RABBIT owners are being urged to check their pets after a shortage of a vital vaccine could increase the risk of the deadly disease myxomatosis.
Gilmore Veterinary Surgery in Standish, Lancashire, has warned residents to contact their local practice as soon as possible if a vaccination is needed after it was confirmed there is a major shortage of the life-saving dose.
Myxomatosis is a distressing disease which can condemn rabbits to a long, drawn out death.
Rabbits’ eyes swell up so they can’t see and they end up blind, they also become hypothermic. Other symptoms include swelling, difficulties in breathing and discharge from nose and eyes.
It can also take up to two weeks for the animal to die and there is no known cure.
But despite lack of the vaccine, staff promised to try and help make arrangements for all owners.
It tends to be mainly wild rabbits and as they die from the disease, the numbers fall. Then when the population grows again, the disease comes back with a vengenceVet George Reitze
It has, controversially, been deliberateley introduced among wild rabbits in the past to effect a cull.
Vet George Reitze of Gilmore’s said: “Myxomatosis is usually contracted from rabbits being bitten by fleas or mosquitos.
“Thankfully this season there is a lower risk as there aren’t as many insects so you see a drop in the numbers of those rabbits diagnosed.
“You tend to see cases of the disease come in waves.
“There’s usually a spike of those diagnosed every three years and then it goes away.
“It tends to be mainly wild rabbits and as they die from the disease, the numbers fall. Then when the population grows again, the disease comes back with a vengence.
“Due to the shortage of the vaccine we have unfortunately run out but are due some in towards the end of November.
“However we will strive to do our best for those rabbit owners who knows their pet is due a vaccine.
“We really want to warn owners the importance about this deadly disease and to get the message out there that vaccination is vital.
“And not only does the vaccine protect against myxomatosis but is also protects against the highly contageous Rabbit Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD).
“People need to get in touch with their local practice to see if there is any vaccines in stock in order to stop the heartbreak of losing their pets in such horrific circumstances.
“This vaccine is in very limited supply, but there is no alternative vaccine available.
“It’s essential that rabbit owners pre-book for these appointments to ensure we have the vaccine available.
“If there are a number of pets needing the dose we will treat accordingly.”
Vaccines usually come in single dose vials, but due to the national shortage the manufacturers are having to import the vaccine from France.
Both myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease are viral illnesses which can be spread by insect bites.
It’s estimated there are 1.3 million rabbits kept as pets in the U.K. and levels of rabbit ownership are increasing.