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RHD stands for Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease. It may also be known as Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) or Rabbit Calicivirus Disease. It is a serious infection of rabbits caused by a calicivirus. Two different strains are found in the UK, RHDV-1 and more recently RHDV-2.

How do rabbits become infected with FHD?

Most infections with RHD in pet rabbits originate from wild rabbits. The virus may be passed on by direct contact, but can also be carried by insects, on contaminated material such as plants gathered for food, or even blown short distances on the wind. It can survive in the environment for many months.

What are the signs of RHD?

RHD progresses very rapidly, so often infected rabbits are found dead, having seemed perfectly well just hours before. If infection progresses more slowly, rabbits generally show signs of collapse and shock. They may bleed from the nose or mouth, and may seizure. RHDV 2 tends to progress slightly more slowly than RHDV 1, though both are highly and rapidly fatal.

How serious is RHD?

RHD is an extremely serious illness. The majority of infected rabbits die, and there is no effective treatment, even if they reach a vet in time. Though the mortality rate of RHDV-2 is slightly lower than RHDV-1, it is this that currently causes most infections in the UK. We advise vaccination against both.

How do I prevent RHD?

In order to prevent RHD, it is very important that your rabbit is vaccinated against both strains of RHD. Here at Orchard Vets, we recommend a comprehensive protection programme for your pet rabbit that includes vaccination against RHDV-1, RHDV-2 and myxomatosis.