Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease 2 – what is it?Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease is a serious disease in rabbits, and can be fatal. It is also known as Viral Haemorrhagic Disease or Rabbit Calicivirus.
There are two strains of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease – strains 1 and 2. Vaccines protecting against Strain 1 have been used in the UK for many years. The first case of RHD2 was noted in December 2014, and there is now a vaccination available for this strain in addition.
The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected rabbit via its oral, nasal or conjunctival secretions, as well as urine and faeces. It may also be transmitted via contaminated objects such as enclosures, ground, cloth and infected hay or other foods. Fleas and mosquitos are also another factor that can contribute to spread of the disease.
High risk rabbits may include show rabbits, shelter rabbits or those recently adopted. Low risk rabbits will be indoor rabbits who have no contact with other rabbits (wild or domestic).
This disease has a high mortality rate, and with most cases it is fatal in unvaccinated rabbits. The disease is also highly contagious and just one infected rabbit will rapidly spread this virus to others in the area.
The RHD2 strain is less aggressive than RHD1, with rabbits becoming ill over several days rather than sudden onset. Symptoms, although rare, can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and spasms.
Unfortunately there is no treatment for this disease, and this coupled with its sudden onset means it is unlikely we will see a good outcome.
Fortunately this disease can be prevented. Through routine yearly vaccination, both strains of RHD can be prevented for your rabbit. However, although vaccination is a big preventative measure against this disease, there are other factors that should be considered to minimise further risk. This includes reducing the risk of infection from other animals by preventing contact with wild rabbits, birds or rodents. If you have any questions regarding this disease, please contact the practice for further advice.
Pav Brain MA VetMB MRCVS - Pav graduated from Cambridge University in 2004 and has worked in small animal practice since that time. She enjoys all aspects of general practice and has a particular interest in medicine and small furries.