You may have seen recent reports in the national media about a new strain of rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (RVHD) which has become more prevalent in the UK. To keep rabbit owners in the know we’ve summarised the current developments and advice from some of the UKs veterinary organisations and top UK rabbit vets.
“Classic” RVHD (RVHD1) has been present in the UK for decades. It typically only affects rabbits over 8 weeks old, can cause a variety of clinical signs and can often be fatal. Fortunately it can be vaccinated against with a vaccine that also protects against Myxomatosis, another rabbit virus that can potentially be fatal.
The new “variant” RVHD (RVHD2) was first identified in France in 2010 and has subsequently been identified in the UK. Some research suggests that this new variant will become more common than classic RVHD over the next 5 years or so. Current reports suggest that the new variant RVHD has lower mortality rates, but can affect rabbits of any age.
The currently available rabbit vaccination in the UK (Nobivac Myxo-RHD) that protects against both RVHD1 and Myxomatosis does not appear to offer protection against RVHD2. However there are vaccinations available in the EU that have been licenced for efficacy against RVHD2 (namely Filavac VHD K C+V). Currently we have to apply for a Special Import Certificate to obtain stocks of the vaccine and availability is variable. At the time of writing we have a small supply in stock, but have been informed we will not receive our next delivery until the beginning of October.
Vaccination against RVHD1 and Myxomatosis is still considered the main priority in preventative rabbit healthcare, but as RVHD2 has been confirmed as the cause of fatalities of rabbits in the UK additional vaccination is strongly advise. Currently it is advised that the RVHD2 vaccination is given at least 2 weeks before or after Myxo-RHD vaccination. Both vaccinations provide immunity for 12 months, although in high risk situations (e.g. rescue centres, breeders, rabbits which have greater contact with wild rabbits or in geographical locations where cases have been reported recently) the RVHD2 vaccination may be given more frequently.
As well as considering vaccination it is also recommended that rabbits are kept separate from any other rabbits that they do not usually have contact with and are prevented from having contact with wild rabbits. It is also recommended that rabbits should not be taken to shows unless they are appropriately vaccinated.
If you are interested in getting your rabbit vaccinated against RVHD2 please call 01280 703451 to discuss further with a vet and so we can ensure stock availability before booking an appointment.