An annual vaccination is essential to protect pet rabbits against the highly fatal calicivirus which causes a haemorrhagic viral disease. Calicivirus is prevalent in the Australian wild rabbit population and is an approved population control strategy.
Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (or Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus) is a life-threatening disease which can affect a rabbit within 12-18 hours of transmission. It is a virus with a high mortality rate and nearly 100% of rabbits die from the disease. There are a number of forms of calicivirus present in Australia. In the last few years there has been a change in the viral landscape of Australia due to the presence of the K5 and RHDV2 strains throughout Australia.
For further information on the current state of calicivirus in Australia please see our news posts on:
For baby rabbits, the first vaccination can be administered as early as 4 weeks of age, followed by a series of 1-2 boosters every 2-4 weeks. For rabbits older than 10 weeks, an initial course of 2 boosters 2-4 weeks apart is required. After this initial course an annual booster is required for the lifespan of the individual rabbit.
Please note that breeding adult rabbits are advised to have boosters every 6 months as per AVA recommendations. Melbourne Rabbit Clinic is not currently recommending universal 6 monthly vaccinations for non-breeding rabbits. This is due to the large proportion of our patients who have underlying chronic illnesses which may be exacerbated by more frequent compromise of the immune system secondary to vaccination. As yet there is no evidence that six monthly vaccinations provide more protection to non-breeding adult rabbits. If you have any concerns about your rabbit’s vaccination schedule please speak to one of our vets for more information on the risks of vaccinating more or less frequently.
Unfortunately the use of a vaccination against Myxomatosis is not available in Australia. Owners are reliant on insect control and mosquito-proofing the rabbit’s environment or confining rabbits inside to avoid mosquitoes which spread this deadly virus.
There are no vaccinations necessary for guinea pigs.
Is a vaccination reaction possible?
A small number of rabbits can experience a small skin reaction after a vaccination. This is due to the carrier part of the vaccination causing irritation and tissue damage. In most cases this irritation causes a small scab and some hair loss. This usually resolves after two weeks. In very rare cases, tissue damage can be more extensive, or rabbits may stop eating. If you are at all concerned please do not hesitate to contact us.
To prevent the above reactions we routinely change the needle after drawing up the vaccination, and massage the area after injection for one minute. We do ask if you keep your rabbit confined for 24 hours after the vaccination, particularly if they are prone to reactions. This decrease in activity helps to decrease tissue reaction. If it is a particularly hot day we may also reschedule your vaccination if we feel your rabbit is at risk of a reaction, as heat stress has been found to increase the likelihood of this.