Protecting your domestic rabbits from Calicivirus
As well as being locally released each year to control rabbit numbers, calicivirus is also naturalised in Tasmania, and outbreaks can happen at any time given the right conditions.
To minimise the risk to your rabbits
PAT: Protect - Avoid – Treat
Insects and rodents can be vectors
Insects and rodents can spread the virus from infected animals, to healthy animals.
Treat your rabbits regularly for fleas and ensure the conditions of their living environment minimises insects:
regularly clean enclosures to remove faeces and provide fresh, clean, dry bedding material
remove uneaten food daily
apply insect-proof netting to cages.
Insect-proof netting is available to protect rabbits from flies, fleas and mosquitoes. The netting will not only help prevent infection from calicivirus, but also from other insect-borne diseases.
If you have cats, treat them for fleas too as the rabbit flea can live for up to 3 days on the ears of a cat.
Regularly clean and decontaminate materials in contact with your rabbits
Calicivirus can survive in the environment for an extended period and can spread on contaminated objects like bedding, hay, food, bowls, water dispensers, clothing, cages and other equipment.
Regularly decontaminate equipment with a 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide solution (e.g. 100 ml bleach and 900 ml water, as recommended by the RSPCA).
Store hay in a vermin-proof environment for 12 months before using it as bedding. Hay sheds harbour mice, rats, cats and rabbits, so any hay sourced for bedding could be potentially contaminated.
Consider your hand and shoe hygiene before entering your rabbit’s enclosure. Remember that humans are vectors too! We can unknowingly spread the virus on our clothes, shoes and hands, especially if we have been in an area with wild rabbits (or other domestic rabbits).
Limit contact with other domestic rabbits
Calicivirus spreads readily between infected and non-infected rabbits through droppings, urine, secretions from the eyes and nose, or during mating. Avoid contact with rabbits from other premises, particularly if you can't guarantee that they are healthy, virus-free and don't have fleas.
Quarantine new animals
Because the animals are new to you, you don’t know their exposure risk or health status. Quarantine new animals in a separate enclosure for 10 days before allowing them to be in contact with your stock.
Avoid exposure to wild rabbits
Wild rabbits are likely carriers of calicivirus, so try to prevent wild rabbits from entering your property, or areas where domestic rabbits are housed.
Use rabbit-proof fencing, and/or control measures such as baiting, warren destruction or removing vegetation that might harbour wild rabbit populations (see Control Techniques
for more information).
A vaccine (Cylap®) is widely available to protect your rabbit(s) from the existing RHDV1-K5 virus that is released annually. For more information on how to vaccinate your rabbits against RHDV1 viruses (including K5), contact your local vet or the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) .
There is not a specific vaccination for RHDV2 approved for use in Australia.