Orchard Vet's Blog

New fatal rabbit disease


A new strain of an existing disease is threatening to kill thousands of rabbits in the UK - but the good news is that you can vaccinate your pet against it.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD) and mxyomatosis are common diseases found throughout the UK and can be fatal to non-vaccinated rabbits. They can both be spread by direct rabbit-to-rabbit contact and also through insect bites. RVHD is particularly contagious and can reside on inanimate objects such as shoes and clothes.

RVHD has few symptoms and rabbits can die without any signs of being unwell. RVHD-1 has long been recognised but a new strain, called RVHD-2 was identified in France in 2010 and crossed to the UK in 2013. RVHD-2's fatality rate appears to be lower than that of RVHD-1, but because it is a new disease it is still being researched.

The vaccine which covered RVHD-1 and mxyomatosis does not protect against the new strain but a new vaccine is now available that covers both strains of RVHD (but not myxomatosis). Although it is not licensed for use in the UK, it is in France, which means it can be adminstered under an EU veterinary medicine reciprocal arrangement.

Pet rabbits, whether indoor or outdoor, should be vaccinated annually. The existing vaccination can be given to rabbits from five weeks old, and the new RVHD-2 vaccine from ten weeks. Please bring your bunny in for a full check-up and we will discuss the vaccinations with you. §