“Hari” was a comical, happy ‘Lion Head’ Rabbit with a magnificent crown and “mane” of red brown hair. He had been well handled and was at ease during his examinations at his annual vaccination appointments at the practice. He didn't mind getting his teeth and nails checked, which made my job so much easier! Thankfully, Hari had been fully vaccinated every single year against the rabbit viral diseases and he kept in good general health. Fortunately, your rabbit can now be safeguarded against life-threatening diseases with an annual vaccination. By getting a vaccination against these diseases every year, you know your rabbit is up to date with the absolute best protection.
There are some nasty viruses out there that threaten pet rabbits. These include myxomatosis and both strains of rabbit haemorrhagic disease 1 & 2 (RHD1 & RHD2). RHD2 virus, also known as VHD2, is a relatively new strain of viral rabbit haemorrhagic disease. With confirmed cases of RHD2 in most parts of the UK now, nowhere can be considered safe. The new strain was first recognised several years ago and recently it has become increasingly prevalent throughout the UK.
The two strains of rabbit haemorrhagic disease: RHD 1 and 2, are highly contagious and are fatal in most cases. The second, and most recent, strain of the disease, RHD2, is extremely contagious, and the 1.3million pet rabbits estimated to be in the UK are now at risk and sadly, many are likely to already have succumbed to this disease. This virus often shows few to no symptoms and kills rabbits quickly and suddenly. As RHD2 sadly often results in sudden death consequently the real incidence of RHD2 is unknown, especially as most cases are suspected rather than confirmed with tests. Little can be done to save any other companion rabbits from suffering the same fate as the disease can spread rapidly. If there are any symptoms present, they can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and abdominal spasms. The RHD2 virus is spread very easily between rabbits and via contaminated surfaces, from human hand contact from handling an infected rabbit via contaminated clothing, from contaminated food and food bowls, and from hay and straw bedding. If a rabbit owner is unaware that their pet has the virus, it will continue to spread rapidly. There is an incubation period of three to nine days, during which time the virus is already highly contagious. Research on the effect of the disease on wild rabbits and on the transmission between them in the wild rabbit population is limited. Anywhere that has an outbreak of RHD2 will need rapid decontamination and will not be able to house another rabbit until strict measures have been taken to ensure the virus has been eliminated.
As there is no cure for this disease, the only way to protect your pet rabbit is with a preventative vaccine. Ask your vet about providing the vaccine against RHD2 for your pet rabbit and make an appointment for this protection as soon as possible. It is strongly recommended that all pet rabbit owners have their pets vaccinated to protect against this deadly disease.
Protection against the first strain of Rabbit Haemorrhagic disease, RHD1, is included in the original “standard” rabbit vaccinations: i.e., against Myxomatosis and RHD1, which every pet rabbit should have already had. If a rabbit has never had a RHD2 vaccine protection, the vaccine for new RHD2 strain needs to be given at least two weeks after the vaccine for the first RHD1 strain, and then full Booster vaccines for all these diseases can then safely be given annually. If your Rabbit has already had a vaccination against RHD2 strain within the last 12 months then the new combined annual booster vaccine can be given to cover against Myxomatosis, RHD1 and RHD2 strains. If your rabbit has not had RHD2 protection, this can be given two weeks after their Myxo/RHD1 vaccines and then full annual Boosters for all given annually thereafter.
Vaccinations are quick and simple, and before your rabbit is vaccinated, they will also receive a full health assessment checking their weight, teeth, eyes, ears, coat, nails etc. This is a vital opportunity for the vet to detect any visible health problems which that may be developing, to discuss any concerns you may have about your pet, and to make sure you have all the information on the best care for your rabbit.
Keeping your annual vaccination appointment every year is important. If you would like any more information on vaccinating your rabbit, do get in touch with your vet practice.