Urgent Message for Rabbit Owners

Pippin the Rabbit

Rabbits & RHDV: What You Need to Know Now

May 28, 2020Pippin the Rabbit
Susan Stienstra, Licensed Humane Educator, House Rabbit Society and PAHS

You may have already heard about RHDV – Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus. RHDV is a highly contagious disease that kills as many as three out of four rabbits after exposure. The first case in California was reported by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on May 13. It is not contagious to people or other animals aside from rabbits, hares, and pikas.

Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, bleeding, loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, jaundice, seizures, and sudden death. Most rabbits die within hours to days after exposure, while asymptomatic carriers can shed virus for over a month. The virus impairs the blood’s ability to clot, and death is most often caused by liver failure, or internal or external bleeding.

RHDV treatment is supportive care in isolation. Precautions such as keeping pet rabbits indoors, removing shoes before entering the home, and avoiding contact with other rabbits and wildlife will help keep rabbits safe.

There is no known cure. At this time, vaccines are available in other countries, but veterinarians in the U.S. must apply for permits to import them. Vaccines may protect most rabbits, but HRS recommends taking precautions for vaccinated rabbits as well. Any sudden rabbit death is suspicious and should be reported to a veterinarian immediately. The public is urged to call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at (916) 358-2790 if dead wild rabbits are sighted, and to avoid contact.

Ask your veterinarian if you have questions. For more details, click on these links:
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) https://rabbit.org/rhdv/
What You Can Do: https://rabbit.org/rhdv/#what-you-can-do
Protect Your Rabbits and Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease
from California Department of Food and Agriculture : https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/Animal_Health/pdfs/CDFAProtectYourRabbitsRHD.pdf
Source: Anne Martin, Executive Director, House Rabbit Society