How to protect your rabbits from rare, but deadly rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 hasn’t been detected in Michigan

(Martha Irvine, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Michigan officials want rabbit owners to be aware of a deadly virus that will kill virtually all rabbits and hares that contract it.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV2) has not been detected in Michigan, but officials want rabbit owners to be proactive.

The disease does not affect people or other species of animals. A vaccine is available and it takes 35 days from the first dose for rabbits to be fully protected.

The disease has been detected in other states and Canada. The most recent case was found in Windsor, Ontario. Contact your veterinarian for more information on the vaccine.

What are the symptoms of RHDV2?

Rabbits who have RHDV2 will show the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Lack of coordination
  • Breathing problems
  • Bleeding
  • Unexpected death.

Things you can do to protect rabbits

Below is a list of steps you can take to protect your rabbits, according to MDARD:

  • Avoiding the purchase and/or adoption of rabbits from areas with RHDV2.
  • Isolating newly acquired rabbits from other rabbits for at least 30 days.
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting all items/surfaces a rabbit has touched, especially if a rabbit has been ill and the item is likely to be shared with another rabbit.
  • Bleach is effective against RHDV2 but be sure to follow the label’s instructions.
  • If something cannot be disinfected, discard it.
  • Not sharing items between different groups of rabbits.
  • Limiting who has contact with rabbits.
  • Washing one’s hands before and after handling a rabbit.
  • Taking off one’s shoes after coming indoors and storing them in a place that is out of reach for a pet rabbit.
  • Keeping domestic rabbits away from wild rabbits. Do not let domestic rabbits outdoors.
  • Controlling for flies and rodents as they could indirectly spread the virus.
  • Opting not to feed a domestic rabbit with vegetation from outside as it could be contaminated.
  • Checking to ensure a rabbit’s feed has not been grown or produced in an endemic area.

What to do if you think your rabbit has RHDV2

If you have multiple rabbits you should isolate the sick rabbit and contact your veterinarian.

If you suspect the rabbit has RHDV2, you should contact MDARD immediately at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).


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About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.