Attention all rabbit owners! Belle Mead Animal Hospital is finally able to start sourcing vaccines for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV-2).
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is a highly contagious, fatal disease in rabbits. RHDV2 DOES NOT affect humans, but it can affect both domestic AND wild rabbits. Infected rabbits may develop a fever, be hesitant to eat, or show respiratory signs, neurologic signs, or internal bleeding. However, many times, the only signs of the disease are sudden death. Unfortunately, there are no treatments available at this time.
RHDV2 can be spread through direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s blood or excretions. The virus can also survive and be spread from carcasses, food, water, and any contaminated materials. It has also been spread by insects. This virus is very hearty, and humans can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their clothing and shoes after being exposed to an infected animal or environment.
Even worse news is that as of May 2022, New Jersey now has its first two confirmed cases of RHDV2 in Cape May County.
The good news? Medgene Labs of Brookings, SD has developed a new vaccine and gained emergency use authorization by the USDA after review of current safety and challenge information. We are finally able to get some of these vaccines and will be able to start vaccine clinics to get rabbits vaccinated as soon as they arrive.
This vaccine is a series of 2 vaccines given 21 days apart. At this time, we are asking rabbit owners to email Belle Mead Animal Hospital at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject RABBIT VACCINE. We will start a list of rabbits that will get the vaccine once available. In the meantime, please keep your rabbits inside, do not handle rabbits that are not yours, wash your hands and clothes before handling your rabbit, and please contact us at the first sign of any illness!
Find Frequently Asked Questions here: Medgene Labs Frequently Asked Questions
Dr. Kim Somjen, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Every year one week is designated as National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The AVMA reports with an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households, millions of people, most of them children, are bitten by dogs every year. The majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable.
Why dogs bite: Dogs can bite because they are nervous, scared, in pain, surprised, or just protecting their house, car, toy, bed, etc. Dogs see your actions and can smell your anxiety or fear which can stimulate them to a heightened level of arousal.
Dogs respond to body language. If a dog is misreading your actions, they will try to protect themselves. Loud noises and fast movements can excite or scare dogs.
When a dog is in pain either from illness or injury, they don’t understand where the pain is coming from. If you touch them, that sensation might create more pain for them, and they could respond by biting. Many dogs are quiet even when in pain. If you suspect your dog is in pain, simply leave it alone and rely on your veterinarian’s advice on how to best handle the dog.
Pet parents need to be proactive rather than reactive to their dog’s behavior. Practicing and rewarding calm behaviors and jobs like “sit and stay” can lead to really good manners and habits. Using treats and practicing positive reinforcement as often as you can on a daily basis are key.
Visit the AVMA’s website to learn more about dog bite prevention and access tools to help educate others so we can all work together to prevent dog bites.
Recommended Reading: Dr. Joe Martins addresses local Cub Scouts on Pet Safety
Out of all the plants that are toxic to your cat, lilies are the most dangerous. It’s well worth a reminder not only at Easter time when Easter lilies abound, but anytime throughout the year when people are purchasing flowers for their home or as gifts. It is simply too easy for a cat to accidentally be put at risk of lily poisoning and certain death when a lily plant is presented by an uninformed person or pet parent.
It’s not just Easter Lilies
Easter lilies are very popular, but there are many types of lilies besides the Easter lily that are highly toxic. The list also includes Tiger lilies, Day lilies, Asiatic hybrid lilies, Japanese show lilies, Rubrum lilies, Stargazer lilies, Red lilies, Western lilies, and Wood lilies. Be safe and don’t try to discriminate.
Florists typically include at least one lily in practically every floral arrangement they provide. Therefore, always request no lilies if sending an arrangement to a pet owner.
Also, beware of unsuspecting guests who may bring flowers into your home not realizing they are putting your cat in danger. Please inspect every plant that is presented to you, and remove it from your home if there is any doubt about its safety.
How ingesting a lily affects your cat
Cats are curious creatures, and a plant is meant to be investigated. Therefore, it’s extremely important to know that all parts of the Lily are highly toxic to cats. Even if your cat ingests a small amount, as little as two or three petals or leaves, it can kill them under the radar weeks and sometimes even months later. Even the pollen or water from the vase is just as toxic as the plant itself.
When a cat chews any piece of any type of lily, the toxins immediately have an adverse effect on its kidneys. Remember, the kidneys are meant to remove toxic wastes from the body. However, when the toxin is so overwhelming that these substances cannot be adequately removed, the stage is set for kidney failure. The pet develops excess thirst, nausea and vomits. They experience pain, weakness, appetite loss, intestinal bleeding, and even seizures.
By the time the diagnosis of kidney failure is made, the disease has taken hold. Emergency treatment includes decontamination (like inducing vomiting and giving binders like activated charcoal), aggressive intravenous fluid therapy, anti-vomiting medication, kidney function monitoring tests, blood pressure monitoring, urine output monitoring, and supportive care. Treatment typically requires three days of hospitalization. Even then, the cat’s kidneys can eventually shut down with a fatal outcome.
If you suspect lily poisoning, seek help immediately
If you think your cat has consumed any part of a lily plant, take your cat and the plant immediately to a veterinarian for medical care. Get familiar with the Emergency page on our website for after-hours instructions on where to go. When in doubt, call the Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680 for life-saving information.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Attention pet Rabbit owners! A highly contagious disease caused by a strain of the RHD virus has been infecting and killing both domestic and wild rabbits. It was first detected in the United States in 2018, and has been spreading west to east ever since rapidly.
In fact, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) has now become the most fatal disease afflicting household rabbits. Research has shown as many as 85-95% of those animals exposed resulted in fatality.
But there is hope. A RHDV2 Vaccine developed by U.S. based Medgene Labs has received USDA Emergency Use Authorization. To date, 44 States have received authorization and supplies have started to be obtained. While BMAH is still waiting for our own vaccine supply, please make note of the disease symptoms below and call your family veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice any of the these irregularities:
- Loss of appetite
- Fever of 104F or higher
- Seizures, weakness, wobbliness and other neurological signs
- Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and mucosal membranes (most noticeably in the ears)
- Bleeding from nose, mouth, genital openings or rectum
- Difficulty breathing
- Sudden death
Keep in mind as noted above, some rabbits can be asymptomatic and die suddenly from this disease, which makes it all the more necessary that your pet be vaccinated as soon as possible.
RHDV2 Rabbit Vaccination Clinic Notice
At this time, BMAH can refer clients to a RHDV2 Rabbit Vaccination Clinic in Lebanon, PA (exact location to be announced). Space is limited so please request a Registration Packet from Adventurebunnycares@hotmail.com – Deadline to register is February 25, 2022.
To be fully vaccinated, the rabbit must be available for a two-dose regime, with the first shot on March 6, and the booster on March 17.
The cost is $25 per rabbit which includes both shots plus a $10 donation each visit to help defray the costs of clinic set up and veterinary technician travel expenses.
Vaccination Is the Best Defense Against Spreading RHDV2
Even if an infected rabbit survives the disease, they can continue to shed virus for up to 2 months and infect others. Also troubling is how easily transmissible the virus is in a variety of ways. This virus can live for up to 3 1/2 months in the environment and can easily spread from exposed hay, to migrating birds, or even through treats and toys produced in contaminated areas. RHDV2 is also easily transmitted by “fomite” meaning objects like shoes or clothing and “vectors” like insects, indoor/outdoor pets and car tires that become contaminated with live virus.
In other parts of the world, seasonal outbreaks have been noted. Find more information from the House Rabbit Society here: https://rabbit.org/rhdv/
Use the BMAH Website as an Educational Resource!
Did you know you can now Search our website for particular topics of information and advice? Visit our Learning Center > Search this Site and enter a word or words of the subject you want to learn more about. We are constantly adding new material to our website and improving functionality to help serve you better.
Kim Somjen, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Have you ever noticed the abbreviation after your veterinarian’s name? The abbreviation may vary from doctor to doctor, depending upon the training and skill level your veterinarian has achieved.
Following is an explanation of the various credentials our team may carry as published by the American Animal Hospital Association:
DVM – This degree stands for doctor of veterinary medicine. Veterinarians with DVM degrees have graduated from United States veterinary schools and earned a doctorate, which is required to practice veterinary medicine. According the AAHA, most veterinarians in the United States are DVMs.
VMD – This is a doctoral degree similar to the DVM, but it comes specifically from the University of Pennsylvania. This university calls its degree a veterinary medical doctorate and abbreviates it as such.
In the United States, four years of undergraduate school plus four years of veterinary school is required for both the DVM and VMD credentials. In addition, the person must pass national and state boards to in order to practice. It’s interesting to note that in Europe, students attend veterinary school for five years right out of high school.
Technician – You may have noticed that the veterinary technicians have credentials after their names, such as CVT (Certified Veterinary Technician), RVT (Registered Veterinary Technician), and LVT (Licensed Veterinary Technician). These initials signify that the technician has earned a degree from an accredited veterinary technician school and has been trained to properly care for your pet while assisting the veterinarians in a multitude of tasks.
There is another credential called Diplomate that helps define those veterinarians who choose to do more extensive work in a specialized field such as scientific research. They might also become certified by a specialty board. Look for diplomate status by the abbreviation dipl. and the name of the organization (dipl. ABVP) or with the capital letter D before the name of the organization (DABVP). If your pet has a complicated or difficult health problem, your veterinarian may refer you to a diplomate of one of several organizations, such as ACVIM-American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. This college includes veterinarians in the specialties of internal medicine, cardiology, neurology, and oncology.
We hope this goes some way in your better understanding of your veterinarian team.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
With visits by Santa’s Reindeer to Belle Mead Animal Hospital in years past, we thought we would treat you to some Reindeer facts this holiday season!
Did you know…
- Reindeer live in the Northern parts of North America including Canada and Alaska. They also live in Europe, Russia and Greenland in the tundra regions (as well as the North Pole with Santa!)
- Reindeer are also known as Caribou. In Europe they are called Reindeer most of the time. However, in America, we only call them Reindeer when they are domesticated. Otherwise, in the wild we call them Caribou. (Their scientific name, by the way, is Rangifer Tarasndus).
- Reindeer are herbivores meaning they eat plants.
- A Reindeer can live up to 15 years in the wild and can weigh from 240 to 700 pounds.
- A Reindeer’s antlers grow to be 3 feet tall. They shed their antlers in the winter, and no two Reindeer antlers look exactly the same!
- Reindeer use their hooves to dig for food in the snow. The outer edges of their hooves are sharp and help them walk on ice and rocks.
- A Reindeer can run 50 miles per hour!
All the best for a safe and healthy holiday season!
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
As Thanksgiving Day approaches, we want to be sure you are aware of the many foods your pets may appear to crave but should be made off limits to keep them healthy – and that means no treating from the Thanksgiving dinner table, making sure all trash lids are secure, and all tin foil and saran wrapped leftovers are safely stored away from your pet’s eyes and nose.
And don’t forget to inform your Thanksgiving Day guests and all members of your family that Fluffy and Fido need to stick to their own regular pet food diet and not be fed from the dinner table! Folks without pets may not have the same awareness that a pet parent has of what foods may be safe and what may be harmful to your pet. Dogs, especially, will eagerly eat a much wider variety of foods than cats, but let’s keep kitty safe, too, and away from that tempting fatty piece of meat that might cause a digestive upset.
We would like to share a list of what Pet Poison Helpline considers high on their list of reasons for emergency calls during the Thanksgiving holiday. Maybe you should print this out and tape it to your refrigerator or other prominent place in your home so everyone in your household knows the dangers.
Fatty foods – These include butter, bacon, fatty meat drippings, gravies and meat scraps – all pose threats of stomach upset such as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can result in clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and abdominal pain. Symptoms may not be immediate and can occur up to 4 days after exposure.
Discarded food items – Turkey trussing and bones can result in obstruction or gastrointestinal injury. Even corn cobs have the same danger and can result in emergency surgery. For those of you who follow our Facebook page, we’ve posted about our patient who suffered this exact issue by swallowing a corn cob earlier this year!
Turkey Brine – Did you know your pet could suffer from salt toxicosis by drinking this salt-saturated solution? Clinical signs are excessive thirst and urination, vomiting and diarrhea. This can potentially result in serious electrolyte changes and brain swelling.
Xylitol – We’ve warned pet parents before about the danger of this sweetener found in candies, desserts, peanut butter, and chewing gum, to name a few. Xylitol can result in a rapid drop in blood sugar in dogs along with liver damage.
Raisins, currents and grapes – These are a serious concern for dogs as they have the risk of resulting in acute renal failure with even small ingestions. Don’t take chances.
Chocolates – Clinical signs include of vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, tremors, and increased heart rate along with potential seizures. Keep all chocolate out of reach!
Nuts – The high fat content poses the same risk of digestive upset and pancreatitis as the other fatty foods mentioned above. Macadamia nuts are more serious and if ingested can result in vomiting, diarrhea, inability to rise or walk normally.
Holiday floral arrangements – This is something we have also warned you about in the past. Often floral arrangements contain poisonous plants such as lilies – cats can die of acute renal failure if any part of the lily plant is ingested. Keep floral arrangements completely away and out of reach by pets. Take no chances. It could be fatal for your pet!
Holiday decorations – Ornaments that humans find festive and pretty to look at are viewed as toys by pets and pose a danger by swallowing. Traditional candles can result in accidental burns while flameless candles contain batteries that when ingested can result in gastrointestinal burns and corrosive injury. We’ve treated dogs in our practice who have ingested batteries which pose a real and present danger year round, not just during the holidays.
Make Thanksgiving Day a Happy Day for your pets! Keep them safe and secure away from harmful foods and situations – share your concern with your family and guests – and everyone enjoys the holiday!
Remember, even though Belle Mead Animal Hospital does NOT offer 24 hour emergency care, should a mishap occur, visit our website Emergency page for guidance on how to proceed to your nearest emergency animal clinic.
Also keep the Pet Poison Helpline phone number handy – 1-800-213-6680 for 24/7 emergency assistance.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
Rabbits make wonderful pets. Once you and your family learn about the basic care and dietary requirements, you can enjoy many years with your furry friend. There are several breeds to choose from, and they all have the same general characteristics.
Diet and digestive system:
First of all, a rabbit’s digestive system is similar to a horse. Rabbits have very little stomach and small intestine. They do, however, have one huge appendix. We call that a “cecum.”
Because of their anatomy, rabbits require hay daily as a natural fiber source to live well and stay healthy. A rabbit’s diet should consist of 80% grass hay. Oxbow is a good company who makes little bales of hay for rabbits. Pellets should be a really small portion of their diet, and if they eat all their hay, give them more hay. A diet of pellets and very little hay will take its toll on your rabbit’s digestive system and teeth.
You can also feed a minimum of one cup vegetables for each 4 lbs. of body weight. You can select three different types of dark green or yellow vegetables daily such as alfalfa sprouts, basil, beet greens, broccoli leaves, Brussels sprouts, carrot and carrot tops, cilantro, collard greens, endive, green peppers, parsley, romaine lettuce, kale, outer cabbage leaves, wheat grass, pea pods but not peas, squash, radicchio or dandelion leaves.
You may add a small amount of fruit (up to 3 types) totaling 1-2 level Tbsp per 5 lbs. body weight. Stick to high fiber fruits like apple, peach, plum, pear, melon, raspberry, papaya, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry and pineapple. Avoid sugary fruits like bananas and grapes, and feed no fruits at all if dieting.
Symptoms that your rabbit is not feeling well:
Also, like a horse, rabbits cannot physically vomit. Because they cannot vomit, that is one less warning sign that your bunny may be ill. For a rabbit, their stomach will explode before they vomit. You will have to look for other symptoms.
It might not be obvious, but you may notice your rabbit is simply more quiet than usual. Rabbits are quiet anyway, so it’s important to know what level of activity is normal for your pet. Maybe your rabbit is simply moving around less. An obvious symptom is that your bunny is simply not eating, and even more important is that your rabbit is no longer defecating. This indicates your rabbit may be in serious trouble.
If a rabbit does not eat for whatever reason (gas pain, infectious disease, inflammatory disease), its appendix (cecum) shuts down and starts filing up with gas. That becomes painful and a viscous cycle has begun.
One of the things we try to teach owners is how to force feed their rabbit. If someone calls on a holiday, an emergency treatment to help a rabbit feel better quickly and cheaply is to force feed it, especially if we cannot get to the pet or if the owner cannot get their rabbit into an emergency clinic immediately for any reason.
We recommend force feeding with Oxbow Critical Care. This is basically a fiber product that you mix with water. We teach people how to administer it, and we discuss it in the exam room during a wellness visit. Sometimes an owner can save their rabbit’s life if they can’t get it into the hospital quickly enough.
In the old days, veterinarians would X-ray rabbits, see a hairball in their stomach and think surgery was required to remove it. We have since learned that 99.9% of the time, rabbits who are constantly grooming themselves will naturally have a hairball in their stomach. Usually the hairball is not the problem, and if the rabbit has not eaten for three or more days, sometimes surgery can hasten their demise. The solution becomes rehydrating them with food and water to open up their intestine quickly and making sure they are eating the proper diet going forward.
Why dental exams are important:
Rabbits are born with one set of teeth. Their teeth are designed for eating hay in that they are perfectly even and grind the top and the bottom teeth together. Rabbits have front teeth and back molars, but no teeth in the middle. The back molars are what the owners can’t see. Veterinarians can only see them during an exam by using a special instrument.
When the back molars develop sharp points that begin to lacerate the rabbit’s tongue, the rabbit experiences pain and cannot eat properly. Sometimes I find a rabbit has been literally starving for weeks or months because it cannot eat properly, and the owner is not even aware.
It’s therefore important to note a rabbit’s weight during every exam. If the rabbit has lost 5-8 oz. in the past six months, usually 99% of the time it’s a medical issue. Five ounces is nothing for us, but for a rabbit, this is a serious danger signal that something is medically wrong.
Checking your rabbit’s teeth and weight once or twice a year and making sure they are eating the proper diet is lifesaving. They do need to be seen by a veterinarian, and this is where the education process begins for the owner.
Please feel free to call our office if you have any questions, would like a tour of our facility or want to schedule an appointment.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hopsital
We talk a lot about indoor rabbit care, but what about those rabbits that are kept outdoors? Good husbandry and proper housing is just as important for outdoor rabbits as those kept inside your home.
One common practice that many well intentioned rabbit owners do is putting their pet rabbit in the same pen that houses their chickens or goats. Some will even let the rabbits live on the ground loose without an elevated area inside the pen that the rabbit can retreat to.
It simply is not an ideal situation to house rabbits together with other outdoor animals such as chickens or goats, and here is why:
The most common intestinal microscopic parasite of rabbits, goats and birds (especially chickens, ducks and geese) is Coccidia. These parasites found in the animals’ stool multiply invisibly on the floor close to the ground, especially in chicken floor spaces.
Chickens carry lots of Coccidia. Rabbits, especially young rabbits, who get infected with Coccidia can develop growth retardation and stop eating. They can also experience diarrhea, constipation, liver failure and eventual death.
Goats who are housed next to chickens are even more susceptible to developing Coccidia induced diarrhea. They can stop eating, become dehydrated and eventually die. Very young goats (those who are less than four months old) are especially susceptible.
Outdoor rabbits need clean living areas that are kept free from manure of any sort daily. They need hutches with good ventilation so they don’t get stressed and be at increased risk for serious Pasteurella respiratory infections.
Chickens defecate constantly. They are messy and create dusty areas due to the way they eat. So again, chickens should not be sharing the same floor space with pet rabbits. Furthermore, rabbits who eat chicken food are at risk to develop an intestinal blockage, and this is cause for an emergency situation to an unsuspecting pet owner.
Rabbits would do better in an elevated, mostly wire hutch with a section that is totally wood enclosed (top and bottom) where they can get in from the cold and hopefully hide from a fox or raccoon patrolling around at night. Their stool can then fall below through the wire area of the hutch, while the rabbit can still enjoy safe shelter off wire.
If you want to have a rabbit loose in a pen because you have trained them and handled them extensively since birth, then go ahead. However, please make sure the pen is clean, secure and just for rabbits. If you leave them in a pen overnight or during the day without supervision, a hawk or a fox will get them sooner or later. At night, foxes can tear through flimsy enclosures as well as dig under bottom fencing that is not buried deep enough. They will bite the toes off rabbits who are housed on wire enclosure with no solid bottomed shelter.
Also important to know is that bunnies are more susceptible to heat stroke from temperatures greater than 85 degrees F. You should roll or move their hutch into a cool garage or under a tree for shade when the temperature climbs. Also, place a frozen plastic milk jug inside their hutch. The jug will keep your rabbits cooler while the jug slowly thaws.
That being said, rabbits can get frostbite if left outside in severe, bitter cold weather without a proper solid shelter. We recommend moving their hutch to a warm garage or shed for those nights that are just too severe to be safe.
Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital
In late summer and early fall, we sometimes see an infection called Cuterebrosis in cats. It starts with a botfly, which is a genus of Cuterebra.
Botflies lay eggs on blades of grass or in nests. Once the eggs hatch, they release tiny worms or maggots that crawl onto the skin of animals passing by. Often they attach to rodents and rabbits that live in the wild. However, a passing cat or kitten can become infected, too.
One of our cases was a kitten, as seen in the accompanying photo. In this case, the Cuterebra worm most likely crawled around on the kitten until it found an orifice to enter, which happened to be a small wound on the kitten’s neck area.
Once an orifice is found, a lump is formed on the skin where the worm lives called a warble. The worm comes up for air every few seconds which we can clearly see. When removing it, we must be careful to not crush it. We want to remove the worm intact so it does not release a toxin.
The danger is that once larvae migrate through the cat’s tissues, further illness follows with symptoms that include respiratory signs, neurological signs or ophthalmic (eye) lesions.
When a Cuterebra worm is found and when a positive Cuterebra diagnosis is made, a broad-spectrum anti-parasite medication is typically administered. A corticosteroid treatment will be given before administering the medication. The anti-parasite medication can be administered either to alleviate the signs caused by any worms suspected of migrating into the lungs or to kill larvae in other tissues, including the central nervous system.
It is therefore important to protect pets from being outside and make sure they don’t have any scratches or wounds that can become a home for Cuterebra. It is equally important to have your veterinarian examine pets that come from outdoors for possible wounds/Cuterebra that are covered by fur or often missed.
That being said, rabies is endemic in our area, and the virus can live up to three hours in wounds. Never clip and clean or physically examine wounds yourself and without gloves, especially on strays. This applies to even your own rabies vaccinated pets. The rabies vaccine protects your pet but not you, the owner, if exposed to any blood, saliva, or other secretion. If exposed, please report it to your family doctor and veterinarian immediately.
Remember that a mother cat permitted to roam outside can carry a worm indoors that attaches to one of her indoor kittens. Also, the worms can infect the same cat time and again.
Please call our office if you notice any symptoms, have further questions, or wish to make an appointment for your pet’s wellness exam. We are here to help.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital