Andrea McGregor explains more about what Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD 2) is and how we can help prevent it.
‘Classic’ Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (RVHD) was initially seen in China in 1984 and was reported for the first time in the UK in 1992.
Hares and small rodents such as guinea pigs are not affected by this disease. Classic RVHD is a highly infectious and often fatal disease of rabbits over 16 weeks old causing haemorrhages (bleeding) both inside and outside of the body and death in 90% of cases in unvaccinated rabbits.
It is spread by saliva, nasal and eye discharges, faeces, food bowls, bedding, insects and wild animals. Once in the environment, the virus is very difficult to kill. Diagnosis is unfortunately usually made at a post-mortem examination.
Prevention is possible by vaccination. A combined Myxomatosis and RVHD vaccine is available (Nobivac Myxo-RHD®) and can be given from 5 weeks old.
So What Is Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD 2)?
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD 2) is caused by a new variant of the classic Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus that has spread to the UK affecting both wild and pet rabbits (including those <16 weeks old) and hares. The incubation period (time from infection to signs of illness) is longer than classic RVHD (3-9 days compared with 1-4 days) and the signs themselves can happen over a longer time period than classic RVHD.
What Are The Signs of RVHD 2?
Like classic RVHD, RVHD 2 can cause death.
This can be sudden, but unlike classic RVHD the course of the disease can be slower with jaundice (yellowing of the skin), tiredness and a lack of appetite. There is no specific treatment other than supportive care, but if animals do survive they can shed virus that can infect others for up to two months.
Can RVHD 2 be prevented?
The good news is YES, it can be prevented.
The combined Nobivac Myxo-RHD® vaccine DOES NOT give protection against RVHD 2. A separate vaccine (Filavac RHD K C+V) must be given. We recommend that rabbits are vaccinated with both of the above vaccines with a two-week gap between the two. The vaccines should be repeated yearly.
Both the Nobivac Myxo-RHD® and Filavac RHD K C +V vaccines are available at all our small animal practices. They are also included as part of our VIP Rabbit Club, which is designed to spread the cost of routine rabbit care and also includes preventative treatments for fly-strike. Please contact your local practice for details.
 HARDCOURT-BROWN,F. (2016). New variant of rabbit haemorrhagic diease-implications for UK pets. Veterinary Times February 8th 2016.  ROCCHI M.S. AND DAGLEISH M.P.(2018). Diagnosis and Prevention of rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease 2. In Practice 40 11-16.