Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease

We have had a few phone calls in the recent weeks from worried rabbit owners about the new disease that is being widely publicised. Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease has been around in rabbits for a long time now and the disease that is being talked about is another strain of this RVHD (RHD2). Viral haemorrhagic disease is a highly infectious and contagious disease for both indoor and outdoor rabbits. It can be spread through insects but it is also air borne so it can be passed from rabbit to rabbit by contact or indirect contract, this virus also lives quite a long time in the environment.

The current vaccine for rabbits doesn’t protect against RVD2 but there will be a vaccine available by the end of August 2016. Currently rabbits require one injection per year and this is a combined injection against myxomatosis and RVHD1, this new vaccine will cover against RHD2 and is a course of 2 vaccinations. This will mean that rabbits will require 3 injections per year, the combined vaccine and the new vaccine.

Prevention for this before the vaccine becomes available is to make sure you prevent against fly strike, clean your rabbits accommodation/food bowls etc with a disinfectant like Virkon (or ask your vet), and separate new rabbits for a few weeks in case they have been in contact with this. If your bunny becomes unwell then contact your veterinary surgeon for advice, any unexplained deaths of rabbits should be reported to your vet as well.

We have had cases of RVHD1 in the past and all rabbits thought to have this disease sadly passed away, myxomatosis has a high mortality rate also and this new strain of VHD is said to have a mortality rate of about 25% so although vaccinations are not 100% it is really important to protect your bunny as much as you can by bringing them in for these vaccines and a veterinary examination.

Sadly VHD does not usually show any signs and is usually just the sudden death of the rabbit so it is hard to know if we have had any cases in this area. We will however recommend that when this vaccine is available that rabbit owners book in with their vet to start the course of vaccines and any rabbit completely unvaccinated should contact their veterinary surgeon for the vaccine against myxomatosis and RVHD1 in the meantime.

If you have any questions then please contact your vet or veterinary nurse who will be happy to help.