Rabbit calicivirus (RCV) causes a fatal hemorrhagic disease in European rabbits. In Australia, it has decreased the wild population by ≈95% in some areas. Because there is no known treatment and the disease is fatal, it is important to vaccinate pet rabbits. However, because of concerns about potential adverse events, rabbit owners are often hesitant to comply. Published research about RCV pet rabbit vaccination is scarce.
In this retrospective study, the medical records of 9 veterinary hospitals that vaccinated rabbits over a 2-year period were reviewed for cases of RCV vaccine reactions. Review identified 933 vaccination events in 705 rabbits. Adverse events were documented in 17/933 vaccinations, all in different rabbits. The most common (13/17) was irritation (eg, abrasions, scabs, hair loss) at the injection site. Four rabbits were described as having inappetence, GI tract stasis, lethargy, or forelimb lameness. No rabbits died. Side effects were less likely to occur in older rabbits.
Overall, incidence of adverse reactions to vaccination was low (1.8%). The authors concluded that because observed adverse reactions to vaccination were infrequent and generally self-limiting, RCV vaccination benefits outweigh the risks.