The Sudden or Unexpected Death Investigation has concluded. We have some interesting results to collate and, hopefully, publish in 2019.

The investigation has confirmed that a prompt post-mortem examination is essential to find out more about why rabbits die suddenly and it is advantageous for the practitioner to perform the examination and collect tissues for histopathology themselves. A recommended protocol for post-mortem examination, including a differential diagnosis list for sudden or unexpected death, can be found here.

We are still very keen to continue to investigate why rabbits seem to die unexpectedly and are hoping to continue to fund histopathological examination on tissues collected during post-mortem examination. Cases will be limited to those that die unexpectedly during or after surgery. Further details in 2019.

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease has featured heavily in our investigation. It is the most likely diagnosis in unvaccinated rabbits that die suddenly and unexpectedly, especially if there is a history of a companion's recent death. Post-mortem signs may be minimal.  Histopathological changes in the liver are diagnostic but do not identify the variant. At the present time, this is not particularly relevant as all cases of RHD that we have diagnosed in the last 18months have been confirmed as RHDV2. It has replaced the original variant.  PCR testing on unfixed liver samples is an alternative to histopathology for diagnosis of RHD and will confirm the variant. However, it will not yield information about other causes of death in cases that are RHD negative. BattLab or PALS  run  PCR testing for both RHD1 and RHDV2.  

The vaccine manufacturers should be notified in cases where vaccinated rabbits die unexpectedly and gross post-mortem investigation is either inconclusive or suspicious of RHD. The VMD should be notified of vaccination breakdowns.