News & Media

Spring virus reminder for pet rabbit owners

Released on

Released on:
Thursday, 11. October 2018 - 13:30

Warmer spring weather and increased reports of outbreaks of rabbit biological control viruses has prompted a reminder to rabbit owners to take steps to protect their pets.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), or ‘calicivirus’, has been present in the landscape for more than 20 years, and several strains are now present in Australia, including the RHDV1-K5 strain released nationally last year to help control pest rabbits.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development research officer Susan Campbell said biological control provided a very important tool for suppressing pest rabbit numbers throughout the landscape, reducing the substantial impact pest rabbits had on both agricultural production and the environment.

“Despite outbreaks being more common in spring, owners of domestic rabbits should be mindful that RHDV or the myxoma virus is a risk at any time of the year,” Dr Campbell said.

“The department is reminding owners of domestic rabbits to be aware of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus and know how to protect their pet rabbits from infection.

“The virus is contagious and can be spread by direct contact or by insect vectors.

“We urge owners to contact their local veterinarian for advice on vaccination which covers all RHDV-type 1 strains, and to take additional precautions such as keeping rabbits in insect-proof enclosures or inside.”

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) website and the department’s RHDV web pages provide further advice on vaccinations and other protective measures.

The AVA website also provides information and advice on RHDV2 – an alternate strain of the disease which arrived unexpectedly in Australia and for which an effective vaccine is not available in Australia.

Land managers are encouraged to seek information on integrated rabbit control via the department and the PestSmart websites. 

Any further enquiries can be made to the department’s Pest and Disease Information Service on padis@dpird.wa.gov.au or 08 9368 3080.

Media contacts:  Jodie Thomson/Lisa Bertram, media liaison, +61 (0)8 9368 3937