Rabbit owners: Killer virus protection just got complicated. Don’t lose your bunny! Act Now!

VHD2 has thrown a spanner in the works.

eh.....what does that mean in English!

If you have a bunny you need to read this !

We have been vaccinating rabbits for a while now. Initially the big problem was Myomatosis. The Myomatosis vaccination has been very successful. Take up of the vaccine by rabbit owners was great, it was safe, cheap and highly effective. Deaths of pet rabbits from Myomatosis dropped massively.

A New Threat!

Then the world changed, a new threat to our pet bunnies appeared. A horrendous virus that held no mercy. The symptoms were very clear and simple – SUDDEN DEATH!



VHD - Viral Haemorrhagic Disease

The new virus was named VHD which stands for either Viral Haemorrhagic Disease or Viral Haemorrhagic Diarrhoea depending on who you speak to. Despite the name,  haemorrhagic diarrhoea, most cases did not show these symptoms. The story we, as vets, would hear would be ” I just checked on her this morning and she was just cold – not a scratch  on her. She just died!” It was heart breaking. An horrific experience for anyone.

Heart Break

And that was typical. Rabbits seemed fine the evening before but were dead the next morning. And there was nothing owners or vets could do. But thanks to the research efforts of  pet pharmaceutical companies there was a brighter sunrise on the horizon.

The Pet Pharmaceutical Industry comes to the rescue.

The pet pharmaceutical companies spent millions on researching the new disease. They discovered it was a virus, they worked out that is was actually spread by birds. And they were eventually able to create a vaccine. Initally as a separate vaccine and then eventually as a combined vaccine with myomatosis making life much easier for both owners and vets.

History repeats itself...........

But just as things seem to be under control everything changes again. Our bunnies start dying again. What was going on? Further research has shown that a new variant, a mutation as you will, of the original VHD Virus had occurred. The original virus was renamed VHD 1 and the new variant was called VHD2. Black, black clouds were now approaching fast.

History repeats itself again............

The race was on, the pet pharmaceutical companies doubled their efforts and once again they managed to come up trumps, not once but twice. Two vaccines were produced. But they were individual vaccines and had to be given separately from the combined Mxyo/VHD 1 vaccine.

A triple combo vaccine!

MSD  a key player in the animal health market then went one step further. Having previously made the combined Myxo / VHD 1 vaccine they managed to make a triple combo. A vaccine that had protection against Myxomatosis, VHD 1 AND VHD 2. Fantastic news, life has got nice and easy again right,  a simple single injection once a year. User friendly for both rabbit owners and their vets. Well ……………………not quite. This is where it gets complicated.

Great in Theory..........

A single vaccination once a year protecting against Myomatosis, VHD1 and VHD2 problem solved. Well Yes……… and No! 

Spoiler Alert -it's complicated

The vaccination is very complicated to make and produce and this means that for different bunnies we may have to give different vaccine protocols dependent on their past vaccination history.

Protocol 1

Protocol 1 : If your bunny has never had a vaccination before then life is easy. Vaccinate with the triple combo vaccination and make sure that it is boosted at least every 365 days. As long as you don’t miss a booster the single vaccination once a year is all you will need to do. NOT MISSING THE BOOSTER IS KEY, IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT. If you miss the booster even by a day you will then need to do as per protocol 2.

Protocol 2 Scenario A

Protocol 2  Scenario A: If your rabbit has previously had the double combination Myxo and VHD 1 vaccine  but not the VHD 2 separate vaccine then it will need to have a single dose VHD 2 vaccine and then a few weeks later the triple combo vaccine Myxo/VHD1/VHD2 then within 365 days it will need a booster with the triple vaccination Myxo/VHD 1/VHD 2 and repeated every year going forward. (IT IS VITAL TO NOT GO OVER THE 365 DAYS BETWEEN BOOSTERS)

Protocol 2 Scenario B

Protocol 2  Scenario B : If your rabbit has had the double combination vaccine Mxyo/VHD 1 and has had the separate VHD 2 vaccination BUT is overdue the VHD 2 vaccination even by a day then your rabbit will need to have a booster single VHD 2 vaccination followed by a triple combo vaccination Myxo/VHD 1 / VHD 2 a couple of weeks later.

Protocol 3


Protocol 3: If you rabbit has has the double combination vaccination Myxo/ VHD 1 and has had the separate VHD2 and is not overdue a booster vaccination for the VHD2 then it may have the triple Myxo/VHD1/VHD2 vaccination and continue to have the single jab as long as the 365 days booster is not missed.


Speak to your Vet It is confusing !

Ok I warned you that it was complicated. So it is going to be vital to know which vaccines your rabbit has had and when. This should not be too difficult if you are going to the same vet but if you move  house and change vets it is going to be important that your new vet gets the correct information either from you or ideally from your previous vet.


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