A new strain of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease has been identified in rabbits in the UK. Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease variant (RVHD2) is a variation of the already recognised Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD1).
Barrow Hill Veterinary Group is working with animal welfare organisations and owners to ensure rabbits are protected against this potentially devastating disease.
Vaccines for the original strain of RVHD do not appear to offer long term protection against RVHD2, however vaccines for this new strain are now available in the UK.
RVHD2 is more variable in its rate of disease progression than RVHD1, with presentation ranging from sudden death (with or without bleeding from the orifices), to a longer disease course of three to nine days, increasing the risk of unwell rabbits being becoming sick and in turn increasing the risk of transmission to other pet rabbits.
Until vaccination becomes more routine, biosecurity is key to prevent the disease from spreading. The risk of a rabbit contracting RVHD2 appears highest in situations where rabbits are kept in large groups with regular new additions, such as at breeders or rescue centres, we encourage all owners to speak to their vet about vaccinating their rabbits against RVHD2.
Veterinary advice from The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) has stated that the spread of RVHD2 may be facilitated by its apparent slower disease progression compared to RVHD1, and research suggests that we can expect to see RVHD2 starting to predominate in the UK’s wild rabbits over RVHD1 in the next five years or so.
Barrow Hill Vets recommend the vaccine along with the essential vaccination against Myxomatosis – and it should be noted that this must not be done within two weeks of vaccination against RVHD2.
Tests carried out over the last 18 months have revealed that RVHD2 is now geographically widespread in the UK and all rabbits should be considered at risk from this potentially devastating disease.
Following recent media coverage of RVHD2 we have been contacted by concerned owners seeking advice on how to prevent their rabbits contracting this disease – in addition to vaccinating we recommend rabbits are kept separate from any other rabbits they do not usually interact with, they are prevented from having contact with wild rabbits and do not attend any rabbit shows unless already vaccinated.
Our Hythe Centre has had recently had reports of several outbreaks of sudden death among pet rabbits which are highly suspicious of this disease.
Please contact us for further advice and vaccination to protect your rabbits.