The RSPCA is raising awareness of the importance of vaccinating rabbits after 25 domestic rabbits were rescued from a home in Kent after they all showed signs of a highly contagious disease called myxomatosis.
The charity was contacted by the owner who was struggling to cope with the disease outbreak amongst their rabbits. Inspector Tina Nash attended the property in Gillingham on Tuesday, 12 October and took the rabbits into the charity’s care to be assessed.
Myxomatosis is a highly infectious and fatal disease which can affect both domestic and wild rabbits. It is spread by fleas, mites and biting flies such as mosquitoes as well as direct contact between infected animals. The symptoms include lesions on the head or body, swelling around the lips, nose, eyes and ears, runny eyes and severe conjunctivitis which can lead to blindness.
Rabbits can be easily vaccinated from five weeks old to prevent them from getting this disease and the RSPCA always recommends that owners get their rabbits vaccinated. Sadly, these rabbits had not been vaccinated and had become very ill.
Inspector Tina Nash said: “After having one of the rabbits affected by this horrible disease, the owner realised that many of the others were likely infected as it is highly contagious. The owner knew they would need to be put to sleep but couldn’t afford the veterinary costs associated with this so contacted us for help. I first collected five of the rabbits who were extremely poorly and sadly these were put to sleep on veterinary advice to end their suffering. Then I collected 20 more rabbits and took them to the vets at RSPCA Mallydams Wildlife Centre to be assessed in the hope that we would be able to save some of these poor buns.
“Sadly, 11 have had to be put to sleep as they were extremely poorly with the disease but we managed to save nine of the rabbits, a mix of adults and babies who thankfully weren’t showing signs of symptoms.”
Tina is now caring for some of the rabbits at her home as they needed to be quarantined away from the others. She has been working round the clock to care for a female rabbit and her six babies and although they aren’t out of the woods just yet they are all doing well. Another two rabbits were being cared for by the staff at RSPCA Mallydams but sadly one of them also showed symptoms and has now died. The remaining adult male rabbit seems to be doing well and luckily hasn’t shown any signs of myxomatosis.
Once they’re ready the charity will look to rehome them.
Tina added: “The mum and babies have so far not shown any symptoms of myxomatosis which is a bit of a miracle considering how many of the poor rabbits contracted this highly infectious disease. We believe they were kept in a separate room so I’m hopeful they won’t become poorly. I am monitoring them closely but so far they are doing really well
“They are such sweet and lovely rabbits and I’m hopeful that they will pull through and we will be able to find loving homes for them.
“This is such a sad story and a situation which no one wants to be in. It shows why vaccinations are so important in protecting our pets from horrible illnesses like this.”
For more information visit: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/rabbits/health/vaccinations
To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit our website or call our donation line on 0300 123 8181.