Rabbit Haemorrhagic Viral Disease 2 (RHDV-2)

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Viral Disease 2 (RHDV-2)

 

Important Information for Owners

 

A new strain of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Viral Disease 2 (RHDV 2) was identified in France in 2010. In 2015 cases were confirmed in the UK and in October 2016 there have been confirmed cases in Ireland.

 

How can my rabbit catch RHDV-2?

The source of this disease in Ireland is likely the wild rabbit population. The virus is spread by biting insects or from direct contact with the urine or faeces of infected animals. It can be spread by predators such as crows or foxes. As it can last for months in the environment and spread via feeding bowls, hay, shoes or owners clothing even indoor house rabbits are not safe.

 

What are the signs of RHDV-2?

RHDV 2, like classic Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease is a major cause of sudden death in rabbits. However other clinical signs such as unexplained bleeding/bruising, lethargy, fever, loss of appetite and weight loss can also occur. The virus can cause underlying diseases to flare up, complicating diagnosis. Not all rabbits in a group will necessarily be affected equally and some in contact rabbits may not develop any signs of disease.

 

How is RHDV-2 diagnosed?

Unfortunately, RHDV-2 can only be confirmed on post mortem examination.

 

What should I do if I think my rabbit might have contracted RHDV-2?

Contact your vet and arrange a check up for your rabbit and any in contact rabbits as soon as possible. There is no treatment for RHDV-2 but prompt supportive care such as fluid therapy, heat support and feeding may save some rabbits. Avoid contact with other rabbits as you may be a source of infection for them.

 

How can I protect my rabbit against RHDV-2?

The good news is that we now have a vaccination to protect against this deadly disease. This needs to be given in addition to the standard Myxomatosis/Viral Haemorrhagic Disease vaccine (Myxo/RHDV1) and there needs a 2 week interval between the vaccines. This vaccine can be given to any rabbit at least 30 days old. Current understanding of the effect of the vaccine is that it should be repeated every 6 months while outbreaks last.