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.
RHDV2 has been confirmed in 29 states with cases involving domestic, feral, and wild rabbits and hares. As of Sep 2022, RHDV2 has been confirmed in wild rabbits in New Mexico (Mar 2020), Arizona (Mar 2020), Texas (Apr 2020), Colorado (Apr 2020), Nevada (Apr 2020), California (May 2020), Utah (Jun 2020), Wyoming (Dec 2020), Montana (Feb 2021), Oregon (Feb 2021), and Idaho (Mar 2021). RHDV2 has been confirmed in domestic rabbits in all states with wild cases as well as Washington (Jul 2019), Florida (Dec 2020), South Dakota (May 2021), Georgia (Jun 2021), Mississippi (Sep 2021), Minnesota (Sep 2021), New York (Dec 2021), Kentucky (Dec 2021), Tennessee (Jan 2022), New Jersey (May 2022), Hawaii (Jun 2022), Kansas (Jul 2022), Pennsylvania (Aug 2022), Wisconsin (Aug 2022), Iowa (Aug 2022), Connecticut (Sep 2022), South Carolina (Sep 2022), and Illinois (Jul 2023).
For more resources on the disease, please check out the following:
- RHDV2.org website
- RHD articles and FAQs on House Rabbit Society website
- Rabbit hemorrhagic disease article on WabbitWiki
- RHDV2 regulations in the US article on WabbitWiki
- Interactive USDA map of current outbreaks
The following are a few Facebook groups for the most current news and resources on the disease:
In the United States, there are currently three different vaccine brands effective against RHDV2 that may be available for use depending on state and supplies:
- 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
- Medgene (US) – two doses 3 weeks apart, 2 weeks after 2nd dose for onset of immunity, minimum 4 weeks of age
The vaccinations are generally very safe, and the most often reported adverse side effects of the vaccinations have included a short period of lethargy or reduced activity, reduced interest in food, and muscle/joint discomfort that should resolve within 48 hours. Many rabbits show no side effects at all after vaccine administration.
Veterinarians in the United States offering RHDV2 vaccinations
Please inquire with your current rabbit veterinary clinic to see if they may have obtained a supply of an RHDV2 vaccine. Many of the following veterinary clinics may not be accepting new clients or will require at least 2-3 weeks before an appointment is available for a new client. Some clinics may also only have limited supplies.
This information is provided only for your convenience and in no way should be considered an endorsement by the website. The following table has been compiled from reliable resources that have indicated that the listed clinics will treat rabbits. We cannot guarantee your satisfaction with any veterinarian - please call and ask your own questions before using a clinic listed below.
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Scheduled RHDV2 vaccination clinics
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