- RHD2, also known as VHD2, is a relatively new strain of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease
- It is highly contagious and the 1.3million pet rabbits estimated to be in the UK are at risk
- The virus often shows few to no symptoms and kills rabbits quickly and suddenly
- Blue Cross recommends that all rabbit owners have their pets vaccinated against the new strain
What is RHD2 and why should I be worried?
There are two strains of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) – or viral haemorrhagic disease (VHD) – and both of them are highly contagious, have few to no symptoms and are fatal in most cases. The second, and most recent, strain of the disease, RHD2, is affecting more and more pet rabbits in the UK, and Blue Cross recommends vaccination against it urgently.
The new strain was first recognised several years ago but over the past year it has become increasingly prevalent. Some 1.3million pet rabbits are thought to be at risk in the UK and many are likely to have already died. Protection against the first strain of RHD, along with other diseases, is included in the standard vaccinations which every pet rabbit should have already had.
What are the symptoms of RHD2?
RHD2 presents even fewer symptoms than the initial strain of the virus. It can result in sudden death, although there are many other causes of this in rabbits. 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 other companion rabbits from suffering the same fate thereafter and the disease can spread even further without careful decontamination.
If there are symptoms present, although rare, they can include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and spasms.