This summer we have had several cases of sudden death in pet rabbits, often affecting more than one animal in a group which is understandably distressing for their owners.

One of these cases was found to be Myxomatosis, a viral infection that is found in wild rabbits in the UK and causes puffiness, swelling and blindness and is almost always fatal.

It can be spread by direct contact with affected animals or by things like fleas and flies so sometimes no contact is needed to spread the disease and even indoor rabbits can be affected. There is a vaccine available for rabbits that can protect them against the condition. It must be repeated annually to provide protection.

Several of the other deaths have been due to a fairly new viral infection in the UK called Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease. This comes in two forms in the UK and both can be fatal.

This virus kills rabbits very quickly and they often show no signs of disease. Sometimes they will have fits first.

This can be spread by direct contact and by flies and fleas. The virus can be found in droppings. Often there is no history of direct contact with wild rabbits in these cases.

One owner lost three rabbits in a week.

“To say that I and the children were devastated is an understatement. To lose one pet is awful but to lose three in six days is terrible, especially when two of them were just babies at nine months old.

"What was most distressing, apart from watching Peter Rabbit Jnr dying and being unable to help him, was the waiting to see if Benjamin would also succumb to this disease but not be able to do anything for him,” they said.

There are vaccines available that protect against both forms of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease and Myxomatosis, so hopefully we can stop these diseases from causing further local pet deaths and distress.

At Paragon we offer a vaccination course that covers Myxomatosis and the two types of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease by giving two injections two weeks apart. If you are interested, contact us on 01228 710208.

“I would urge every rabbit owner to ensure they vaccinate their pet(s) against this deadly disease, it is so contagious and also is spread so easily and invisibly - carried on the wind, by insects, by birds or on your clothes. I would like to say a huge thank you to Sam, Graham & Andrea who cared for us during this awful week and whose kindness & compassion made it a touch easier and will not be forgotten,” said the owner.

If you own rabbits and want to get them protected contact your local veterinary practice and they will be able to advise you on what is best.