RABBITS are in danger of contracting a highly infectious viral disease as vaccination figures fall in the UK.

The organisers of Rabbit Awareness Week, the UK’s largest welfare campaign for rabbits, are urging rabbit owners to get their rabbits vaccinated against the deadly rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (RVHD2) following a significant drop in vaccinations due the coronavirus pandemic.

RVHD2 is a highly infectious diseases with little or no symptoms and causes sudden death in rabbits through internal bleeding.

Cases of RVHD2 were first reported in the UK in 2013 but the disease has now reached pandemic proportions, spreading as far to the United States and other parts of the world.

Outbreaks of RVHD2 have been reported in all UK and Ireland regions, and the highly infectious nature of the disease means no area is safe.

Vaccinations are the safest and most effective way of protecting rabbits against the disease, but new figures have revealed that one in five rabbits that get routinely vaccinated have not had their vaccines yet due to COVID-19.

According to the latest PDSA PAW Report, there are 900,000 pet rabbits in the UK. The latest sales figures RVHD2 vaccines suggest that less than 20 per cent of these rabbits are protected against RVHD2.

Rabbits need regular vaccinations to keep them protected against RVHD2, as well as other diseases such as the original RVHD strain and myxomatosis.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has made accessing vaccinations more difficult, but veterinary professionals believe they’re an imperative measure for owners to take in order to keep rabbits safe.

Dr Richard Saunders, veterinary advisor at the Rabbit Welfare Association & Fund, said: “It’s a difficult time for vets, owners and rabbits, right now, with COVID 19 adding some key challenges in terms of minimising physical contact between clients and vet practices.

"However, it’s still incredibly important that pets are vaccinated to protect against deadly diseases that might otherwise kill them.

"There's no robust evidence to suggest that rabbit vaccines remain effective after 12 months so we therefore strongly urge owners and vets to make sure that rabbit vaccine boosters are given as close to every 12 months as possible, and that unvaccinated rabbits, whether young or old, start their vaccine courses as soon as possible.

“Take your vet’s advice on what combination of vaccines are required, as the situation varies depending on their previous vaccine history but ensure that they are covered against Myxomatosis and Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Diseases 1 and 2.

"Owners also need to remember that these diseases are both fatal and, due to the wild rabbit population, are prevalent throughout the UK."