RHVD2 in the US - what you need to know

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jlbunny

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My vet didn’t recommend the vaccine. I took my bunnies (both 6 months old) to the vet last week for their first checkup. I told the vet that I’d like to have them vaccinated. My bunnies are indoor bunnies, but we have a beautiful grassy area that I’d love to take them out to play in. I haven’t brought them outside yet as they’re unvaccinated and we have a large wild bunny population (that grassy area is covered in wild bunny poop). We live in Southern California (so the virus is here). The vet said she would vaccinate them if I really wanted her to, but that her recommendation would be not to vaccinate them and not to take them outside. She said she has had some cases of vaccinated outdoor pet bunnies dying from the virus, but that she hasn’t had any cases yet of any indoor bunnies dying from the virus (that technically there is some risk that we could track the virus in to them from outside, but that risk was minimal). She said even if I have them vaccinated that I shouldn’t bring them outside to play in my grassy area since we have so many wild rabbits on our property and the vaccine isn’t 100% protective. She said if I had them vaccinated that they might have side effects and that they’d also have to come back in 3 weeks for a booster and that the vaccine is only protective for a year. All of that said, she leaned against it and so my bunnies didn’t get vaccinated….
Has anyone else’s vet leaned against the vaccine for indoor bunnies?
"vaccinated outdoor pet bunnies dying from the virus " I can assure you this is not true. The question has come up more than once in my group, Has there ever been a vaccinated bunny who died from the virus. I have checked each time and the answer is still no. A claim, that also goes around, that indoor bunnies do not need to be vaccinated is also wrong. All it takes is one fly or one mosquito coming into the home. Any biting insect that bit or walked on an infected rabbit, carries enough virus to kill the next rabbit it bites or lands on. People and indoor-outdoor pets who share the rabbit's home can unknowingly bring the virus into the home on shoes or paws. Carrion eaters, aerial and terrestrial, who have fed on an infected carcass, takes in the virus which survives the animal's/bird's digestive system and leaves the body via their feces. Those carrion eaters can infect any ground surface as they roam around and as they fly, by dropping virus-laden feces. While it is true Medgene is given in two doses, 21 days apart, after that it is a single-shot annual vaccination. I don't mean to lecture BrownieAndBunbun but I do want to share accurate information for all rabbit people so they can keep their bunnies safe. I hope you will consider all this and perhaps find a willing vet to vaccinate your sweethearts. Jane, North Americans RHDV2 Group
 
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"vaccinated outdoor pet bunnies dying from the virus " I can assure you this is not true. The question has come up more than once in my group, Has there ever been a vaccinated bunny who died from the virus. I have checked each time and the answer is still no. A claim, that also goes around, that indoor bunnies do not need to be vaccinated is also wrong. All it takes is one fly or one mosquito coming into the home. Any biting insect that bit or walked on an infected rabbit, carries enough virus to kill the next rabbit it bites or lands on. People and indoor-outdoor pets who share the rabbit's home can unknowingly bring the virus into the home on shoes or paws. Carrion eaters, aerial and terrestrial, who have fed on an infected carcass, takes in the virus which survives the animal's/bird's digestive system and leaves the body via their feces. Those carrion eaters can infect any ground surface as they roam around and as they fly, by dropping virus-laden feces. While it is true Medgene is given in two doses, 21 days apart, after that it is a single-shot annual vaccination. I don't mean to lecture BrownieAndBunbun but I do want to share accurate information for all rabbit people so they can keep their bunnies safe. I hope you will consider all this and perhaps find a willing vet to vaccinate your sweethearts. Jane, North Americans RHDV2 Group
Thanks for your reply… I’m a new bunny mom and from the little that I have read about the virus, I was surprised by what the vet said… that’s why I was curious if anyone else’s vet said something similar (or if this vet was off-base)… Before I went to the vet I was just worried about the virus; when I left the vet I was still worried about the virus, and also the vaccine (and also bummed not to be able to take the bunnies outside to play in the grass)… From your understanding of the virus, it sounds like even strictly indoor bunnies should be vaccinated… What do you think about vaccinated bunnies playing on outside grass that’s shared with wild bunnies? Safe? Thanks!
 

JBun

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Thanks for your reply… I’m a new bunny mom and from the little that I have read about the virus, I was surprised by what the vet said… that’s why I was curious if anyone else’s vet said something similar (or if this vet was off-base)… Before I went to the vet I was just worried about the virus; when I left the vet I was still worried about the virus, and also the vaccine (and also bummed not to be able to take the bunnies outside to play in the grass)… From your understanding of the virus, it sounds like even strictly indoor bunnies should be vaccinated… What do you think about vaccinated bunnies playing on outside grass that’s shared with wild bunnies? Safe? Thanks!

Even though there may be some minimal risk of a vaccinated rabbit contracting the virus, in the UK where the virus is much more prevalent than here in the US, having outdoor rabbits is fairly common, with some of the rabbits having access to roam in the garden and munch on the grass. And from what I can tell, the rabbit owners there don't worry about their vaccinated rabbits being outdoors or eating grass. No one could ever tell you it's completelly safe, as there is always that slight possibility. You would just need to determine how much of a risk you feel it is and if it's worth it.
 

jlbunny

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Thanks for your reply… I’m a new bunny mom and from the little that I have read about the virus, I was surprised by what the vet said… that’s why I was curious if anyone else’s vet said something similar (or if this vet was off-base)… Before I went to the vet I was just worried about the virus; when I left the vet I was still worried about the virus, and also the vaccine (and also bummed not to be able to take the bunnies outside to play in the grass)… From your understanding of the virus, it sounds like even strictly indoor bunnies should be vaccinated… What do you think about vaccinated bunnies playing on outside grass that’s shared with wild bunnies? Safe? Thanks!
I agree with JBun. No vaccine, human or animal, is 100% protective. As for bunnies going out to play, It comes down to quality of life for the rabbits. I've heard of rabbits who were *used* to outdoor playtime who became depressed and/or destructive when that was taken away. It also comes down to your comfort level letting them play outdoors. If they are going outdoors, make sure the area they will be in is bunny-safe. No plants poisonous to rabbits (rabbit.org is a great resource); an overhead cover to protect against raptors swooping down; protection from cats and dogs. Some people will use an exercise pen with a covering clothes-pinned to the top. The HRS has an article here: Great Outdoor Exercise Set-Ups I hope this helps.
 
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I agree with JBun. No vaccine, human or animal, is 100% protective. As for bunnies going out to play, It comes down to quality of life for the rabbits. I've heard of rabbits who were *used* to outdoor playtime who became depressed and/or destructive when that was taken away. It also comes down to your comfort level letting them play outdoors. If they are going outdoors, make sure the area they will be in is bunny-safe. No plants poisonous to rabbits (rabbit.org is a great resource); an overhead cover to protect against raptors swooping down; protection from cats and dogs. Some people will use an exercise pen with a covering clothes-pinned to the top. The HRS has an article here: Great Outdoor Exercise Set-Ups I hope this helps.
Very helpful - Thank You!
 

TreasuredFriend

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- The shelter who spays and neuters all surrendered rabbits that come in also vaccinates to protect this region from the "sticky" virus.

Notes were sent to the shelter staff wrt biosecurity, and our rabbit-savvy DVM is up-to-date.
 

Alexnv

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uch a frequently asked question right now and important info for any rabbit owner where this disease has been an issue for a while or is now becoming an issu
There has been much in the news about RHVD2 (Rabbit Hemorrhagic Viral Disease) spreading in the United States. It is
a very contagious and deadly disease caused by the calcivirus. It kills swiftly and with little warning. Until 2020, it was not known to affect the wild rabbit population in the US. The pet rabbit population in the US was also free from this disease except for the rare isolated cases. A second strain (known as RHDV2) has overtaken and largely replaced the 1st strain of the virus.

Unfortunately, there is now an outbreak of this disease in parts of the US & Canada. New York, Ohio, and the Pacific Northwest (Washington state and BC Canada) have had outbreaks. Separate from those outbreaks is another outbreak currently in the Southwest (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Mexico).

Vaccines against this disease have been and are currently used in Europe but are not widely available here in the US. In those areas of the US that have been affected by the outbreak, vets are permitted to request import of the vaccine from Europe.

Annual vaccines are required to help protect against RHDV.

The House Rabbit Society has been keeping their information current on what is happening with RHDV2 in the US. Check here for further info: Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) | House Rabbit Society

How to Protect Your Rabbits
Biosecurity measures are essential to protect your rabbit in an outbreak, even if they are vaccinated.
  • House your rabbits indoors. We strongly recommend that rabbits be kept indoors, or in enclosed environments, and not allowed outdoor playtime. Rabbits who live outdoors and those who exercise outdoors are at greater risk of contracting this disease.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before handling your rabbits, particularly when you come home from places where other rabbits may have been, or where people who have been in contact with rabbits may have been, including feed stores, pet stores, fairgrounds, humane societies, etc.
  • Adopt a “no shoes in the house” policy, or keep your bunnies from running in high traffic areas of your home.
  • Trim your rabbit’s nails and groom them at home. Learn how to trim your rabbit’s nails and groom them at home, instead of taking them to a rescue or vet’s office, which are higher-risk locations.
  • Change your clothes and wash your hands after handling or coming in contact with other rabbits. Wash these clothes twice in hot water and dry in the dryer before wearing around your rabbit.
  • Don’t let your rabbit come into physical contact with other rabbits from outside your home, for example, “hoppy hour” or “bunny playground” activities.
  • If you volunteer at a shelter in an area with an outbreak, have special clothes and shoes that you wear only at the shelter. You may want to wear shoe covers or plastic bags over your shoes, secured with a rubber band. When you leave the shelter, remove the bags and dispose of them before you get into your car, making sure not to touch the outside of the bag. Follow clothes laundering instructions above, and shoe disinfecting instructions below. This protects the shelter rabbits as well as your own. The same considerations apply to anyone who sees rabbits at work and also has rabbits at home.
  • To disinfect shoes that may have been contaminated, place the shoes in a bath containing one of the below disinfectants. The shoes must be in contact with the disinfectant for the required contact time, during which time the disinfectant must remain wet. Be sure to read the label instructions for contact time for your disinfectant.
  • Use an effective disinfectantfor this virus. Clean the item first, then disinfect. Read all disinfectant instructions and safety information provided by the manufacturer before using. Ask your veterinarian about how to obtain these:
    • accelerated hydrogen peroxide (Prevail, Rescue wipes or solution (formerly “Accel”), and Peroxigard)
    • sodium hypochlorite, household bleach(1:10 dilution = 1.5c bleach (12oz) in 1 gallon water)
      • organic matter inactivates bleach, so be sure the item is thoroughly cleaned with soap and water before disinfecting
      • Check the label on the bleach to make sure it is intended for disinfection, and not expired
      • Never mix bleach with other cleaning products
      • Animals must be removed from the area when bleach is used
      • Wear gloves when handling bleach, and use in a well-ventilated area
      • Once diluted, bleach loses efficacy after 24 hours
      • Wet contact time must be maintained on the surface for at least 10 minutes
      • Following disinfection, bleach should be rinsed off and surface dried before animal contact
    • potassium peroxymonosulfate (1% Virkon S, Trifectant)
    • substituted phenolics
  • Disinfect objects using one of the disinfectants above. Remember it must stay in contact with the item and remain wet for the required contact time of the disinfectant.
  • Know your sources of hay and feedand if they are near areas of any outbreaks.
  • Do not feed plants, grasses, or tree branches foraged from outside in areas where there is an outbreak.
  • Minimize insects in your home by installing window and door screens. Eliminate mosquitoes and flies from your home.
  • Use monthly flea treatment (Revolution or Advantage II are safe for rabbits. NEVER use Frontline on rabbits) for rabbits and cats and dogs, in an area with an outbreak, especially if any pets in the home go outside.
  • Keep cats indoors, so they can’t bring in the virus from outside.
  • Homes with dogs and rabbits: Keep dogs on-leash outside, so they don’t directly interact with wild rabbits (alive or deceased). Consider having your dog wear booties outside, or washing dogs’ paws when coming inside. Designate separate areas in your home for your dog and block dog access to areas where your rabbits live or exercise.
  • Quarantine any new rabbit for at least 14 days. Always handle quarantined rabbits last, and keep all supplies for them separate from your other rabbits’ supplies.
  • If you see a dead rabbit outside do not touch them. Contact state wildlife officials if it appears to be a wild rabbit. By reporting any dead rabbits seen outside, you will help protect domestic rabbits, as we will know where the disease is spreading.
And here is a flyer from the House Rabbit SocietyView attachment 49326
Is it okay for a rabbit to get the vaccine while on an antibiotic.
 

TreasuredFriend

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We have so much wandering diurnal/nocturnal predators and wildlife. After this, I prefer to keep our buns indoors. All our indoor buns are vaccinated as the sticky virus was detected in domestic rabbits in our state. I often sit outside with the crew on mild temperature days while they are safe inside a housing closure (not on the grass due to roaming wildlife).

 

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