Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a deadly disease, caused by a virus, that can infect rabbits and affects the liver and blood vessels. As of September 2022 the virus has been reported recently in domestic rabbits in NY, CT and NJ, and has killed thousands of domestic and wild rabbits in many western states. Per USDA reporting in June, 2022 the affected states currently include Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming. The virus can remain in the environment for up to 3.5 months and is capable of surviving both freezing and very hot temperatures. The current strain, RHDV-2, may be a concern for rabbit owners because it is easily spread through direct contact with an infected rabbit, their feces, or other bodily fluids, as well as through contaminated items such as bedding and clothes. If you ever take your rabbit outside in a pen or if you pick greens or dandelions outside, you rabbit is at risk. See below for vaccination options at Adana.
RHD kills quickly, giving little warning. Rabbits often die without showing any symptoms. Any sudden death, especially in an otherwise healthy rabbit, is suspicious and should be reported to your veterinarian as a possible case of RHD.
Treatment is limited to supportive and palliative care. There are no antiviral drugs available at this time. For prevention of the disease, a vaccine is now approved for emergency use as research continues.
The vaccine is administered by injection in a 2-dose regimen, with the second (booster) dose following 21-28 days after the initial dose. Without the booster the first vaccine will not work. Duration of vaccine efficacy is still to be determined but is expected to be 1 year.
At Adana we follow the development and spread of this disease very closely. As one of the only rabbit veterinarians in our counties, Adana carries the RHDV-2 vaccine, it is offered for pet or show rabbits. Please call the office for scheduling details, preference will be given to established clients and their rabbits due to vaccine availability.