Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) is a highly contagious viral disease that affects rabbits.

All rabbits are at risk, even indoor rabbits. The virus is spread by direct contact between rabbits (both wild and pet rabbits), as well as by indirect contact via people, clothing, shoes, inanimate objects and fleas. The incubation period is up to 3 days but many rabbits die suddenly without showing any clinical signs. If clinical signs are apparent then they may display the following symptoms;

  • lethargy/collapse
  • anorexia
  • fever
  • fits/convulsions
  • difficulty breathing
  • blood stained nasal discharge
  • paralysis

Unfortunately there is no cure available and it is almost always fatal once contracted as the virus attacks the major body organs, especially the liver, causing massive internal haemorrhage. Given the horrendous death experienced by affected rabbits, we strongly recommend that you vaccinate your rabbit.

Your can protect your rabbit against this deadly disease – vaccination is essential and successful. There is a combination vaccination available which vaccinates against VHD and Myxomatosis in one simple innoculation in the scruff of the neck. Your rabbit will need a booster once a year to remain protected. Given the horrendous death experienced by affected rabbits, we strongly recommend that you vaccinate your rabbit.

Other precautions should be taken to prevent your rabbit contracting VHD;

  • maintaining good hygiene, always washing your hands before and after handling other rabbits
  • regular, up- to- date flea treatment for all in-contact pets in the household, with a suitable product from your veterinary practice, as these are potent enough to ensure the fleas and their eggs are killed.

Written by Laura Sullivan MRCVS

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