The B.C. government is warning rabbit owners after two dead, feral rabbits were found to have a virus. (News Bulletin file)

The B.C. government is warning rabbit owners after two dead, feral rabbits were found to have a virus. (News Bulletin file)

Highly infectious rabbit virus returns to Vancouver Island

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease found

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is advising rabbit owners in the CRD to take precautions with their pets after two feral rabbits in Saanich died from a highly infectious virus.

Testing has confirmed the presence of rabbit hemorrhagic disease, caused by a calicivirus. This is the second year in a row the virus has been found in Island rabbits, although the source of the virus is unknown.

READ ALSO: Rascally rabbits destroy Vancouver Island lawns

The disease is lethal and highly infectious, exclusive to rabbits. Humans and other animals, including cats and dogs, cannot be infected.

The strain of the virus seen last year only affects European rabbits and is not known to affect native North American rabbits.

Pet owners are being asked to monitor their rabbits daily for signs of illness. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your rabbit shows signs of listlessness, lack of coordination, behaviour changes or trouble breathing, although most rabbits will die suddenly. Once infected, signs of illness occur quickly, usually within one to nine days.

READ ALSO: Sign forbidding rabbit drop-offs gets stuffed bunnies instead

While there is no threat to humans, rabbit owners should practice excellent hygiene when handling their animals as to avoid bringing home the virus.

Rabbit owners who want more information about how to keep their pets safe can consult with their veterinarian regarding vaccinations and review the SPCA fact sheet on rabbit hemorrhagic disease. Visit https://bit.ly/2m9E2zw.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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