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A vaccine against myxomatosis and RHD: a step forward for rabbit health
  1. Anna Meredith, MA, VetMB, CertLAS, DZooMed, MRCVS
  1. Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG
  1. E-mail for correspondence annam{at}

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RABBITS really should not come under the label of ‘exotic’ pets any more; they are firmly established as a mainstream companion animal and make up a significant part of most small animal practices' patients. Latest figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association (PFMA) and PDSA surveys suggest that there are 1 million to 1.6 million pet rabbits in the UK (PFMA 2010, PDSA and YouGov 2011). Combine that with an estimated 40 million UK wild rabbits ( and the risk of infectious diseases spreading between and among domestic and wild rabbits is understandably high.

However, despite their growing popularity and a shift away from rabbits being a child's pet to having a more central role in a family or adult owner situation, there are still major issues with rabbit health and welfare. The 2011 survey by the PDSA revealed that the vast majority of pet rabbits are not provided with an adequate diet, environment and exercise, or the company of another rabbit, and that 64 per cent are not neutered. When it comes to infectious diseases, 54 per cent of pet rabbits have never been vaccinated and 62 per cent of those that are do not have regular boosters (PDSA and YouGov 2011). So we still have a long way to go, but awareness is rising and many organisations and events are involved in highlighting and promoting rabbit health and welfare, such as the Rabbit Welfare Association, …

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