This rabbit-killing disease is sweeping the UK - here’s how to protect and treat your rabbit

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Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2) is a highly infectious and potentially fatal virus strain, which is currently sweeping the UK.

What is RVHD2?

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2) is a highly infectious and potentially fatal virus strain, which is currently sweeping the UK.

Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2) is a highly infectious and potentially fatal virus strain, which is currently sweeping the UK.

The virus causes internal bleeding. This unfortunately means that many owners don’t notice any symptoms of this disease, and rabbits can simply be found dead or ill with no obvious cause.

Due to the lack of obvious symptoms, many owners do not realise their rabbit has an infectious disease. This often results in:

- The rabbit not being given treatment early enough

- Precautions not being taken to contain the infection

The virus causes internal bleeding. This unfortunately means that many owners dont notice any symptoms of this disease

The virus causes internal bleeding. This unfortunately means that many owners dont notice any symptoms of this disease

How does RVHD2 spread?

Both strains of RVHD (1 and 2) are spread by direct contact with infected rabbits, or indirectly via their urine or faeces.

The virus can survive for months in the environment and it also survives well in the cold.

There are multiple ways in which RVHD2 can be spread, including:

- 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


How can I protect my rabbit?

Cases of RVHD2 have been recorded all over the UK, and the safest way to protect your rabbit is through vaccination.

According to the Rabbit Welfare Associate and Fund (RWAF), all pet rabbits should be vaccinated against both strains.

“RVHD vaccines are very effective. Your rabbits can currently be protected against both strains of RVHD by vaccination any time from 30 days of age (previous advice was 5 weeks), with a booster every 12 months when part of the Myxomatosis-RHD vaccine,” add the RWAF.

“The separate RVHD2 vaccine is every 6-12 months. An increasing number of vaccines are becoming available, consult your vet for the best combination currently available.”

Other advice includes:

- Cleaning and disinfecting anything that may be carrying the viruses, including water bottles, bowls, bedding and housing

- Boarding and rescue rabbits may potentially be a risk and establishments should take suitable precautions

- Anything that has been touched by an unknown rabbit should be thoroughly cleaned and treated with virus killing agents.

- In high risk situations foot covers or foot dips may be useful