NZ release of Rabbit Calicivirus

This week, Ourvets wrote to our rabbit owners to inform them of the pending release of a new strain of the rabbit calicivirus. The new strain is a Korean one, and is called RHDV K5 Virus or “K5”. The new strain is being released across New Zealand by the Ministry for Primary Industries to kill wild rabbits. There is a significant risk that the virus may be transmitted to pet rabbits.

It is important to be aware of the signs of RHDV K5 Virus and act quickly;

  • Cold like symptoms
  • Lethargy – one of the first signs of RHDV K5
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Death follows rapidly by heart failure


The best protection we can offer your rabbit is vaccination. Pet rabbits should be vaccinated with the Cylap® HVD vaccine and kept up-to-date. It is important to note that the vaccine licensed against the current NZ strain of calicivirus (“Cylap”) is not licensed against the new K5 strain. However, a small trial in Australia compared vaccinated and non-vaccinated rabbits when they were exposed to the new K5 strain. None of the vaccinated rabbits died, while all of the unvaccinated rabbits did. K5 was released in Australia in Autumn of 2016 and to date no vaccinated rabbits are known to have died. Our recommendation is to vaccinate your pet rabbit prior to the release of this new strain and to ensure they stay up to date in future. Each of the Ourvets clinics will be holding vaccination days on the 20th of each month. To ensure your rabbit is up to date, give your nearest clinic a call to make an appointment for vaccination or to discuss. Young rabbits vaccinated under the age of 12 weeks of age should receive a booster after 12 weeks of age, then annual vaccinations. Rabbits over the age of 12 weeks should receive annual vaccinations.

In the meantime, we recommend you take steps to decrease the risk of your rabbit contracting the virus.

  • Avoid direct and indirect contact with wild rabbits, including sources or suppliers of green feed that could become contaminated
  • House rabbits in insect-proof facilities
  • Quarantine any newly introduced rabbits for at least 7 days away from other rabbits to ensure they show no signs of illness
  • Avoid contact with other people’s rabbits, e.g from possible contaminated hatches,, equipment, feed and transport
  • Maintain hygiene and a disinfection programme using suitable disinfectants
  • Ask your veterinarian’s advice immediately if your rabbit seems unwell
  • Protect your rabbit by vaccination. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on this. Remember, annual booster vaccinations are essential to maintain protection

If you notice any of the above signs, are at all concerned for your rabbit’s heath, or have any questions about the virus, please contact your nearest clinic.