.

Inpatient nurse at Marshlands, Hayley Coope said: “We are seeing a case every day at the moment, which is a lot more than normal.

“It is known as ‘the silent killer’ as there are no warning signs. There is no treatment available, and death is the only outcome.”

She said the practice was now asking people to keep their rabbits in their car when they visit, and the vets will come out to vaccinate them, to minimise the risk of the disease spreading further.

Although rabbits were as well-loved as pets like cats and dogs, owners weren’t always as aware that vaccinations are equally important for them.

“You know if you have a cat or dog it needs vaccinating, but sometimes people don’t realise how important it is for rabbits,” said Hayley.

“People are losing their much-loved pets. We are seeing at least one case a day at the moment.”

“One man had 18 rabbits last week. Now, sadly, he has none. It’s very distressing for the owners.”

The disease was also believed to be having an impact on rabbits and hares in the wild.

Hayley said Boston had been a little slower than other parts of the country to see the impact of the nationwide pandemic, but it had reached the district about three or four weeks ago judging by the increase in cases they saw at that time.

“It is highly present in the Boston area now, and the only way to protect your rabbit is through vaccination,” she said.

Hayley urged anyone who had indoor or outdoor rabbits to make sure they were vaccinated as soon as possible.