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Vaccination of rabbits and ferrets

Ratification Date: 08 Jul 2011

Policy

Vaccination of pet rabbits against rabbit caliciviral disease and ferrets against distemper is recommended.

Background

Rabbit calicivirus disease occurs in wild and domestic European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in Australia causing acute haemorrhage and sudden death. The virus was prematurely released in Australia in 1995. A short time later a vaccine became available for use in pet and farmed rabbits.1

Myxomatosis occurs in Australia, however a vaccine is not available or allowed to be used in Australia because of the risk of the vaccinate strain entering the wild rabbit population and stimulating immunity.

Distemper occurs in ferrets. Distemper is also known to exist in Australia, therefore the ferret population can be considered to be at risk.7 No specific monovalent vaccine for ferrets is available in Australia. Consequently polyvalent canine vaccines are used.

Guidelines

Rabbit Calicivirus vaccine
  1. Cylap RCD™ vaccine3
    1. Dose – 1 ml
    2. Frequency
      1. 6-12 weeks of age – two doses 4 weeks apart and repeat annually
      2. Over 12 weeks – single dose and repeat annually
    3. Site
      1. Subcutaneous injection

Canine distemper vaccine for ferrets

  1. Dose
    1. One quarter to one sixth of the canine dose which will vary with manufacturer of vaccine.
  2. Frequency
    1. 6-12 weeks of age – two doses 4 weeks apart and repeat annually
    2. Over 12 weeks of age – single dose and repeat annually
  3. Site
    1. Subcutaneous injection

Veterinarians should follow the manufacturers’ guidelines and contact them on off-label use. Clients should be made aware of the “off label” use of canine vaccines in ferrets.

Note: Keeping of rabbits and ferrets in Queensland is illegal.

References

  1. CSIRO. Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (RCD) http://www.csiro.au/files/files/plep.pdf. 2010. Accessed 23 March 2010.
  2. The American Ferret Association. AFA Ferret (Mustela putorius furo) Vaccination Policy. 2006. http://www.ferret.org/read/vaccinations.html. Accessed 23 March 2010.
  3. Pfizer Animal Health. Product description/insert for Cylap RCD vaccine.
  4. Pfizer Animal Health (acquired from CSL). Technical Update. Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Vaccination of ferrets with Canvac 3.
  5. Boehringer- Ingelheim http://www.boehringer-ingelheim.com.
  6. Virbac  www.virbac.com.au.
  7. Norris, JM, Krockenberger, MB, Baird, AA, Knudsen, G. Canine distemper: re-emergence of an old enemy. Australian Veterinary Journal, 84(10):362-636.

Date of ratification by AVA Board: 8 July 2011