Rabbit hemorrhagic disease: Signs and symptoms

Last Updated on June 15, 2023 by Admin

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease or viral hemorrhagic disease is a form of viral hepatitis, fatal among European rabbits. The virus has three strains namely RHDV1, RHDVa, and RHDV2, which also affect wild rabbits. The latter is currently the new strain with a mortality rate of between 70 to 100%.

What causes rabbit hemorrhagic disease?

This disease is caused by a Lagovirus from of the three RHD strains mentioned earlier. However, RHDV2 is currently the main cause of this contagious and deadly rabbit disease.

Bunnies normally get infected through direct transmission with other rabbits that carry the virus. Infection can be through inhalation or consumption of contaminated food or water. In addition, insects such as fleas, mosquitoes, or blowflies can also spread the virus over long distances. The RHD virus can survive on carcasses and we can also spread it indirectly by carrying it on our clothing.

What does RHD do to rabbits?

RHD is severe since it attacks a rabbit’s liver which causes internal bleeding. RHD1 and RHDVa cause sudden illness which often leads to death within 48 hours. On the other hand, RHD2 fatality is a bit slower as it takes one or two weeks. However, RHD2 is prone to cause more infections since infected rabbits carry the disease slightly longer.

What are the symptoms of rabbit hemorrhagic disease?

Some of the symptoms of RHD include lethargy, and blood around the mouth, nose, or bottom. Muscle spasms, high temperature, loss of appetite, or breathing difficulty are other symptoms of this deadly disease. However, at times, rabbits die suddenly without you noticing any signs or symptoms.

Is rabbit hemorrhagic disease contagious to humans?

Fortunately, RHD isn’t contagious and holds no risk to human health or other domestic animals apart from rabbits, hares, cottontails, and jackrabbits.

Is there a cure for rabbit hemorrhagic disease?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for rabbit hemorrhagic disease. The best you can do for your infected bunny is to give them a painless sendoff through euthanasia.

How do you stop rabbits from getting RHD?

One effective way to prevent rabbit hemorrhagic disease is through an annual vaccination. For protection against Europe’s RHDV1 and RHDVa strains, the Cylap RCD vaccine is recommended as it offers 12 months’ immunity for rabbits. However, for RHDV2, you’ll need the Eravac vaccine.

Alternatively, you can also get a Filavac VHDKC+V vaccine, which has an immunity that normally takes around a week to kick in. This vaccine essentially offers protection against all three virus strains and is considered the best option. This vaccine essentially offers protection against all three virus strains and is considered the best option.

How common is rabbit hemorrhagic disease?

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is rare since it’s transmitted with a virus that doesn’t affect other species. The disease mostly affects wild rabbits such as the black-tailed jackrabbits, eastern cottontails, antelope jackrabbits, desert and, mountain cottontails.

Some of the places the virus has been reported in the US include Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming.

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How much does the RHDV vaccine cost?

The average cost of the RHDV vaccine is around $ 30 per dose and is ideal for rabbits that are over 10 weeks old. The recommended vaccine choice is Filava which will protect your bunnies against RHDVa, RHDV1, and RHDV2.

How do I protect my rabbit from Rabbit hemorrhagic disease?

Since RHDV1, RHDVa, and RHDV2 all have a high mortality rate for infected rabbits, it’s pivotal to minimize their external exposure. Below are some precautions you need to take when it comes to your pet’s protection against rabbit hemorrhagic disease.

  • Avoid handling new or wild rabbits whenever necessary and if you have to, wash your hands afterward.
  • Avoid introducing your bunnies to new bunnies and if it’s necessary, keep the new bunnies secluded or in quarantine for a month.
  • Regularly disinfect your bunny’s cage and always ensure that their living space is clean.
  • Before handling rabbits, wash your hands. In addition, store their food in a cool, dry, and safe place, away from pests or pathogens.
  • Also, ensure that other pets such as cats and dogs are treated for fleas since these insects are the main RHD transmitters.

What should I do after my rabbit dies due to RHD?

In the event that your bunny dies due to this viral disease, dispose of all their items such as water bottles or feeding bowls and disinfect their living space entirely for a couple of months. On the other hand, if you have surviving bunnies, always ensure that they’re up to date with their vaccines. Additionally, wait for a couple of weeks for the vaccines to kick in before introducing new bunnies.


Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is deadly with no cure at the moment. It is therefore advisable to always prioritize hygiene when it comes to rabbits and their living space. Most importantly ensure that you annually vaccinate your bunnies.


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