What is Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD)?
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease can be caused by two different, related viruses, RHDV1 and RHDV2. The current outbreak is due to the RHDV2 virus. It is highly contagious and affects rabbits, both domesticated and wild. Of rabbits that are exposed to the virus, almost all die.
How is RHD transmitted?
Rabbits can catch the virus by inhalation, ingestion, or by absorption through scrapes and wounds. It can be transmitted by direct contact with an infected rabbit or by contact with an object, person, clothing, or equipment that has encountered an affected rabbit. Rabbits are also able to catch the virus through consumption of contaminated water or food. Insects can spread the virus over long distances.
What are the symptoms of RHD?
Many times rabbits do not show signs before suddenly dying. If they do show signs, they may show fever, inappetence, lethargy, muscle spasms, breathing difficulties, blue colored lips, or bleeding from the mouth and nose. It can take between 1-5 days from the time a rabbit is exposed to the virus before it develops symptoms.Can humans or other animals catch RHD?
RHD does not affect humans or any domestic animals other than rabbits.
How can I prevent RHD?
The most important way to prevent the disease is to take precautions to prevent exposing your rabbits to the virus.
If rabbits are housed outside, house them off the ground when possible. Do not use material from outside for food or bedding.
Wild rabbits: Do not allow wild rabbits to come into your yard and try to prevent dogs, cats, birds, and other animals from bringing rabbit carcasses onto your property. If you do find deceased rabbits, contact the health department.
Do not spread on your hands or clothing. After handling a rabbit, wash your hands. Avoid handling rabbits that are not yours.
Avoid borrowing equipment. If you need to borrow equipment or if you buy used equipment, thoroughly scrub with a 10% bleach and water solution (1 part bleach, 9 parts water), leaving it to soak for at least 10 minutes before rinsing and letting dry.
Do not add new rabbits. If you must, make sure they are quarantined for 7-10 days. Do not use the same equipment for the new and old rabbits.
If you suspect your rabbit or another rabbit may have Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, please contact the Oregon State Veterinarian (Dr. Ryan Scholz) at 800-347-7028.
Is there a vaccine for RHD?
Currently, there is no approved vaccine for RHD available in the United States. However, East Bend Animal Hospital has worked very hard to import a very limited number of the Filavac VHD K C+V vaccine. This vaccine is effective against both RHDV1 and RHDV2 strains.
The vaccine is given subcutaneously and 1 injection provides protection for 1 year. All rabbits that receive the vaccination must be examined and a temperature must be taken the day of vaccination. All rabbits must also have a tattoo or microchip placed prior to vaccination.
If you have any questions or are interested in scheduling an appointment for your rabbit to receive the vaccine, please give us a call right away. 541-318-0090.
Written by: Dr. Brett Thomas