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December 2023

Rabbit Vaccinations, Worming & Desexing: Everything you need to know

CareGeneral Advice

Taking care of your pet rabbit often comes back to the basics. This includes rabbit vaccinations, worming and desexing. You want to ensure your furry loved one is provided with not only the best comfort, but also the best protection. The facts around these three topics are often searched and not commonly known. So, for those who are looking for some extra support, keep reading.

Rabbit vaccinations

Just like other household pet, your rabbit should be vaccinated by a registered vet. Rabbit vaccinations will protect against the deadly calicivirus, which is highly contagious.
Your rabbit should be vaccinated at 10-12 weeks of age, with an annual booster after that. Currently, rabbits in New Zealand are vaccinated with either the Filavac vaccine to protect against rabbit calicivirus strain RHDV2 or the Cylap vaccine for calicivirus RVHDVI. Unfortunately, the Clyap vaccine does not protect against the RHDV2 strain. Both strains of this virus are deadly, so the greater the protection, the better.

How much do rabbit vaccinations cost?

As with most vaccinations, the price varies slightly between clinics, but you’re looking at around $80-$90 per vaccination. Please contact your local vet for more detailed pricing guides.

Do house rabbits need to be vaccinated?

This is a common question, and while keeping a rabbit indoors will reduce the exposure of rabbit calicivirus, indoor pet rabbits still need to be vaccinated as the virus can still be spread from contaminated clothing, shoes, feed, as well as fleas and mosquitos.

What is the calicivirus?

The rabbit calicivirus is a highly infectious and fatal disease which was illegally introduced to New Zealand to control wild pest rabbits. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just affect pest rabbits – it also threatens our pet rabbits. It spreads through direct contact like saliva, nasal secretions, faeces and urine. Or, if something is contaminated, it can be transferred through objects. It can also be spread through birds, fleas and mosquitoes.

What are the symptoms and treatment of calicivirus?

This is where it gets tricky. For most rabbits, there are little to no signs or symptoms of calicivirus, and unfortunately, they can die within 24 hours after infection. It’s a devastating virus.
Look out for the following symptoms:
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Bleeding from nose or genitals
  • Any perceived respiratory issues

If you notice any of the above symptoms, you should contact your vet. If your rabbit is found to have calicivirus, there is currently no form of treatment, and unfortunately, most rabbits do succumb to the virus. Prevention is key.

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Always speak to your local vet for more advice and information. Or you can visit one of our Petstock VET clinics in your local area.

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Rabbit worming

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Can rabbits get worms? Yes, they can. However, pet rabbits contracting worms is not common. If your rabbit frequents the same areas as other wildlife or your other pets, they are at slightly higher risk of contracting tapeworms. They might also contract pinworms or roundworm, in which treatment is readily available.

What kind of rabbit worming treatments are available?

You should visit your vet if you suspect your rabbit has contracted worms. A vet will be able to tailor the treatment and advice based on the type of worm contracted, and your rabbit’s symptoms.

How do I know if my rabbit has worms?

  • An increased appetite
  • Diarrhea (blood/mucus can also be present)
  • Weight loss
  • Dull coat
  • You may notice worms in your rabbit's droppings

Rabbit desexing

When it comes to desexing your rabbit, it’s highly recommended you take this step at around 4-6 months of age. Choosing to desex your rabbit will not only prevent pregnancy (which can occur from four months old) but also manage various health and behaviour issues.
Desexing your rabbit won’t change their personality; it can help to reduce the onset of many undesirable traits due to increased hormone levels. Ensuring your rabbit is desexed will also allow your (neutered) male and (spayed) female rabbits to live together comfortably.

Desexing aftercare for rabbits

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After your rabbit has been desexed, keep them warm, dry and regulate their temperature. This means they will most likely need to spend a few days indoors with you, post-operation.

Quick tips:

  • Provide your small family member with an igloo so they can hide away and to help them feel secure and comfortable.
  • Check your rabbit’s stitches regularly and keep a close eye on them to ensure they’re eating and drinking normally.
  • Offer your rabbit fresh food and water straight after you return home from the vet. If you notice your pet has stopped eating or has become lethargic, call your vet immediately.

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Want to know more about taking care of your rabbits? Take a look at our advice articles for your pet rabbit.