HAMPSHIRE vets are urging rabbit owners to vaccinate their pets against a new strain of virus.

It comes after a new strain of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD), which is caused by a virus, has come into the knowledge of Hampshire-based Easicare vets.

The incurable virus that is mostly fatal has now sparked worry at the veterinary practice after the rise of a second strain of the virus.

Although the RHD virus has been present in the UK for years and is prevented by routine vaccination, the newer strain RHD-2, requires an additional vaccination to stop rabbits from catching the disease.

The new strain was first reported in 2015.

Now, Easicare vets have added this second vaccination to their standard rabbit health plan to give owners peace of mind.

The vet team have said that even if affected rabbits are brought in and given prompt supportive treatment, the chance of survival is slim.

However, they have also said that vaccinations are very effective at preventing infection.

The rapid signs of illness caused by RHD virus are hard to spot, and leaves the pets with internal bleeding, with rabbits suddenly appearing seriously unwell or possibly dead.

Other symptoms are not specific to the virus, and owners are urged to watch out for loss of appetite, fever, lethargy, nervous spasms, coma, or unexplained bleeding, which could be from the nose, bottom or other area.

The practice said that vaccinations are the only way to protect pets from the virus.

Easipetcare Southampton’s Head of Practice, Kirby Davis, said: “This disease can be devastating for pet owners who often find their beloved rabbits seriously unwell.

“There is no cure, which is why we’re passionate about including the preventative vaccine in our rabbit health plan, so there’s an affordable solution for rabbit owners.

“The team at the practice have worked hard raising awareness, and we are committed to helping owners in the area protect the health and welfare of their rabbits.”

She added: “When owners have experienced the unexplained sudden death of a rabbit we appreciate that it’s often a very difficult time, but encourage them to call us so we can advise on how to effectively clean the rabbit’s living space to ensure it is safe for other rabbits in the area, and prior to bringing a new rabbit into the home.”

If you are concerned about your rabbit being affected by RHD, contact Easipetcare Southampton on 023 8073 3000 or visit www.easipetcare.com.