Rabbit VHD1 and VHD2 

You may have heard on the news recently about a new, deadly disease affecting rabbits in the UK.  This disease is known as Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease2 (RVHD2) and is becomming an increasing concern. It is a new strain of the classic RVHD1 and it can affect rabbits of all ages. There have recently been confirmed cases of VHD2 in the Wiltshire area.

Your rabbit's normal vaccine protects against RVHD1 and Myxomatosis, both of which have been prevalent in the UK for decades. However, it does not appear to offer protection to this new strain.

We are pleased to say that we now have the vaccination to help you protect your rabbits and we recommend that all rabbits receive it annually.

Your normal RVHD1 and Myxomatosis combination vaccination should still be given and there should be at least 2 weeks in between this and the new one.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD) is a highly contagious disease that effects rabbits.  This includes wild and domesticated European rabbits.  VHD is also known by several other acronyms: RHD (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease), RCV (Rabbit Calicivirus) and RCD (Rabbit Calicivirus Disease).

Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • High Fever
  • Spasms
  • Sudden death

VHD, however, is often a swift and sudden killer, giving little warning. Rabbits may die without showing any symptoms at all. Some bleeding from the nose, mouth and rectum is sometimes seen.  Any sudden rabbit death is suspicious and should be reported to your vet as a possible case of VHD.

  • The incubation period of this disease is very short, and rabbits may die within 48 hours of exposure to the virus that causes VHD.
  • The death rate of rabbits exposed to this virus is very high, between 50 and 100% with the latter number probably being closer to acutal mortality rates.  Rabbits who survive this disease are carriers and shed the virus for at least 42 days, perhaps longer.
  • Rabbit calicivirus is a very hardy virus, remaining viable in the environment for 105 days at 68F (i.e. remains stable for 105 days at room temperature) and for 225 days at 39F. It resists freezing.
  • There is no known cure for VHD. Vaccinations are available.

How VHD is spread

As was mentioned, VHD is highly contagious. It can be spread by:

  • Contact of a rabbit with inanimate objects contaminated by the virus, such object would include clothing, shoes and car & truck tyres.
  • Direct contact of a rabbit with an infected rabbit or the faeces of an infected rabbit.
  • Contact with rabbit products such as fur, meat or wool from an infected rabbit.
  • Insects, birds and animals such as rodents are known to spread the virus by acting as indirect hosts. They can transport the disease, for example, from an infected rabbit to an unaffected rabbit.
  • Humans can spread the virus to their rabbits if they have been in contace with infected rabbits or in contact with objects contaminated by the virus, including faeces from an infected rabbit.

How to Protect Your Rabbit

  • Rabbits who live or exercise outdoors are more at risk for contracting this disease.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before handling your rabbit, particularly when you come home from places where other rabbits may have been, or where people who have been in contact with rabbits may have been. This would include places such as feed stores and pet stores.
  • Change your clothes and wash your hands after handling or coming into contact with rabbits.
  • Know your source of hay and feed and if they are near areas of any outbreaks.
  • Quarantine any new rabbit for 5 days. Always handle quarantined rabbits last, and keep all supplies for the separate from other rabbit's supplies.
  • To disinfect objects, use one of the disinfectants: 10% bleach solution, 2% 1-Stroke Disinfectant, Parvosol or parvoviricide disinfectant. Remembering that it must stay in contact with the item and remain wet for at least 10 minutes.