This year’s Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) runs from 1st to 9th June 2019, and focuses on raising awareness of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 2 (RVHD2). RVHD2 is a new variant of RVHD1 and is often fatal.
Many rabbits in the UK are not vaccinated against this deadly disease and are therefore at risk, so this year we are asking all rabbit owners in the UK to make sure that their rabbits are vaccinated against this and other fatal diseases. To support Rabbit Awareness Week, Stanhope Park Veterinary Hospital are offering a 10% discount on all rabbit vaccinations throughout the month of June!
Cases of RVHD2 were first reported in the UK in 2015. As with RVHD1 the virus causes internal bleeding.
RVHD2 often has no symptoms, meaning that it is very hard to spot early on. Where symptoms do occur these signs are easily confused with other health conditions: fever, lethargy, neurological signs (coma) and blood clotting problems.
Mode of transmission
It is a myth that RVHD2 can only be caught through contact with an infected rabbit. In actual fact the virus can be carried by:
- Birds and insects, and their droppings
- The wind
- Soles of shoes, car tyres or other pets’ feet
- An infected rabbit or their droppings
- Owners’ hands or clothes
This is just a small section of the list of ways RVHD2 can be carried. Practically, there is no way to stop the virus getting into your rabbits’ indoor or outdoor environment. Therefore, the only way to protect your rabbits is through vaccination.
We can vaccinate your rabbits against RVHD2 using Filavac vaccination – this is a separate vaccination to the combined myxomatosis/RVHD1 vaccine – and our vets will then advise what booster vaccinations your rabbit will need (usually every 6-12 months). Rabbits can be vaccinated with Filavac from 10 weeks of age.
There is no specific treatment available for RVHD2, though we can admit your rabbit for supportive and symptomatic care.
There have been some cases where rabbits have recovered from RVHD2, however, in most cases the disease is sadly fatal.
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 (RVHD1) is an extremely infectious virus that is usually fatal. RVHD1 virus kills by causing internal bleeding.
RVHD1 often has no symptoms, meaning that it is very hard to spot. There is sometimes bleeding from body openings such as the nose, eyes and/or anus, but these are very easy to miss without daily checks.
Mode of transmission
As with RVHD2, it is a myth that RVHD1 can only be caught through contact with an infected rabbit, and can be spread by the same methods as RVHD2 (see above). The virus can survive for months in the environment, especially in cold temperatures.
We can vaccinate your rabbits against RVHD1 using the Nobivac combined vaccination for myxomatosis and RVHD1. Our vets will then advise what booster vaccinations your rabbit will need (usually every 12 months).
As with RVHD2, there is no specific treatment available for RVHD1, though we can hospitalise your rabbit for supportive care.
RVHD1 is usually fatal within a couple of days to weeks. There are very limited examples of rabbits surviving the disease.
Myxomatosis has been present in the UK since it was introduced from South America in the 1950s. It killed a very high percentage of the wild rabbits, and still kills many wild and pet rabbits every year.
The full-blown form of myxomatosis affects the eyelids, the skin of the ears, lips and genitals, causing swellings.
There is a purely skin form of myxomatosis, which isn’t usually fatal. It causes small thickened lumps of skin to form on the eyelids, nose, head and sometimes the shoulders. These typically fall away after 2-3 weeks.
Mode of transmission
Myxomatosis is mainly spread by direct contact by fleas. Rabbits fleas are the most common carriers, but flying and biting insects can also spread it. Rabbits can also catch the disease through direct contact with other rabbits.
We can vaccinate your rabbits against myxomatosis using the Nobivac combined vaccination for myxomatosis and RVHD1. Our vets will then advise what booster vaccinations your rabbit will need (usually every 6-12 months). Vaccination can take place from five weeks of age and takes three weeks to become effective.
Vaccination is very effective; however, vaccinated rabbits can still get a milder form of the disease, but the prognosis for vaccinated rabbits is very good with the majority making a full recovery.
There is no specific treatment available for myxomatosis, though we can hospitalise your rabbit for supportive and symptomatic care.
The prognosis for an unvaccinated rabbit with full-blown myxomatosis is usually a long and painful death. Therefore, euthanasia is preferable.
The prognosis for a rabbit with just the skin form, or a rabbit that is vaccinated, is usually good with the majority surviving without needing significant treatment.
To book your rabbit in for a potentially life-saving vaccination, please call our Cats and Exotics branch on 01325 620968 for an appointment!