Looking to protect your furry friend from Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD)? Curious about the signs and symptoms, and what you can do to help? The vets at Huntersville will answer all your questions.
What is Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease?
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is caused by a highly contagious calicivirus (RHD Virus). In other geographical areas, such as Europe and Australia, RHDV2 is considered endemic.
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus serotype 2 (RHDV2) was first detected in the United States in 2018 and was detected for the third time in 2020, after which it has been steadily spreading across the country. The virus has been reported on a sporadic basis in domestic rabbits in states east of the Mississippi River, including Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and New York, most likely as a result of contaminated shipped feed or bedding.
The virus has not yet been detected in North Carolina.
Symptoms of RHD in Rabbits
First, it is important to know that the virus is not contagious to people or other animals.
Infected rabbits may develop a fever, a reluctance to eat, or show respiratory or neurologic signs. However, symptoms of infection spread rapidly, and sudden death may be the only sign that your rabbit had the disease.
In the EU, two vaccines are fully approved for use in rabbits. In these countries, these vaccines have a long track record of efficacy and safety. At the moment, the USDA has not fully approved any vaccines in the United States. And while vaccines have been imported into the United States in the past, this is no longer permitted because of the Medgene Labs RHDV2 vaccine's emergency authorization.
The Medgene Lab's RHDV2 Emergency Authorization Vaccine
The Medgene Labs RHDV2 vaccine is an inactivated (killed) recombinant subunit vaccine. Internal documents from the lab state that the vaccine is 100% protective against the virus. Vaccination consists of a 2-dose series, 21 days apart, and can be given to rabbits as young as 4 weeks, with full protection achieved at 14 days after the second dose. The company's internal documents state that the vaccine appears to be safe based on safety testing per USDA standards.
Carolina Veterinary Specialists' Recommendations
Currently, Carolina Veterinary Specialists is providing the Medgene Labs vaccine for clients that understand the risks and limitations and still wish to have their rabbits vaccinated.
Carolina Veterinary Specialists does not yet recommend vaccination of all domestic rabbits. This is because the RHDV2 virus has not been detected in North Carolina, the vaccine is not yet fully approved by the USDA, and we do not yet know the vaccine's long-term safety. We will recommend the vaccine for all pet rabbits if it receives full USDA authorization and continues to appear safe and effective.