We were honored to participate in yesterday’s RHD Talk with Dr Frances Harcourt-Brown. Dr Brown has been a world renowned expert in rabbit medicine for over 20 years. Though she has retired, she is still passionately involved in educating vets around the world about rabbit medicine and surgery.
Dr Brown shared her extensive experience battling RHD in UK as well as globally. Infected rabbits often experience ‘sudden death’ where they would be seen happily eating and the next moment, collapse and die. It is a traumatizing disease with no cure.
An impactful case study she shared was of a group of 6 rabbits living together. One of them passed away suddenly and upon post mortem, tested positive for RHDV2. All but 2 passed away within days. One of the survivors had other known health issues and no one knew how he made it through.
RHDV2 is traveling fast and furious across the regions. There is active outbreak in Australia, Canada, USA, UK and recently, China. With this virus in Singapore, we are quite certain there will be a wider spread. With all our rabbit food imported, Dr Brown cautioned all owners to stay vigilant.
Dr Brown advocates vaccination for all rabbits. When asked about rabbits who are senior or chronically ill, her response was a firm yes. They are most proned to succumbing to RHD and based on her experience with ‘tried and tested’ vaccines like Filavac, she is confident the vaccine is safe for all rabbits.
When asked about the ethical concerns with using a killed vaccine, Dr Brown shared her personal struggle as well. As a vegetarian, she is very much aware of the sacrifices that has to be made to manufacture the vaccine. However, there is currently no alternative. As a vet as well as a rabbit owner, she chose to be responsible and vaccinate her rabbits.
When asked about the situation in Singapore, Dr Brown informed that the lack of wild rabbit population would mean that the spread of RHD may be easier controlled. She recommends owners to vaccinate to protect their rabbits for 12 months. Subsequently, owners can discuss with their vet about re-vaccinating depending on the outbreak.
The session was facilitated by Dr Cathy Chan, a highly-regarded vet and the Vice President of the Singapore Veterinarian Association. Dr Chan first-handedly experienced RHD. Her team did their best but when battling a disease without a cure, the outcome is bleak. It was a testing experience for her team, both emotionally and physically.
As owners, we feel the fear and trauma from the recent RHD outbreak in our country. Bunny Wonderland has chosen to responsibly vaccinate all of our rabbits to protect them. We should never take it for granted that our rabbits will always be fine. No matter how careful you are, the risk is still there. There is no other solution other than vaccination.
(Images captured from SVA RHD Talk on October 10 2020)