Eight months ago we decided to vaccinate our rabbits against pastuerella using the Pan American Veterniary Lab product BunnyVac. This was a controversial move for a few reasons:
- Snuffles is the Boogie Man of the rabbit world and people don’t like to talk about it for fear of getting a “bad” reputation so there’s not a lot of information about it;
- We hadn’t seen any cases of snuffles in our own herd to prompt the decision;
- Our goal is to have an organic meat source and vaccinations are, ahem, not organic.
On the “pro” side for vaccination:
- Pastuerella is highly contagious and can wipe out every rabbit in your herd quickly if it is contracted;
- We enjoy traveling to shows and every time you go to a show you expose your rabbit(s) to germs and stress;
- The cost is about $1 per rabbit per year, certainly not something that we would have to bust our piggy bank open to afford;
- There’s something to be said for peace of mind and doing your best to protect your livestock.
After a lot of consideration of the options and possible outcomes, we decided to go ahead and vaccinate. It’s been long enough now that it seems safe to give you an report of what we’ve observed since then:
We vaccinated all of our adult rabbits and show rabbits. We do not typically vaccinate a young junior rabbit unless it will leave our rabbitry and go to a show. We have not seen any signs of snot in our own rabbitry at all. Zero. (We hadn’t seen it prior to vaccination, either.) One rabbit sneezed a few times in the day after we vaccinated which is a stated possible side effect. Since then, any sneezes have had normal causes – things like water or feed fines up their noses or in response to crazy winds (we get wind gusts up to 40 mph fairly regularly around here).
We sent some rabbits to the county fair that had not been vaccinated. From the fair they were purchased and headed to a new home several hours away with an indoor rabbitry set up. Two of those rabbits started snotting within 48 hours. The new owner dispatched them immediately, suspecting Pasteurella. The new owner did not send off for a culture of the snot to determine exactly what was going on with the rabbits, but we both suspect they were exposed to snuffles at the fair from other rabbits, were stressed from being in a hot barn with hundreds of people walking by each day, followed by a journey to an entirely new environment (that had a Haboob dust storm that same day, of all the luck!). Getting snot cultured is quite a chore – this link tells how one person in California is able to culture any possible sickness in their rabbitry: HOW CAN YOU TELL? We did not see any signs of snot from other rabbits that were at the fair – but those rabbits had been vaccinated.
If we had not vaccinated, would all of our fair rabbits exhibited symptoms? We just can’t say. But I do find it compelling that the rabbits were side by side and the unvaccinated fell sick and the vaccinated did not.*
Many of our rabbits developed a small, hard lump at the injection site. That lump has disappeared over time and is the only physical change we have seen in our rabbits. (No personality changes, either!)
We continue to watch carefully. Very carefully! We have been at shows were rabbits are disqualified for exhibiting snot on the show table; I am absolutely certain our rabbits have been exposed to this disease. However, we haven’t contracted it to the best of our knowledge as all our rabbits are happy, healthy and wise! For about $1 per rabbit per year we think it’s a great insurance policy.
The previous posts I’ve written on this continue to be very popular in the website statistics, so I know there are people trying to find out about BunnyVac and whether it works. In light of providing information, for your convenience here is a compiled list of Questions from around the web, mostly from the Rabbit Pasteurella Vaccine Forum on Facebook.
I did not author these answers, cannot personally vouch for them and cannot be held liable for any action/inaction you take based on the responses. This is simply a list of questions and answers I have seen in discussions, cut and pasted into one location to make your search for knowledge a bit easier. The majority of the answers are direct cuts from Facebook responses to the questions from PanAm Lab’s Bob Glass (who developed the BunnyVac vaccine).
I don’t personally know Bob Glass or have any stake in Pan American Veterinarian Lab. I am not encouraging you to use the BunnyVac in your own herd, but am hopeful that this post provides some information for you to make the best informed decision that fits your management style. I receive no compensation in any way for this post.
Should I give the shot in the muscle or under the skin? Under the skin
What size needle/syringe should be used with BunnyVac? To each to his own, but try a 25 gauge, 3cc syringe. Some use as large as 20 gauge and some as small as 35 gauge. Size doesn’t matter for the vaccine, the rabbits prefer a smaller needle.
Is there any time of year that is better than others to vaccinate, or does it not really matter? The best time is “AS SOON AS POSSIBLE”; season does not matter.
If a vaccinated rabbit gets exposed, what happens? Nothing? Nothing will happen in the vaccinated rabbit that responds to the vaccine by producing good antibody levels. In our clinical trial we had no vaccinated rabbits that developed clinical disease but it would be wrong to claim it will “never” happen.
Can I have a complete ingredients list please? Killed Pasteurella multocida, saline, and formalin (preservative), aluminum hydroxide adjuvant.
Is it okay to use the same needle over and over while vaccinating the rabbits? No. The ideal is to use a new sterile syringe and needle for each rabbit. this gives the best protection against causing and/or infection. A reused needle/syringe or one used on multiple rabbits is possibly infected and can infect each rabbit on which it is used.
Is a vaccinated rabbit still safe for human consumption? Yes, rabbits vaccinated with BunnyVac are safe to eat after a 21 day withdrawal period.
What is the youngest a rabbit can be vaccinated with BunnyVac? 6 weeks is the youngest. Earlier than that the immune system is not fully functional.
Can you give this vaccine at the same time as you are giving an antibiotic? No problem giving the vaccine with antibiotics.
If you did the first shot, and missed the date for the booster, should you redo both shots? You do not need to repeat the initial dose, just give the booster now.
In the multi dose vials – do all doses need to be used in one round, if a sterile syringe is introduced each time; or can I use 10 doses, and then use the other 10 for my booster in 30 days? While it is ideal to use all when the vial is first opened, the vaccine will be ok as long as it is not contaminated. Using an alcohol wipe to clean the vial top before and after withdrawing vaccine will help to maintain sterility.
How soon after vaccination can I breed my doe? Immediately, no need to wait.
Is it safe to vaccinate a pregnant doe? We have not seen any problems in pregnant does but, to be safe, don’t vaccinate anything that is more than 14 days after breeding.
Is it safe to give a nursing doe a booster? The booster will not hurt nursing does.
My experience reading Facebook rabbit forums has found Bob Glass to be extremely approachable and willing to answer questions and educate others about the disease, vaccine, and treatment. He recently posted (January 2014) that he is working on a test to detect Pasteurella in the nasal exudate (snot) of rabbits and needs samples of snot. He asked that anyone who would like to participate in this project by collecting and sending samples form multiple rabbits email him at email@example.com.
Two more items to share, the BunnyVac Information and BunnyVac Clinical Trial Summary. These links will take you through to the documents. I hope it is helpful to have all of these pieces of information in one place!
* After re-reading this post I felt like it might come across as negative to the county fair. The jury is still out on how heavily we’ll participate in future years. We quarantined every rabbit that came home from the fair and didn’t see problems. This included our unvaccinated junior Silver Fox as well (the one that were dispatched were Cinnamons.) So I can’t promise the problem was the fair, although a logical mind says if the rabbits are out of their natural environment for an extended period of time, very hot, and exposed to masses of people and other animals… that’s when IF you’re going to have a problem you DO. Our fair did a vet check on every rabbit that came in and declared all healthy prior to putting them in cages as a precaution, so I may be wrong. I just don’t know. Hence, the jury is still out.