During this year's Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) rabbit owners are being encouraged to vaccinate against a deadly rabbit disease that is sweeping across the UK.

Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease 2 (RVHD2) is highly infectious, with little or no symptoms, and causes sudden death in rabbits by internal bleeding.

Vaccination is the most effective way to protect rabbits against RVHD2 and other diseases but only 14% of pet rabbits are vaccinated against the disease.

Dr Suzanne Moyes MVB MRCVS, technical director at Burgess Pet Care, who leads the campaign, said:

“Rabbits are at risk from a variety of deadly diseases, including myxomatosis, rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease and rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease 2.

"Whilst these diseases are deadly, they are preventable with the correct vaccinations: a joint vaccination for RVHD/ myxomatosis and a separate vaccination for RVHD2. Without these vaccinations, rabbit owners are putting their pets’ lives at risk. We are urging all rabbit owners to make sure their pet rabbits are vaccinated for Rabbit Awareness Week.”

June 1–9 is Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW), an annual campaign raising awareness around the welfare needs of pet rabbits in the UK and Ireland.

Research from the latest PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report found that there are 1million pet rabbits in the UK but only 34% of these are registered with a vet.

As a prey species, rabbits are particularly good at hiding signs of illness, so regular visits to the vet and health checks are essential to keep rabbits healthy and happy.

PDSA Vet Nurse Kristiana Shirley said: “Vaccinations are absolutely essential to protect rabbits against devastating diseases. Findings from our 2018 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report revealed that the main reasons rabbit owners didn’t vaccinate their rabbits were that their bunnies didn’t come into contact with other animals; they don’t think it’s necessary or that it’s too expensive.

“We want to spread the message that all unvaccinated bunnies are at risk from diseases like RVHD-2, even if their rabbit doesn’t come into contact with other animals or wildlife. Infections can be carried on owners’ shoes or clothes, with other pets, and even via insects. Luckily a simple vaccination can keep your rabbits safe. It’s worth the small cost to prevent heartbreak.”

The PDSA PAW Report also found that 54% of pet rabbits in the UK live alone, but professional advice suggests rabbits should be kept with at least one other suitable rabbit companion.

The same report found 28% of pet rabbits live in a hutch or cage that is too small and 20% of pet rabbits are still being fed muesli, despite research showing a link between muesli diets and the development of fatal health issues.

Veterinary practices, rescue centres, pet shop retailers and schools are holding a variety of events throughout the week of RAW to help educate rabbit owners around the welfare needs of their pets.