While biosecurity has been widely practiced in domestic livestock production for many years, the rabbit industry has been slow to embrace this very important aspect of healthful animal production.
Many pathogens and parasites lurk everywhere, just waiting for the opportunity to infect your animals.
There is much we can take from the poultry and swine industries’ biosecurity programs to make our rabbitries into effective and healthy fortresses to protect their inhabitants. A good biosecurity program is a logical and effective tool for keeping your rabbitry healthy.
Tips for maintaining a biosecure rabbitry
The goal of a good biosecurity program is to keep out pathogens the animals have not been exposed to and to minimize the impact of endemic pathogens. True biosecurity involves people “showering in and showering out.” While most rabbitries are not set up with such facilities, other biosecurity protocols can be implemented to help limit pathogen exposure and disease spread.
Minimize human transmission of pathogens
Maintain strict cleanliness in the rabbitry
- Provide a foot bath or disposable foot coverings for anyone entering the facility.
- Provide coveralls for visitors (always wash after use).
- Require visitors to wash hands and wear gloves before handling animals.
- Inquire as to whether a visitor has recently been to another rabbitry and record the name and location of that rabbitry, in case you later have a problem.
- Make sure that children understand the importance of biosecurity. For instance, you do not want your child to do chores in the rabbitry after playing with his best friend’s new rabbit/kitten/puppy/hamster/etc. that was purchased at the local pet store (or anywhere else).
- Use cages and feeding/watering utensils that can be easily disinfected. Wood is a poor material for maintaining a clean facility.
- Automatic water systems should be routinely sanitized and flushed.
- Clean and sanitize feeding and watering equipment regularly.
- Remove manure regularly.
- Maintain good ventilation.
- Sequence care of animals such that those with the highest health status (usually young animals) are cared for first.
- Maintain an effective rodent control program.
- Ensure that other animals, including dogs and cats, do not enter the rabbitry. They can be carriers of many diseases which infect rabbits.
- Disinfect all cages/crates used for transporting animals after every use.
- Windows should have screens to keep out insects, birds, rodents, etc.
- Store feed properly and inspect closely before feeding.
Implement precaution measures
- Monitor animals closely every day and immediately remove and isolate any animals displaying disease symptoms.
- The isolation room should be in a separate building, preferably downwind of your rabbitry.
- Isolate/quarantine any new rabbits or rabbits that have left the rabbitry and are returning. Quarantine should last a minimum of 30 days.
- Always care for quarantined animals after caring for the rest of the rabbits.
- Never wear clothing or footwear into the rabbitry that has been used in the isolation facility.
Establish a relationship with a local veterinarian. Even if the vet is relatively inexperienced with rabbits, over time you will both learn from each other and be successful in developing a good herd health management program.