Factsheet: Owners of pet rabbits
Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus K5 - Information for owners of pet rabbits
A new strain of the rabbit calicivirus called Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus, K5 (referred to as RHDV K5 or simply 'K5'), is likely to be released in spring 2016 or autumn 2017 to help land owners control pest rabbits.
Local veterinarians are the best source of advice on preventative measures rabbit owners can take to avoid pet or farmed rabbits from being infected. Owners of pet rabbits are advised to vaccinate their animals against the virus.
I have a pet rabbit, is there a vaccine available?
Yes. There is a vaccine (Cylap®) for prevention of RHDV1 that has been available in Australia since 1996. This vaccine has been shown to be effective against K5, provided that the correct vaccination protocols are followed. Talk to your vet for further information on vaccinating your pet rabbits, and other measures to prevent disease.
When should I vaccinate my rabbit?
The Australian Veterinary Association recommends vaccinating rabbits against RHDV1 at 10-12 weeks of age and then give an annual booster and health check. Occasionally in the face of an outbreak rabbits may be vaccinated earlier than 10 weeks of age in which case a booster is recommended 4 weeks later.
What is RHDV K5?
K5 is a variant of the strain of RHDV already used in Australia. K5 is not a new type of virus. There is a vaccine (Cylap®) for prevention of RHDV disease that has been available in Australia since 1996.
How effective is the vaccine?
Before registering K5 for use in wild rabbit control, a NSW Department of Primary Industries pilot study through the Invasive Animals CRC examined the vaccine for suitability in protecting domestic and production rabbits from K5. This experiment compared the mortality of a small number of vaccinated and unvaccinated rabbits that were subsequently infected with a high dose of K5.
All of the rabbits vaccinated with the currently available vaccine survived the infection with K5. None of the unvaccinated rabbits survived.
This experiment indicates that the currently registered vaccine will protect pet rabbits against RHDV K5.
More information is available at the Pestsmart website.