Health Care

Vaccine against deadly rabbit virus arrives in BC from Europe

Vaccine against deadly rabbit virus arrives in BC from Europe”

An order for the vaccine was first placed by the B.C. government in March following the first reported cases on Vancouver Island.

TRACS was responsible for the humane trapping of more than 800 rabbits off the streets of Kelowna in 2008.

The first batch of vaccines to protect pet rabbits from rabbit haemorrhagic disease has arrived in British Columbia from Europe.

RHD is an extremely infectious and lethal disease that causes internal bleeding and organ damage in rabbits. There is a vaccine for rabbit hemorrhagic disease that isn't actually approved for use here, it requires emergency authorization from our government to use and it is back ordered from European suppliers.

The SPCA has ordered a series of protocols, including immediate quarantine of the so far healthy rabbits and animal shelter spokesperson Andrea McDonald said the vaccine (Filivac) that addresses RHDV2 will arrive this week.

Eyal Lichtmann, executive director and CEO of the Regional Animal Protection Society in Richmond, spoke to Postmedia earlier this month after the disease spread to rabbits in his group's care. The organization had ordered 70 vaccines but will now share those with another organization sheltering rabbits. "My staff was in tears watching these animals dying".

There are now nine rabbits at the Coquitlam shelter and McDonald said they can be hard to adopt out while others who acquire them as pets when they are small often get rid of them when they get big due to their high needs. They can also show a lack of coordination, changes in behaviour, or trouble breathing before death.

20 of the 27 were feral rabbits.

A release from the province states that there is often bleeding from the nose at the time of death. Once infected, signs of illness occur quickly, usually within one to nine days.

Rabbits that tested positive were received from the Comox, Courtenay, Delta, Nanaimo, Parksville and Richmond areas. Rabbits that tested negative were from Abbotsford, Maple Ridge, Mission, Surrey, Nanaimo, Parksville and Victoria.

Pet owners are being advised to watch their rabbits closely for signs of the infection.

Rabbit owners who want more information about how to keep their pets safe, can consult with their vet or review an SPCA factsheet online at There are now two sanctuaries currently running with close to 175 rabbits remaining.

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