Updated Dec 2016.
RVHD1 and RVHD2
This article will provide a concise overview of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Viral Disease, its characteristics, locations, testing methods and some of the preventative steps that can be taken.
Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease 1 is a type of Calicivirus, has been in Europe for many decades or even centuries and affects both wild and domestic rabbits. There are a few different pathogenic strains of the virus but until recently, RVHD1 was thought to be the only type in the UK.
RVHD2 differs in a few key ways as it is unaffected by age and has a longer illness phase with different clinical symptoms. It is also thought to have a lower mortality rate. Little research has been done on RVHD2 and it is highly likely that cases are under reported.
Both viruses are potentially very easily spread and can live in the environment for a long time (RVHD2 up to 200 days in laboratory conditions) Insects, wildlife and scavengers can spread it as well as direct contact with an infected rabbit. Fomites such as bedding, wild plants, shoes and clothing can also carry the virus to new areas. It is currently unknown if biting insects can spread RVHD2.
Due to it being so easily transported, the spread of RVHD can be very quick and strict biosecurity is recommended as well as vaccination.
The current UK vaccine, Nobivac Myxo-RHD offers protection against RVHD1 but is unlikely to offer any for RVHD2 as this virus is antigenically and genetically different from RVHD1. It is recommended that a second vaccination be given to cover RVHD2 and there are a few options:
- Eravac has been licensed in the UK for use in ‘fattening’ rabbits. This is an oil based drug with no research showing the possible long term effects and there is currently no recommended vaccination schedule.
- Cunivak RHD is currently out of stock and Cunipravac can be ordered via a special import certificate however it is only available in large multi dose bottles.
- Filavac RHD K C+V is available to order from most UK wholesalers and is administered annually or 6 monthly (if considered to be a high risk patient or area). It is vital that the rabbits are still vaccinated with the Nobivac Myxo-RHD as the Filavac vaccine does not give any protection against myxomatosis, however standard immunology advice is to leave at least a 2 week gap between the different vaccinations.
It is important to research all options and discuss with your vet / client. The safety and efficacy of using any other vaccine alongside the Nobivac Myxo RHD has not been studied.
It is not recommended to carry out en-mass vaccination clinics as this could potentially increase the risk of disease spread due to the way RVHD is transmitted.
Testing and Reporting
Its important to consider RVHD2 as a differential diagnosis when dealing with a sick rabbit that doesnt seem to respond to treatment and no obvious reason for the illness is found. PCR testing is now available for live rabbits via the Batt Laboratories in Coventry. For sudden deaths, post mortem liver samples can also be sent here or to the Moredun Research Institute.
Wherever possible, please send samples to either laboratory via the methods outlined on their websites. Please also consider reporting all suspicious deaths to the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund as their Veterinary Advisor is monitoring the spread of this disease.
Good husbandry is paramount and sick rabbits should be barrier nursed. Enhanced cleaning, disinfection and quarantine protocols can be implemented in practice and with owners. Anigene HLD4V is a veterinary grade product that is believed to be effective against RVHD when used at a concentration of 1:50 for soiled conditions.
It is vital to be aware of the risks associated with attending events such as rabbit shows, petting zoos and even rescues. Environmental insect controls should also be in place as it is still unknown if RVHD2 can be spread via insects. Care should also be taken when considering feeding handpicked wild plants.
Keeping Up To Date
You can also visit the Rabbit Welfare Association’s website as they will always have the most up to date and factually correct info.
Lastly, Rabbit Specialist Vet Francis Harcourt Brown (retired) has information about the disease on her website.
Be wary of other reports and anecdotal stories doing the rounds as they may not be factually accurate. Also, please contact your own vet asap so they are fully aware of the new RVHD2 strain and that they are stocking and advertising the new vaccine to help fight this. We need owners to insist all their vets order in the vaccine to get as many rabbits as possible protected against this fatal disease.
Please know how to keep your rabbits safe and spread the word!
Poundstretcher have just publicly announced that they will be removing all of the horrid rabbit prison hutches from sale with immediate effect.
The Pet Hut, a subsidiary of Poundstretcher, has taken the decision to remove The Rabbit Hutch from all of its stores across the UK with immediate effect. As a supplier of pet products and accessories, we take the welfare of all animals extremely seriously and will not be purchasing this product again in the future.
For all PR enquiries please contact:
0121 236 2132 or firstname.lastname@example.org”
This is a fabulous example of people working together to make a change. Social media is a powerful tool – one that companies often underestimate.
However, for me….the battle may be won but the war still continues. Poundstretcher have still not responded to ANY of my communications and I still have outstanding questions (see previous post).
I also want to find out if The Pet Hut and Poundstretchers will consider working with the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund to ensure this type of product is never sold in their stores again.
A BIG thank you to everyone that has helped share this message so far – please continue! You can contact Poundstretchers to thank them for removing the Prison Hutch from sale and also politely urge them sign up to the RWAF Retail Charter to ensure they only provide quality items in the future.
And of course….keep checking the stores to ensure they are sticking to their word 🙂
For just £129.99 you too could be the proud owner of a ‘Deluxe’ rabbit prison :/ Oh wait….why would you want to be…
This awful enclosure was spotted in a Pound Stretcher branch a few days ago. They have a specific part of the store called The Pet Hut which stocks all sorts of bits and bobs for your companion animals. Every penny counts…but apparently rabbit welfare does not.
Smaller than a laboratory rabbits enclosure – this horrible prison is being marketed as a top end treat for your cherished pet. Personally – I don’t even think this is a suitable size to house rats in let alone rabbits. It does not allow a rabbit to participate in its 5 Freedoms (breaking points 2, 4 and 5).
Not only is it TINY! (approx 2ft square) the ramps are so steep and it looks like it has a wire bottom floor. Not good. Most average rabbits couldn’t sit in this comfortably let alone live in it with their friend (as rabbits should live in bonded, neutered pairs).
Many complaints have been made to Pound Stretchers facebook page but unfortunately, rather than replying, they are deleting the majority of the comments. Others are e-mailing the head office and a lucky few have received this reply:
“The Rabbit Hutch has been sourced for our stores from a UK supplier. The legal size requirement for this product has been met by the manufacturer as well as the organizations who set the guidelines.
We have made a decision to not purchase this product in the future for our stores.
Thank you for your time.
Sounds like a cop out to me. Interestingly enough, they have not responded to my questions:
1) Will this item be removed from stock immediately or will it be discounted and placed on sale?
2) What resource did you use for the ‘legal size requirement’ and which organisations did you contact?
3) Do you currently stock any other hutches that are 4ft or smaller?
The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund are the UK’s leading source of rabbit advice. Funnily enough, they were not contacted by Pound Stretchers with regards to minimum housing guidelines. They run the ‘A Hutch Is Not Enough‘ campaign which strives to educate manufacturers, retailers and the general public as to what enclosures rabbits need to live a happy and healthy life.
Their current MINIMUM guidelines clearly state that the hutch / cage should be at least 6ft x 2ft x 2ft with full time access to an attached run that should be at least 8ft x 4ft.
If you feel, like I do, that Pound Stretchers are promoting animal cruelty by selling this horrendous rabbit prison then please consider doing one or all of the following:
1) Leave a complaint on their Facebook page
2) Leave a 1 star review on their Facebook page
3) Email your complaint to Pound Stretchers
4) Email your complaint to The Pet Hut
5) Boycott your local store
Please do let me know (by using the comments section) if you get any replies.