The man was on the phone: he had just come from his back garden, where he found one of his three pet rabbits lying cold and dead in the hut.
The rabbit was completely normal the previous evening, eating hay and carrying a normal, active, friendly way. There was no sign of injuries: her body was not mentioned. What could have happened to her?
The two-year-old rabbit was a mother of her "rabbit family": it seemed that the normal "father", who was a two-year-old rabbit, and his young juvenile rabbit were 6 weeks d & # 39 age, the same, but he was worried about it.
As with other animals (and indeed people) there are many possible causes for sudden death. The only way to be sure of what happened is to make a complete autopath, and even then, sometimes it is difficult to find a positive reason.
I decided to carry the rabbit body to a veterinary laboratory to carry out a full and detailed post-mortem examination, and I asked the man to introduce his two other rabbits to see me immediately. It could take a few days for the complete report on the autopsy, and in the meantime, it was important to do everything possible to protect the other two words from the same result.
When I examined the other rabbits, there was little to be found: they were healthy, no problem. There was only one question: they were never vaccinated.
Pet rabbits should be vaccinated against two viral diseases: Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease. These vaccines should be given as young rabbits, followed by annual vaccination to ensure that they are always protected.
These diseases are caused by viruses, which means that there is no effective treatment if they develop the conditions. The body must try to verify the viruses with its own immune system. If a rabbit is not vaccinated, there is little chance of doing this: viruses infringe the rabbit's natural defenses. If, however, the vaccination is carried out, the body produces antibodies against the viruses, which means that the virus is neutralized before any damage is done if the rabbit is exposed to the real life disease.
At that early stage, it is not yet known why the rabbit's death, but I vaccinated the rabbits that live anyway. I explained to the owner that if the cause of either of these fatal viruses was that it would be too late to vaccinate. It takes up to a week to give a protection vaccine. Since the two rabbits were sharing a cage with the dead rabbit, if the cause of death was a virus, they were probably already exposed. There is a so-called "dietary period" of 2 – 3 days between exposure to virus and sickness symptoms. So there was a high risk that these two rabbits were already infected, in which case nothing could be done to stop the illness. Even vaccination should be vaccinated, as all pet rabbit should be vaccinated anyway, and the vaccines would protect them if they took out any virus later.
I sent the rabbits home with their owner with tough instructions to monitor them carefully, and to inform me whether there was any sign they were sick.
By that evening, the laboratory had issued the first report: the death of the rabbit was caused by the Haemorrhagic Viral Disease virus. It would take a few more days to fully isolate viruses, to see if this was the type 1 virus for a long time, or the new version of Type 2. I put this grim news on. I went to the rabbit owner and explained to him that many of his rabbits were at great risk. Nothing else could be done, and it was just the best thing to do. If they last for a week, there was a good chance that they would be fine, because the vaccine would start. But the next week will be a high risk.
The man was obviously very upset: his rabbits never left the walled garden, and there was no contact with any wild rabbits. How could they collect the virus?
I explained that the virus can live in the environment, as well as being passed on through direct contact between animals and animals, birds can be spread, with rodents, and even on people's feet. The virus is very severe and can survive for long months in the environment. It is almost impossible to protect pet rabbits from being exposed in this way, which is why it is important to vaccinate them.
The next day, the male found the adult male dead rabbit in the hut. Again, autopsy was organized, and it was no surprise when Viral Haemorrhagic Disease was confirmed. The results of the isolation of the virus, thus confirming the new change in the virus, VHD2, are rapidly spreading through the wild rabbit population and Irish hares.
Afterwards, the young rabbit went out of her food and we feared she could surrender. After a week of worry, she began to eat again, and is booming. Paradoxically, very young rabbits can deal with VHD easier than adults without a vác.
Rabbit owners: are your pets vaccinated against varieties VHD 1 and 2? If not, talk to your VET about: it is the only safe way.
People of Wicklow