Rabies is every pet owner's worst nightmare. Outbreaks periodically occur throughout the country and all mammals are at risk for contracting the disease, including humans. As a responsible bunny owner, you need to know how to protect your bunny from the virus, as well as recognize the signs and symptoms that your pet will display if he does become infected.
Bunnies and Rabies
Your pet bunny is a warm-blooded mammal, which means it is possible for him to become infected with the rabies virus. Rabies is transmitted when one animal bites another and the infected saliva comes into contact with the body fluids of the uninfected animal. Bunnies and rabbits are statistically considered by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be at a very low risk for contracting rabies compared to animals such as cats, dogs, ferrets, skunks and raccoons.
Protecting Your Bunny from Rabies
The rabies vaccination is used to protect dogs, cats, ferrets and livestock from the virus, but there is no approved rabies vaccine available for bunnies. Because there is no vaccine available, you need to protect your bunny from possible exposure to potentially rabid animals. Keeping your bunny inside greatly reduces his risk of exposure to rabid animals. Make sure all of your household pets who can be vaccinated are kept current on their vaccinations. If your bunny is housed outside, make sure his enclosure is secured. Take measures to keep animals such as raccoons and skunks out of the area by keeping your trash contained and avoid leaving pet food and other temptations out where wild animals can access them.
One of the reasons rabies rarely occurs in bunnies is that a bunny does not have much of a chance of surviving being attacked by a larger, rabid predator. In the event that your bunny has survived an attack from an animal you believe might be rabid, handle your bunny very carefully as you transport him to the veterinarian. The incubation period for rabies varies greatly depending on the type of animal and the severity of the wound as well as the location. You cannot test an animal for rabies while it is still alive, so your veterinarian will likely quarantine your bunny for a length of time between 10 days and 6 months in order to be certain he shows no signs of the disease.
Rabies Symptoms in Bunnies
Bunnies affected with the rabies virus will exhibit behavioral changes. Clinical symptoms include lethargy, sensitivity to light, anorexia, listlessness, paralysis, tremors, seizures, difficulty chewing and difficulty swallowing. Your bunny may also become reclusive, aggressive or simply begin behaving strangely. If you suspect your bunny may have rabies, immediately contact your veterinarian or your local animal control agency. Rabid animals are humanely euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease and limit the animal's suffering. Rabies is always fatal.
Easter bunny. image by B.Stefanov from Fotolia.com
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.