If you missed this year’s Bunfest event – held virtually last week, don’t despair. The speakers, who were amazing and very informative, were all recorded and the link is available free on the Bunfest website (sonomacountybunfest.com). Why are we providing the link for free? We feel that the information, especially about the emerging Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV2), is so important to get out there that we wouldn’t want anyone to be unable to access it because of the cost. In fact, we are encouraging everyone to share the hour-long talk and help get the information out to all bunny owners.
Dr. Anthony A. Pilny, from the Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital in Arizona, gave the talk on the RHDV2 disease and although chock full of charts and facts, he made it easy to understand and interesting. Although learning about this new virus is frightening – rabbits have a 70 percent mortality rate, hence the nickname “Bunny Ebola,” Dr. Pilny gives ways to prevent occurrences and strategies to help keep our rabbits healthy. He strongly promotes vaccinating against the disease, which sounds ideal, but it is expensive, fraught with ethical issues (it harms rabbits in the creation of the vaccine) and hard to come by. Sounds a bit like the COVID vaccines! The only clinic in Sonoma County that I have confirmed will be carrying the vaccine (they were still waiting for the shipment to arrive at press time) is East Petaluma Animal Hospital. If you are interested, you might have to call soon to get on the vaccine list.
Although the virus has not reached Northern California yet, it is headed our way and expected to reach our area by the end of the year if not sooner. It can affect the wild hares and is pretty much decimating some of the wild rabbit populations. The State Veterinarian is tracking this disease and so far it has been found in several counties in California, the closest being Kern. Since the RHDV2 virus is transmitted in so many ways – through biting insects, direct contact with virus (carried in on your shoes, for example), bunny to bunny contact, etc. The only real way to keep your bunny safe is to contain him strictly indoors and do not handle him until you have changed clothing and washed your hands. Pretty severe restrictions! I encourage you to get the full scoop by watching Dr. Pilny’s talk.
Anne Martin of the House Rabbit Society gave a presentation on “When to Take Your Rabbit to the Vet,” which gave tons of information and advice about how to recognize when your bunny is sick and when it is urgent to get them to the vet. One critical point that she stressed is that because rabbits are prey animals, they are super good at hiding signs of illness until it is too late. The take away is if you can tell your rabbit is not feeling well, it is already an emergency!! Check out the list she gives of supplies to have on hand for early treatment of some conditions and her tips on how to take a rabbit’s temperature. If we’re going to be good bunny parents it’s one of the things we should learn!
Marcy Berman of SaveABunny, gave a really great talk on “Selecting the Right Rabbit” and went over some bunny basics – always good to hear one more time. I don’t know about you but I tend to learn something new each time I hear a talk like this, and if you really are new to rabbits it’s really everything you need to know. Like a Bunny 101 crash course!
It’s springtime and we know rabbits are giving birth. If your rabbit surprised you with a litter, you happen upon some babies outside, or you are just interested in learning more about the rabbit birth cycle (and want to see some adorable baby bunny pictures) Dr. Hilary Stern’s talk on “The Care and Feeding of Orphaned and Baby Rabbits” is a must.
For a more lighthearted, short talk, watch Mark Hawthorne as he shares “10 Interesting Facts about Rabbits.” Mark spent the last two years doing research for his upcoming book “the Way of the Rabbit” and learned some interesting things along the way. All the speakers were excellent and we are very appreciative of their willingness to allow us to share their presentations after the fact. All can be found on the Bunfest website (sonomacountybunfest.com) so take advantage of our speakers’ generosity and learn a thing or two about rabbits. Then share.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.