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Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV)

December 2022: Canmore, Alberta had its first case of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease verified. It is highly likely that it is spreading through Canmore's feral rabbit population.

What is it?

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) is deadly for domestic rabbits. Various forms of the virus are linked to an extremely infectious viral disease in wild, captive, and pet rabbits.

In 2010, a new rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus, RHDV2, was identified in France. Subsequently, large-scale mortality in European rabbits and hares occurred across Europe and Australia.

In late March 2021, an outbreak of RHDV2 occurred in Taber, Alberta, limited to only 5 captive domestic household rabbits (pets).

In late September 2021, around 50 feral domestic rabbits disappeared/died in Northwest Edmonton where there was confirmed RHDV2. They were largely free-ranging in an unfenced area widely available to wild hares, jackrabbits, and other terrestrial/avian scavengers.

In late May 2022, two confirmed cases of RHDV2 were reported in Calgary, AB. Both of them were indoor rabbits. From the end of August through October 2022, Calgary experienced a massive outbreak of RHDV2 that wiped out 3 feral domestic rabbit colonies around the city and 1 (the first in Alberta!) wild Cottontail.

Canmore had its first case of RHD verified as of December 14, 2022. It is highly likely that the disease is spreading through Canmore's extensive feral rabbit population.

NOTE: RHDV2 infects only lagomorphs and does not pose health risk to people, livestock, or pets other than rabbits.


How is it prevented?

Like many other diseases, RHDV can be spread through contact with bodily fluids and infected objects, such as food, water, bedding, and cages. People can also spread diseases on their hands, clothes, or shoes, or even through car tires.

The best way to prevent RHDV from infecting your rabbits is through good "biosecurity": 

  • Wash your hands, clothes, cages, and equipment between rabbits from different sources.

  • Only introduce rabbits from reputable sources.

  • Quarantine new rabbits away from existing ones.

  • Use separate equipment for new or sick rabbits.

  • Prevent all contact with wild rabbits, hares, and jackrabbits.

Vaccines have been approved in Europe but are only imported to Canada and the US under special permit in emergency circumstances. Currently, Northside Veterinary Clinic in Lethbridge is offering RHDV2 vaccinations: 403-327-3352.

How do I recognize it?

Symptoms of RHDV2 are:

  1. Loss of appetite

  2. Lethargy

  3. High fever

  4. Seizures

  5. Jaundice

  6. Bleeding from nose, mouth, or rectum

  7. Difficulty breathing

  8. Sudden death

This rescue is based out of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.
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