Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (RCD) is one of the main causes of death in pet rabbits in Marlborough and all pet rabbits should be vaccinated against this.
RCD was introduced illegally into New Zealand in 1997 in a hope to control the wild rabbit population and it is now available legally as a product for rabbit control. Unfortunately it does not discriminate between wild rabbits and pet or farmed rabbits. RCD is highly contagious and the virus can travel some distance in moisture particles in the air. This is emphasised by the fact that we see cases of RCD in pet rabbits living in town that have no contact with the wild rabbit population. RCD has a very short incubation period of just 1-3 days and the death rate is close to 100%. For this reason the rabbit is usually found dead without showing any signs of prior illness. Occasionally a rabbit may be off colour for 1-2 days but unfortunately there is no treatment to stop progression to death.
The good news however is that the disease can be prevented by vaccination. The first injection is given once the rabbit reaches 12 weeks of age followed by a booster injection every year. If your pet rabbit has never been vaccinated or hasn't had yearly boosters please don't delay in making an appointment.
RCD is the only disease in New Zealand that rabbits need vaccinating against. Myxomatosis vaccine is commonly used overseas, but it is not needed in New Zealand as we are free of this disease.