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Rabbit owners told: Vaccinate them NOW

PUBLISHED: 15:11 08 October 2008 | UPDATED: 10:09 23 August 2010

A VET is urging rabbit owners to vaccinate their pets against the lethal virus Myxomatosis after warning of an epidemic in the borough. David Mason, a vet at the Shrubbery Centre, Perry Street, Northfleet, has seen between 20 to 30 cases of domestic rabb

A VET is urging rabbit owners to vaccinate their pets against the lethal virus Myxomatosis after warning of an epidemic in the borough.

David Mason, a vet at the Shrubbery Centre, Perry Street, Northfleet, has seen between 20 to 30 cases of domestic rabbits infected with the virus in the last two months.

At the same time last year there had been only one or two cases of infected pets brought into the practice. The virus, which is spread by mosquito and fleas, leads to a long, lingering death after infection.

Mr Mason said: "Anyone that owns a pet rabbit should get it vaccinated straight away because once the animal has the disease there is little chance of survival.

"There is a nationwide problem at the moment, with many more cases of rabbits infected with the virus compared to last year.

"In the Gravesend area we have seen a definite increase in the number of cases, with 20 to 30 cases over the last two months. I think it could be down to the number of marshes in the area, which attracts mosquitoes and midges, which carry the disease."

The virus causes terrible suffering in the rabbit, leading to swelling of the head and genitals, acute conjunctivitis and even blindness. Infected rabbits will lose appetite and develop a fever, taking them an average of 13 days to die.

Mr Mason added: "Some domestic rabbits are vaccinated against the disease, but some aren't and their owners just don't realise that domestic rabbits can catch it.

"Even if it is kept inside at all times it is still at risk. Fleas from dogs that may have been in the wild can be brought home and can pass on the disease."

The vaccination costs up to £30 and although it is not 100 per cent effective, more than half of vaccinated rabbits who become infected will survive.

ed.riley@archant.co.uk

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