A trio of veterinary organisations have issued advice on a new strain of rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease which has become more prevalent in the UK.

The BVA, BSAVA and British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS) shared the advice as practices may not be familiar with the recent development of the disease.


The increased likelihood of unwell rabbits being brought into practice increases the risk of transmission to other pet rabbits, so biosecurity in practices is key. Image: Tyler Olson / Fotolia.

Rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease variant (RVHD2) is a variation of the already recognised rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease (RVHD1); BVA, BSAVA and BVZS are working with animal welfare organisations and owners to ensure rabbits are protected against this potentially devastating disease.

Vaccines for the original strain of RVHD do not appear to offer long-term protection against RVHD2, however vaccines for this new strain are now available through three UK wholesalers or direct from the suppliers in Europe.

Biosecurity is key

RVHD2 is more variable in its rate of disease progression than RVHD1, with presentation ranging from sudden death (with or without bleeding from the orifices), to a longer disease course of three to nine days.

This increases the risk of unwell rabbits being brought into practices, therefore increasing the risk of transmission to other pet rabbits.

Until vaccination becomes more routine, biosecurity in practices is key to prevent the disease from spreading.

Talk to owners

BSAVA vice president John Chitty said: “BSAVA would encourage practices to talk to rabbit owning clients about RVHD2 vaccines, and where there is deemed sufficient risk recommend the vaccine along with the essential vaccination against myxomatosis – and it should be noted that this must not be done within two weeks of vaccination against RVHD2.”

Due to recent media coverage of RVHD2, vets may be contacted by concerned owners seeking advice on how to prevent their rabbits contracting this disease.

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