Submitted by Steve on 16:23, 21st Jun, 2018 | 0

The GSPCA is asking all rabbits to take great care as Rabbit Haemorraghic Viral Disease (RHVD2) variant 2 has been discovered once again here in Guernsey.

The fatal disease is a huge risk to unvaccinated rabbits and especially to those in outside enclosures.

Last year the GSPCA were in close communication with local vets and the States Vet after the disease was discovered for the first time in Guernsey which resulted in a number of deaths and many rabbit owners vaccinating their pets.

The GSPCA helps over 150 wild and domestic rabbits every year.

The disease is believed to be spread by parasites that feed on infected rabbits and pick it up and pass on during their life cycle to other rabbits that they feed on.

The “classic” RVHD has been present in the UK for decades, variant RHVD (also known as RHVD2 or RHDV variant) was first noted in 2010 in France, and has subsequently been identified in the UK.

This virus has some differences from the classic RVHD. In particularly it may affect rabbits of any age, as opposed to RVHD1, which is rarely if ever seen in rabbits under 8-10 weeks of age. It has also been reported that the variant gives rise to lower mortalities than classical RVHD, this is not necessarily borne out by reports, and this may be thought to be due to be the case due to its phylogenetic placement alongside non-pathogenic strains.

Mortality may vary from collection to collection, and possibly from breed to breed.

The GSPCA and the States Vet are urging rabbit owners and especially those that have rabbits living outside to speak to their vets about vaccinations to help protect their pets and ensure where possible they are away from any wild rabbits that may have access to your garden.

There are now 4 vaccines available in the EU which have been licensed or are undergoing licensing for efficacy against RHVD2. Three of these vaccines (Filavac VHD K C+V, Cunivak RHD and Cunipravac RHD-2 Variant) now have a Special Import or Special Treatment Certificate from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, on the basis of a clear need to do so given the current disease status.

Differences between RVHD and RVHD-2

  • RVHD-2 affects rabbits of any age, unlike RVHD which is very rarely seen in rabbits under the age of 8-10 weeks.
  • RVHD mortality rate is 100%, the mortality rate of RVHD-2 is 20-25%.
  • It has a longer and viable incubation period of 3 to 9 days in comparison to RVHD which has an incubation period between 24 and 72 hours.
  • Prolonged period of illness before death with RVHD-2.
  • Death can occur as early as several hours from the rabbit displaying normal behaviours to up to 1 or 2 days with RVHD.
  • RVHD-2 symptoms don’t look as similar to RVHD as rabbits infected with the virus live longer.
  • Blood in the liver of a rabbit infected with RVHD-2 is not as developed or in fact absent, these changes are not typical of RVHD.
  • In some cases involving RVHD-2 bleeding under the skin has been noted.

Symptoms of RVHD-2

  • Not eating.
  • Bleeding under the skin.
  • Clotting disorders.
  • Signs of liver disease including: weight loss/ jaundice.
  • Bleeding from orifices.

In the UK there have been a number of laboratory confirmed cases of RVHD-2 from Dorset to East Anglia in recent years. Several small outbreaks have been confirmed, as well as a large outbreak at the end of 2015 following a large rabbit show. There have also been unconfirmed reports based on clinical suspicion to detailed post mortems. The true number of deaths by RVHD-2 is harder to ascertain as many pet rabbits do not get taken to vets regularly if at all and many deaths go unreported.

Steve Byrne GSPCA Manager said "Last summer the team at the GSPCA were extremely worried at for all rabbits in Guernsey as a very serious virus had killed three rabbits that had come into the Shelter and tests confirmed RHVD2."

"Normally there are symptoms leading up to this disease but the ones that we saw at the GSPCA were well and feeding normally in the morning, and then later in the day were rushed to the vet where nothing could be done."

"The rabbits in question were vaccinated against Myxi and RHVD1 but not variant 2 which previously had never been an issue here in Guernsey."

"We have been informed by the States Vet that of a recent case of RHVD2 and the GSPCA want to warn all rabbit owners."

"This disease is extremely dangerous to our pet bunnies and for those rabbits living outside pet owners really need to contact their vet for advice."

"The virus is believed to be passed on by vectors such as fleas and other parasites although only having been discovered in France in 2010 a lot still is unknown."

"Some advice from the GSPCA would be to avoid taking your rabbits to rabbit shows this concerning time."

"If you are getting a new bunny and introducing to other rabbits please do keep them quarantined and separate for a minimum of 2 weeks."

“With the GSPCA helping sick and injured rabbits, cruelty cases and unwanted bunnies from around Guernsey on a daily basis we have escalated and heightened all of our isolation and quarantine procedures to ensure we are doing all we can for every rabbit that comes into our care.”

"How RHVD2 has entered Guernsey is impossible to say exactly as it could be from many ways from rabbits imported to the island to parasites carried on migrating birds."

"If your rabbit is unwell or showing any signs or symptoms of RHVD2 we would urge you to immediately seek vet advice."

"A great place for information on rabbits is the RWAF website which can be seen by going to"

“We know it is an extremely sad time when a pet passes away but if any rabbit owners have recently had a rabbit that has died please do send us details so we can pass onto the States Vet by email .”

“Please send the rabbits breed, age, ailments, condition, feeding habits, location, date, description of droppings and urine as well as any other useful information.”

“As with any disease outbreak at the GSPCA we use disinfectant that is tested to eradicate the virus and we do sell Anigene at the shop we have here on site.”

“At present we are not rehoming any of our rabbits at the GSPCA until we are happy it is safe to do so.”

The GSPCA will update further as and when we have information.

For more information please email or call 257261 

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