A virus that can kill rabbits within 48 hours has arrived in the UK, says a veterinarian.
Viral haemorrhagic disease, known as VHD, is a highly contagious virus for pets.
Some infected rabbits show no symptoms, while others stop eating or suffer from cramps, Derbyshire Live reports.
The virus only affects rabbits, whether pets or wild animals, and animals that suffer from it bleed from the nose, mouth and rectum.
The Star Vet Clinic at Appleby Magna, Derbyshire, said it had registered the first cases of the disease and issued a warning to pet owners.
Owners are encouraged to pet their pets for vaccination to prevent pets from getting the disease, as there is no cure if a rabbit has it.
A spokesperson for the Star Vet Clinic said, "Unfortunately, we had our first cases of hemorrhagic viral disease in practice, it's in the area.
"If your rabbits are not vaccinated, please call the clinic and have them checked in, as this disease is very contagious and often fatal.
"For those already vaccinating their rabbits, note that the current VHD strain is not covered by the previous VHD vaccine, so you'll need to update the RHD2 to cover this disease.
"Please call the clinic to make an appointment to update your rabbits' vaccination status if necessary."
According to the House Rabbit Society, symptoms of VHD can occur:
- Loss of appetite
- High fever
- Sudden death
The company says that although there are symptoms, the VHD has been described as a very quick and sudden killer that is only a slight warning.
The incubation period of this disease is very short, and rabbits can die within 48 hours of contact with the virus causing VHD.
The mortality rate of rabbits exposed to this virus is very high at 50 to 100 percent, the latter probably closer to the actual mortality rate.
Rabbits that survive this disease are carriers and may pass the virus on for at least 42 days, possibly longer
There is no known cure for VHD. Vaccinations are available in countries where the disease is endemic.
VHD is spread through the contact of a rabbit with inanimate objects contaminated by the virus, such as clothing, shoes, and car and truck tires.
Any rabbit that has contact with infected rabbits or their faeces, fur or flesh can become infected.
It is known that insects, birds and animals such as rodents spread the virus by acting as indirect hosts. For example, you can transport the disease from an infected rabbit to an unaffected rabbit.
Humans can also spread the virus to their rabbits after they have come into contact with infected rabbits or have come into contact with contaminated objects, including fecal matter of an infected rabbit.
For more information, see rabbit.org/care/vhd.html
How to protect your rabbits
Rabbits should be kept in the house and owners should wash their hands before and after handling their pets. Clothes should be washed twice in hot water before you wear them around your rabbit.
Anyone volunteering at an animal shelter should wear plastic bags over the shoes, which are secured with a rubber band, and do not touch the outside of the bag.
There should also be a no-shoes policy at home and any contaminated shoes should be disinfected.
Owners should know what sources of hay and forage they have and if they are near outbreaks.
New rabbits should be quarantined for five days.