The Dougherty Veterinary Clinic is currently offering the Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2) vaccine to their rabbit patients. We urge you to call the clinic for an appointment. If your rabbit has been examined within the last year and you have no health concerns, a physical exam will not be necessary. A technician will do the vaccine on an outpatient basis. A second booster vaccine must be given in 21 days.
This is considered an experimental vaccine that has been authorized for emergency use by the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics. The Minnesota State Veterinarian, Dr Beth Thompson, has approved administration of the vaccine by veterinarians. At this time, it is not clear how often the vaccine will need to be repeated after the initial series of two vaccines. Side effects reported include tenderness and swelling at the injection site, and lethargy in some rabbits.
RHDV2 may present in different ways. The peracute form may result in sudden death with no symptoms. The acute form may cause lethargy and poor appetite, discharge from the nose and eyes, neurologic signs such as weakness, tremors or seizures and bleeding from the nose or the urinary or gastrointestinal tract. There are some cases in which very young kits may become infected and survive, resulting in long term immunity.
RHDV2 can be transmitted via bodily fluids and feces from an infected rabbit. It is very stable in the environment and can be transmitted in bedding, on surfaces such as cages, clothing and footwear, organic material in the environment, and by insects.
Treatment is limited to supportive care and the virus is fatal in 70-90 percent of rabbits. The virus does not affect humans.