Submitted by Steve on 23:06, 26th Jun, 2017 | 0

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

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

The GSPCA has been in close communication with local vets and the States Vet after concerns of a possible disease affecting rabbits from around Guernsey over recent weeks.

The GSPCA this morning have been in communication with vets today who have confirmed two positive case of results from rabbits who have died due to RHVD2.

The GSPCA helps over 150 wild and domestic rabbits every year and with this disease found not only in a rabbit that has come into the Shelter but has been found in a pet rabbit not in or from the Animal Shelter means that the disease could well be in the wild population of rabbits.

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 "The team at the GSPCA are extremely worried at present for all rabbits in Guernsey as a very serious virus has already killed two confirmed rabbits this month and tests have just come back as RHVD2."

"Normally there are symptoms leading up to this disease but the one that we have seen at the GSPCA was well and feeding normally and then the following day was rushed to the vet where nothing could be done."

"The rabbit in question was vaccinated against Myxi and RHVD1 but not variant 2 which has never been an issue here in Guernsey."

"There have been reports of bunnies found dead and another confirmed case of RHVD from the vets from a pet owner."

"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."

"We are working extremely closely with the States Vet and will of course update with further information as and when we are able to."

"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 w 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 [email protected] .”

“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.

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