Rabbit Control Programme Starts Soon – Be on Bunny Watch

Owners of domestic rabbits are being encouraged to vaccinate their pet rabbit or take actions to keep them safe as a regional feral rabbit control program gets underway in northern Sydney.  In the Cove has been asked to find lost rabbits, so we know that there are rabbit owners in Lane Cove.

The aim of the program is to reduce feral rabbit numbers and their impacts. In urban environments, this is most effective using Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV-K5) to control wild rabbits. Rabbits are declared a pest animal in NSW as they compete with native animals and degrade Australian native animals, plants and Endangered Ecological Communities. They are also causing public nuisance and significant damage to playing fields, public parks and private property in northern Sydney.


We asked Dr Christopher Sun, the  Principal Veterinarian at Lane Cove Veterinary Hospital to tell us about the virus.

The Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) 1 K5 strain is a calicivrus and will be released by the Department of Primary Industries nationally in an effort to control exponentially sprawling pest rabbit populations throughout NSW and Australia. This is not the first the the virus has been released, with the last strain having been released in 1996. The scheduled release of the RHDV1 virus is the first week of March 2017.

There is no treatment for the disease, with severe fever, lethargy, seizures and death almost certain to result within 1 to 3 days. Exposure may be through contact with wild rabbits, contaminated grass, mosquitoes and cross-contamination of equipment such as cages.

It is strongly recommended that rabbits are kept inside or in an insect proof enclosure to reduce the risk of contracting either the RHDV1 virus or Myxomatosis, another deadly rabbit disease.

Thankfully, the current rabbit Cylap® vaccine is protective against RHDV1 and all rabbit owners should ensure that their pet is up to date with this vaccination. The Australian Veterinary Association now recommend rabbits are vaccinated every 6 months rather than yearly. Rabbit vaccinations are also recommended at 4 weeks of age with a booster in a month.

If you are unsure about the vaccination status of your bunny or are overdue for vaccination, please call Lane Cove Veterinary Hospital on 9428 1174 for more information.  

The Lane Cove Veterinary Hospital Team

Do you have a local issue you would like help with? ITC is here to help just email us at [email protected]