What is Viral Haemorrhagic Disease?
Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD) is a highly contagious viral disease which is endemic in the wild rabbit population in the UK. It is often fatal and is spread by direct or indirect contact. For example it can be spread by contaminated food, water and bedding and also by contact with humans and animals that are carrying the disease on clothing, pads or fur.
VHD is a quick and sudden killer and symptoms to look out for include loss of appetite, lethargy, fever and seizures. However, rabbits can often die without showing any symptoms at all.
What causes VHD?
VHD is caused by the calici virus which is a very hardy virus with a short incubation period; many rabbits die within 48 hours of exposure to the virus, which is extremely hardy and can survive for many months in the environment. It can even withstand temperatures of 60©C.
There is no specific treatment for rabbits with VHD and if pets develop the full-blown disease it is often fatal. Therefore, it's advisable to vaccinate rabbits against the disease.
Vaccination against VHD is the only proven method of preventing the disease. Good hygiene is also important in reducing the risk of disease and it's advisable to keep wild rabbits, vermin and wild birds away from outdoor hutches or runs.