Rabbit Disease concerns in your Vail Valley and Eagle Rabbits

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Rabbit Disease concerns in your Vail Valley and Eagle Rabbits

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

          Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus type 2 (RHDV2) is a highly infectious disease that is fatal to both domesticated and wild rabbits. It is a foreign animal disease that has recently become more widespread in the United States over the past few years. At this time it is mostly found in the Southwestern US, but cases have been reported in other states as well. Most rabbits that contract this disease will die from it, however this disease does not cause illness in humans.

          Rabbits that are infected with RHDV2 can show clinical signs of neurologic issues, respiratory, or GI upset–however, in many rabbits the only sign is sudden death with a small amount of blood around the nose/mouth (from internal bleeding). The virus can remain viable in the environment for an unknown length of time. It can be transmitted through rabbit to rabbit contact directly, or via indirect methods carried by fomites or vectors such as rodents, water, food, clothing, hands, etc.  This is why the following biosecurity measures are very important to have in place for rabbit owners:

Wash hands before and after handling any rabbit

Do not allow other people to handle your rabbits without proper biosecurity measures in place (washing hands, protective outerwear, etc.)

House rabbits off the ground if they are kept outside

Control any insect and rodent infestations in the environment

Feed only forage or pellets from states unaffected by RHDV2

Any rabbits competing in events or shows should be quarantined/isolated for 30 days following the event to monitor for illness development, and should not attend events or shows if they are sick

Use 10% bleach to disinfect shared equipment regularly

Keep new rabbits separated for 30 days before allowing contact with other rabbits in the home

There is currently no established specific treatment for RHDV2 other than supportive care. Recently, the USDA approved an experimental vaccine for RHDV2 for emergency use in some states that can help reduce disease severity and help prevent the spread of RHDV. Special requirements are needed to access the vaccine, and you can talk with your local veterinarian to determine if the vaccine is appropriate and accessible for your rabbit.

If you suspect your rabbit may have contracted RHDV, you should immediately isolate the rabbit and contact your local or state veterinarian to report a possible RHDV case. This disease is highly contagious, so possible outbreaks are best addressed as soon as possible. Information for this blog was obtained from the AVMA and USDA online resources.

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