Rabbit haemorrhagic disease or rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) is a highly contagious disease that mainly affects rabbits of the Oryctolagus cuniculus species but has also been confirmed to affect various species of cottontails (Sylvilagus spp.) and hares (Lepus spp.). RHD is also known as rabbit viral haemorrhagic disease or viral hemorrhagic disease (VHD), rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD), rabbit calici-virus disease (RCVD), and viral hemorrhagic disease of rabbits (VHDR).
It is caused by the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus or rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), also known as rabbit calicivirus (RCV).
Symptoms will generally manifest in three ways:
- Peracute: animals will be found dead within a few hours of eating and behaving normally. This is most common. Many rabbits with the North American RHDV2 strain will not exhibit any external hemorrhaging (e.g. blood from nose).
- Acute: affected animals will show lethargy and a heightened fever (>40°C) with an increased respiratory rate, usually passing away within 12h.
- Subacute: rabbits will show mild or subclinical signs from which they recover and become immune to further RHDV.
As the USDA writes,
The RHDV2 virus is very resistant to extreme temperatures. It can be spread through direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s excretions or blood. The virus can also survive and spread from carcasses, food, water, and any contaminated materials. People can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their clothing and shoes.
There is no treatment or cure for RHD. Most cleaners are ineffective at killing the virus. As a result, it is highly recommended to vaccinate your rabbit for their safety if a veterinary clinic nearby offers the service.
Please check out the Facebook group Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease News Network for the most current global news and resources on the disease.
Outside of the US, there are currently two vaccines brand effective against RHDV2 that may be available for use:
- Filavac (France) – single dose, 7 days for onset of immunity, minimum 10 weeks of age
- Eravac (Spain) – single dose, 7 days for onset of immunity, minimum 30 days of age
This website currently has a list of veterinary clinics that may have an RHD vaccine in stock in the following non-US countries:
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