Rabbits dropping like flies

A rare disease is killing hundreds of feral rabbits in a Vancouver Island community, and pet owners are being advised to take steps to protect their animals.

British Columbia government veterinarians have confirmed that feral rabbits in Nanaimo are dying from an outbreak of rabbit haemorrhagic disease, a calicivirus that includes a fever, convulsions and kills a rabbit within 36 hours.

Wildlife veterinarian Helen Schwantje estimates more than 300 rabbits have died in recent weeks, with most of the deaths occurring near or at the Nanaimo campus of Vancouver Island University.

The government issued its warning last week after three rabbits sent to the Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford were determined to have died of the disease, which is exclusive to rabbits and does not affect cats, dogs, horses, other pets or humans.

The government says this is the third confirmed diagnosis of the virus in Canada.

Schwantje says owners of domestic rabbits should keep their pet areas clean.

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