Dear rabbit owners,

We at the RWAF are aware of a sudden uptick in reported cases of Rabbit Viral Haemorrhagic disease, mostly from social media. We obviously take this very seriously but need to ensure that we obtain a true and accurate picture of the situation using scientific investigation. We are also talking to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and the manufacturers of the three rabbit vaccine brands in the UK.

We are therefore asking owners whose rabbits have sadly had this awful disease, to report the cases very carefully and precisely, so we can gain the most accurate information.

It can often be that situations like this can look worse because some cases are reported more than once by different people, and that some cases turn out not to be RVHD at all. Amongst the cases that are RVHD, it can be possible that the rabbit had not been vaccinated. This can include:

  • the owner simply not vaccinating at all
  • the animal awaiting vaccination
  • the vaccination being out of date
  • a product that does not cover RVHD2
  • a failure in the importing, storage or administration of the vaccine which would result in it being ineffective.

No vaccine is 100% effective. Vaccines take between one to three weeks after injection to achieve full efficacy. Animals, just like humans with suppressed immune systems or other diseases may fail to respond to vaccines or may not receive full protection as a result.

Sadly, many rabbits, being able to hide signs of disease very well, even to the trained eye, may have undiagnosed chronic health issues. For example, it is very common to take blood samples from rabbits and see depressed white blood cell counts, a crude measure of general immune function.

On the other hand, we are also aware that as not all owners will report cases, there can be a degree of UNDER-reporting too.

For these reasons, we are appealing to owners to help us to help rabbits by taking the time to complete the form below, including permission for us to approach the practice for a full history, including vaccine details and any findings in either the live, or sadly dead, rabbit.

Please ask your vet to be as thorough as possible. We will do our best with incomplete information but without key items such as batch numbers, dates or vet/lab confirmed diagnoses, the information will be of very limited value.

Thanks so much for your help.

In cases where the vaccine was NOT administered by a vet: This should not happen, but if it has, then it is an invaluable piece of information that we need to know. In this situation please complete the separate form here that excludes any identifying details which we would otherwise be obliged to report this to the regulatory authorities. We are just looking to gather information that can help rabbits, not catch anybody out.