Warning after killer rabbit disease is detected in Altrincham area for the first time

By David Prior at

A leading vet has warned rabbit owners in Altrincham to protect their bunnies from a deadly disease that’s been detected in the area for the first time.

Ian Hopkins, Principal Vet for the Willows Veterinary Group which owns Clarendon Veterinary Surgery in Altrincham, has joined forces with Rabbit Rescue North West to issue guidelines to pet owners about how they can minimise the chance of infection from a new strain of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD).

The fatal disease, which can be carried by all rabbits, both in the wild and domestic, is often symptomless and yet much-loved family bunnies can be dead within hours, having suffered haemorrhaging in major organs, particularly the liver.

Hopkins said: “We help our clients vaccinate their rabbits against two main diseases, myxomatosis and VHD. There is now a new strain of VHD which has come into the UK and we have evidence of at least one case in Cheshire which was discovered following a post-mortem at one of our other Willows practices.

“This means we are keen to encourage rabbit owners to remain vigilant and to follow basic hygiene guidelines which will help stop the disease from spreading.

Vet Ian Hopkins and Rabbit Rescue North West's Katy Collins with Lion Haired rabbit, Nala

Vet Ian Hopkins and Rabbit Rescue North West’s Katy Collins with Lion Haired rabbit, Nala

“It is a horrid disease and it is devastating for owners to see their loved pets suffer from it. While the current vaccines give some immunity, this new strain is proving largely resistant.

“There is another vaccine which is much more effective but it is currently out of stock because there have been outbreaks all over Europe which has meant the vaccine has been in high demand and UK vets are struggling to get hold of.”

He said there was much that rabbit owners could do to minimise the risks to their pet.

He added: “First and foremost we would ask rabbit owners to be vigilant and if you have any concerns at all, then take your rabbit to your vet for a check-up.

23/05/16 Knutsford Holly House Veterinary Surgery Vet, Ian Hopkins and founder of Rabbit Rescue North West Katy Collins with Lion Haired rabbit, Nala. with her! They are sending out a warning to rabbit owners about a new strain of VHD which is a fatal disease for rabbits. One strain can be vaccinated against but this new strain, which has recently been confirmed in Cheshire for the first time, is resistant to the normal vaccine.

Vet Ian Hopkins with Lion Haired rabbit Nala

“It is also important to keep your rabbit’s vaccinations up-to-date to protect them as much as you can.

“This air-borne disease is highly contagious and spreads very easily by direct contact between rabbits but also via indirect transfer from people, clothing, contaminated hutches and bedding as well as insects such as fleas and flies.

“It also comes down to good animal husbandry and hygiene so making sure you keep their hutches and living areas clean including their food and water bowls.”

Katy Collins, one of the founders of Rabbit Rescue North West, said: “We don’t want people to panic because we have only heard about a very small number of cases but with at least one confirmed for sure, we would urge people to keep a close eye on their pets and seek veterinary advice if they are worried at all about anything.”