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Felixstowe vet urges pet owners to vaccinate rabbits following VHD2 virus outbreak

PUBLISHED: 19:14 10 August 2017

The VHD2 virus, which can kill rabbits in a matter of hours, affects both wild and domestic animals, vets warn. Picture: PAMELA BIDWELL

The VHD2 virus, which can kill rabbits in a matter of hours, affects both wild and domestic animals, vets warn. Picture: PAMELA BIDWELL

(c) copyright citizenside.com

A vets in Felixstowe is warning pet owners of a new virus after a rabbit suddenly died.

Whitworth Vets in Trimley sadly lost one of their patients, a rabbit called Caramel, very suddenly with no symptoms to a relatively new virus which broke out in the county about two years ago.

It was later revealed that the rabbit had died from Viral Haemmorhagic Disease (VHD), a highly-contagious disease which can cause internal organs to haemorrhage resulting in heavy blood loss.

Jamie Whittle, Principle Veterinary Surgeon at Whitworth Vets, said: “A couple of weeks ago we had the sad news that one of our rabbit patients had died suddenly at home with no prior signs of illness.

“This week we have had it confirmed that poor Caramel died from VHD2. Fortunately Caramel’s companion has since been vaccinated, she has been very lucky and appears to have avoided catching this horrible disease.”

The disease, which can kill rabbits in a matter of hours, affects both wild and domestic animals, and can be spread by coming into contact with infected rabbits, by people if they have previously handled an infected rabbit or by fleas.

Dr Whittle, who has a keen interest in small animal veterinary care, said: “VHD is something that we have seen in this country for many years and we have a combined vaccination to protect against it and Myxomatosis, but over the past couple of years a new strain of VHD, known as VHD2, which is not covered by the usual rabbit vaccination, has become prevalent in this country.

“It is only over the past year that a suitable vaccination has become widely available in the UK so a lot of owners still don’t know about it.

“Please, if you have a rabbit call us or any vet now to arrange to have your bunnies protected from this devastating disease.”

Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, said: “The risk of a rabbit contracting this Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic Disease variation “RVHD-2” is highest in situations where rabbits are kept in large groups with regular new additions, such as at breeders or rescue centres.

“Owners should also be aware that the vaccination for the original strain of RVHD doesn’t appear to offer long term protection against RVHD2, but vaccines for this new strain are now available and your vet will be able to best advise you on this.”

In a statement back in May, the Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund said: “The only vaccine for rabbits currently available with a UK License is Nobivac Myxo-RHD (MSD Animal Health), which was made available in 2012. Not long after that, the other three vaccines against VHD on the UK market ceased to be available.

“Work from Italy and France, however, suggests that, with our reservoir of wild rabbits, we can expect to see VHD2 starting to predominate over VHD1 in the next five years or so.

“However, there are now four vaccines available in the EU which have been licensed or are undergoing licensing for efficacy against VHD2.”

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