Cause and clinical signs
Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (previously known as Rabbit Calicivirus) is spread by mosquitoes, flies and/or through indirect contact or direct contact with an infected rabbit.
There are currently four strains of RHDV virus (RHDV1, RHDVa, RHDV2 and RHDV1 K5). Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) 1 K5 will be released nationally in the first week of March 2017. This virus is being released as a biocontrol measure to manage wild European rabbits.
In most adult rabbits the disease progresses rapidly from fever and lethargy to sudden death within 48-72 hours of infection. The incubation period for the RHDV is between one to three days. Most rabbits will show no signs of external symptoms of RHDV.
The clinical signs include poor appetite, restlessness, lethargy and fever. The disease causes acute liver damage with resultant blood clotting abnormalities. This disease can be fatal due to the obstruction of blood supply in vital organs and/or internal haemorrhages. RHDV has a mortality rate of 70 to 90% in susceptible rabbits.
Vaccinating your rabbit will:
Provide protection against RHDV1
From the limited research carried out, it would indicate that it does provide protection against RHDV1 K5.
May or may not provide protection against RHDVa and RHDV2 and not in every rabbit.
Vaccinations are administered every 6 months for adult rabbits. Adult rabbits that are overdue for a vaccination or have not previously been vaccinated will need to be given two vaccinations, one month apart. Young rabbit kittens can be vaccinated from four weeks of age repeated monthly until 12 weeks of age and then every six months.
We recommend along with vaccination:
Preventing direct and indirect contact between domestic and wild rabbits.
Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits.
Wash hands, with warm soapy water between handling rabbits.
Good insect control is also important and will help reduce the risks of introduction of both Calicivirus and Myxomatosis. Insect control could include insect proofing the hutch and keeping rabbits indoors. We also recommend a monthly treatment with a topical biting insect preventative, but please talk to your vet about the correct dosage regime.
Infected rabbits should be isolated with care taken to minimise environmental contamination.
There is no treatment available.
Often there are subtle changes in your rabbit’s behaviour that may be a clue to a disease process occurring. If you have noticed any changes or are concerned about something your bunny has been doing then it is advised to get them checked by your vet. The earlier problems are detected the better your rabbit’s chances are of living a healthy life.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or require further information.
For more information see the page on Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus