Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) is a highly contagious and often fatal disease that is spreading among wild rabbits in the southwestern United States. This disease was first identified in China in 1984 and has since spread across the globe.
RHDV is not known to affect humans, but are your pet rabbits at risk?
Both wild and domestic rabbits can become infected with RHDV. According to the House Rabbit Society, domestic rabbits can become infected if they come into contact with objects, people, or other animals that have been exposed to the virus.
You can protect your pet rabbits by taking the same kinds of biosecurity precautions that we have become familiar with during the COVID-19 crisis. They include:
- Keep your rabbits indoors
- Wash your hands before and after handling rabbits
- Change your clothes and wash them after interacting with other rabbits
- Leave your shoes outside
- Make sure your hay and feed does not come from outbreak areas
- Don’t feed your rabbits plants from outside
- Quarantine new rabbits for two weeks
- Be especially alert if your other pets (dogs and cats) come into contact with wild rabbits outside
- Use flea and tick treatments and make sure your window screens are secure against insects
Is there a vaccine for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease and should you vaccinate your house rabbit?
There is an annual vaccine for RHDV. It is not widely available, but if you live in an outbreak area, your veterinarian may be able to obtain a European vaccine. The House Rabbit Society recommends that concerned owners talk to an experienced rabbit veterinarian about RHDV and the vaccine.
Be sure to check out the Society’s RHDV web page for much more information on the outbreak and how to best protect your own pet rabbit.