Advisory for a new variant of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease

What is Rabbit Haemorrhage Disease (RHD)?

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is caused by a virus called Rabbit Calicivirus which has a direct impact on the internal organs causing these to haemorrhage. The condition is usually fatal.

Transmission of RHD occurs by direct contact with an infected animal. Rabbits acquire RHD through contact with urine, faeces and secretions of infected rabbits.

The best strategy of protecting your rabbit from RHD is to have them vaccinated yearly.  A vaccination israbbit effective at preventing rabbits contracting RHD.

New variant of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease known as RHD2

A mutated version of RHD was confirmed in the UK in 2013. The strain has now appeared across the country. The vaccination used for typical RHD is not effective against this new strain. RHD2 is often symptomless; however, once infected, rabbits can die quite swiftly.

Our Cottenham practice has had two cases in the last few weeks where rabbits were infected with RHD2. Their condition deteriorated rapidly and unfortunately, the vets were not able to save them.

We have a vaccine available that protects against RHD2 specially imported from France. In the light of this outbreak, we would advise all our rabbit owners to discuss RHD2 vaccination with their vet. It’s important that rabbits still receive protection against the original strain as this still poses a threat. We advise a three-week gap between vaccinations if taken around the same time

In total, your rabbit should get 2 vaccinations (comprising of 2 injections):

1)  RHD Vaccine –  Covers your rabbit for myxomatosis and RHD for 12 months.
2) RHD2 Vaccine – This covers them against the new RHD2 for at least 6 months.

Contact your local Village Vet practice to find out more about how to protect your rabbit from RHD2.