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Recently we’ve been told that the National Parks and Wildlife Service will be releasing rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (calicivirus) in Lane Cove, Ku-ring-gai Chase and Garigal national parks next week. Other Northern Sydney locations will be considered for release of the virus in the future. This is an extremely contagious and often fatal disease of rabbits with the mortality rate being as high as 90% of those affected.

Rabbits can acquire this disease through direct contact with the baits as well as through exposure to an infected rabbit or a rabbit that has died from the disease. As well as this, calicivirus can be spread on contaminated food, bedding, and water. Transmission over short distances by biting insects, birds, rodents, wild animals, or vehicles may be possible. Unfortunately rabbits die suddenly after a brief period of lethargy and fever when infected with calicivirus. There is no effective treatment once a rabbit is infected with this disease. Luckily we are able to vaccinate rabbits for calicivirus. We strongly recommend that all owned rabbits be vaccinated as soon as possible. This can be repeated annually if necessary. Please contact your vet if any further information is required.

Whilst we’re talking about rabbits its also important to ensure your feeding your rabbit as well as possible. Its important to offer pet rabbits a diet of grass hay, fresh vegetables and pellets. The biggest mistake people make when feeding rabbits is overfeeding high calorie and high starch foods such as commercial pellets and grains and underfeeding high fibre foods such as hay and greens. This pattern of feeding can lead to obesity and gastrointestinal disease. The most important part of the house rabbit diet is an unlimited supply of hay. Provide grass hay (e.g. timothy, orchard hay) and not legume hay (e.g. alfalfa/lucerne, clover).

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