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  • Writer's pictureEmma

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD)

Today we are going to continue our look into another disease you must vaccinate your buns against and that's RVHD or Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease.

There are two strains of RVHD, known as RVHD1 and RVHD2.  Both strains are lethal however the good news is both can be vaccinated against.  RVHD2 has been in the UK since 2013 and in time is expected to overtake classic RVHD as the primary strain (Source RWAF)

RVHD is tricky to diagnose as often people don't realise their bunnies have died from it as there are sometimes no outward signs. The virus can also survive for a long time meaning it's easy to be passed between other rabbits. It's usually fatal.

..another photo by my little brother of the wild bunny in his garden

So was this disease purposefully released like the myxomatosis?

No, unlike myxomatosis which was released into Europe by Armand DeLille (see last blog!), RVHD is thought to have been spotted in 1984 in a herd of German rabbits imported by China and is thought to have originated from wild hares (Source- Stories rabbits tell- Demello and Davis). From there as we saw with Myxomatosis it spread all over Europe. Governments across the world have previously debated releasing it as a means of rabbit population control but one of the primary concerns with this sort of calicivirus is the way it can easily mutate and jump between species and potentially to humans like other viruses ie SARS or more recently Covid19. The type 2 variant was first spotted in the UK in 2013 and in some countries like Australia it has overtaken the original strain.

Unlike Myxomatosis which is carried by fleas or mosquitoes RVHD is spread by infected rabbits. The RWAF details the ways it can be spread other than with direct contact:

  • Hay may have been in contact with infected wild rabbits as grass growing in the field.

  • Birds or insects may transport the virus on their feet (or in their droppings) to your rabbit grazing on the lawn.

  • The virus may be blown on the wind.

  • You might bring the virus home on your feet, or your other pets’ feet (or car wheels) from infected wild rabbit droppings.

  • You could bring the virus home on your hands or clothes

It's so super important to keep your pets vaccinated, especially in lockdown when alot of us are going on alot more nature walks where wild buns may live.

..Stampy showing off his vaccination certificate!

How do I protect my precious bunnies?

So as part of your rabbits vaccinations they will usually be given 2 separate vaccinations, the first covers them for myxomatosis which we discussed previously and RVHD1. The second vaccine usually given 2 weeks later protects against the second strain. The two types of vaccine are called Nobivac Myxo-RHD vaccine and either Filavac or Eravac and your vet will write these in your vaccination card. These will need to be given every 12 months- just contact your vet!

Hope this was helpful

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