Myxomatosis is a household name among rabbit owners and animal lovers alike. But have you heard of RHD?
Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) 1 is an almost always fatal disease that affects both wild and domesticated rabbits. Often rabbit owners have no idea their pet has succumbed to the disease as the only evidence is bloodstained fluid at the mouth and nose – or often no visible signs at all. Symptoms of the disease can vary, making it hard to diagnose. And as there is no effective treatment for RHD, vaccination is essential.
Recently, a new strain of the virus has been identified in the UK – known as RHD2.
Both RHD and RHD2 are viruses which persist in the environment, meaning they can be transported on clothes, shoes and other objects – as well as by insects, birds and other mammals.
We have always strongly recommended that all rabbits, irrespective of whether they live outdoors or indoors are vaccinated against myxomatosis and RHD – which most vets will do as a combined vaccine in one injection.
However, these vaccines do not protect against RHD2.
Thankfully, a new vaccine has been developed in Europe to protect against RHD2. Although the vaccine was initially imported into the UK in January 2016, demand was so high that it quickly ran out. However, Richard Saunders, Veterinary Adviser at the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) has been working tirelessly to restore the supply and get these vaccines transported into the UK. Very recently, another vaccine was licensed for use in UK rabbits.
Thanks to Richard, UK vets are now able to order either of these vaccines that will protect against RHD2 and we strongly urge owners to talk to their vet about getting pets vaccinated against this strain.