Are Pet Rabbits at Risk for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease?

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.

 

Small Pet Socialization Tips

There’s lots of information about how to socialize dogs and cats out there, but what about small and exotic pets?  They can learn polite behavior too!

The San Diego Humane Society’s San Diego Pets Magazine recently shared some tips on how to socialize your rabbits, rodents, birds, and reptiles.  Here are a few highlights:

Rabbits

  • Some bunnies can be shy so let them approach you first. If you do approach a rabbit, do so slowly, at their level, and from the side.
  • Offering treats like fresh vegetables is a good way for your rabbit to associate human interaction with a positive reward.

Hamsters, Gerbils and Other Rodents

  • Young children may be excited to interact with their new small pets, but give the animals some time to adjust to their new surroundings first. Then start with a few short sessions each day.
  • Approach rodents on their level, not from overhead.
  • Let them walk onto a neutral object and work their way to your hand gradually.

Birds

  • Bird are very social, so they appreciate lots of interaction and being included in your family’s daily activities.
  • Avoid sudden movements around birds. They appreciate pets on the back of the head and back, and slow blinks (like cats!).

Reptiles

  • Not all reptiles like to be cuddled or held, so check your expectations if you’re looking for a snuggle buddy.
  • Treats can help them associate handling with something positive. Certain reptiles like turtles and tortoises enjoy being hand fed.
  • Your lizard or other reptile may not like to be handled, but some might appreciate being near you for warmth.

 

 

Health Problems in Lop Eared Rabbits

House rabbits are becoming an increasingly popular pet among animal lovers.  Fancy rabbits, such as tiny dwarf breeds, fluffy lionheads, or floppy eared lop breeds, are top choices among rabbit fanciers.

If you’re thinking about adding a floppy eared lop rabbit to your family, check out this new research about the health issues that can go along with lop ears.

A comparison of lop eared versus erect eared rabbits has found that floppy eared rabbits have higher rates of certain ear and dental problems.  Specifically, lop eared rabbits are more likely to suffer from

  • Ear canal stenosis (narrowing of the ear canal)
  • Cerumen (ear wax buildup) leading to ear infection
  • Erythema (reddening and inflammation of ear skin)
  • Incisor pathology
  • Molar overgrowth, sharpness, and spurs

These problems can be painful and can negatively impact a rabbit’s overall quality of life, causing hearing loss and difficulty in eating.

Proper ear and dental care are important for all rabbits, and especially for lop breeds.  Be sure to talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions about ear and tooth care for your bunny.

The House Rabbit Society offers lots of helpful advice on ear care and dental care on their website as well.

 

California Bans “Easter Bunny” Sales in New Animal Welfare Law

This Easter marks the first year a new California animal welfare law designed to protect rabbits goes into effect.  California is the first state in the US to ban live rabbit sales at pet stores—an effort to cut back on the number of rabbits that are either abandoned, surrendered to shelters, or euthanized after Easter.

This is the same law that also bans the sale of commercially bred dogs and cats in pet stores.  Pet stores can still house adoptable dogs, cats, and rabbits from local animal shelters.

According to an article from Reuters, animal shelters see a spike in rabbit intakes one to three months after Easter.  The House Rabbit Society notes that thousands of rabbits, many still under one year old, are surrendered to California shelters.

Under the new law, rabbits will still be available for adoption from animal shelters and rescue groups, so California rabbit fans have the opportunity to provide a new forever home for rabbits in need!

 

Amy Sedaris Teams Up with House Rabbit Society for Informational Videos

Rabbits make wonderful pets, and more and more animal lovers are discovering the joys of keeping indoor-only house rabbits as companion animals.

If you’re interested in acquiring a rabbit but have never had one as a pet before, you probably have a lot of questions.

How do you rabbit-proof your home?  What size enclosure does a rabbit need?  What kinds of toys and treats should you buy?  Do you have to trim their teeth and nails?

Writer/actress/comedian Amy Sedaris is a proud rabbit parent.  She has joined forces with Mary E. Cotter of the House Rabbit Society to create a series of informative YouTube videos that will tell you all you need to know about caring for a pet rabbit.

Check out this introductory video, as well as others in the series on topics ranging from rabbit breeds, to grooming tips, to how to introduce your rabbit to other pets.  And be sure to visit the House Rabbit Society website for lots of great information on adopting a rescue rabbit in your area!