There has been a great deal of concern surrounding a recent out break of the deadly Viral Hemorrhagic Disease in Canada. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2) was first recognized in a shelter in British Colombia where total of 36 rabbits died suddenly from the devastating disease. Cases have since been reported in the Vancouver Island communities of Nanaimo and Comox as well as the mainland city of Delta, B.C. So far, there have been no reports of the illness in the United States.
So what’s so scary about this disease and where did it come from?
Symptoms of this deadly disease include loss of appetite, lethargy or extreme tiredness, high fever above 105 F, spasms, and sudden death. Infected rabbits usually die within 12-36 hours of contracting the virus though they have been know to survive for up to 10 days. The mortality rate tends to be extremely high with 50%-100% of rabbits succumbing to the disease.
The virus was originally curated in New Zealand to combat the overpopulation of feral rabbits on the island. While there have been prior instances of RHDV in North America, the disease was not known to affect native North American rabbits. The RHDV2 strain seems to be different.
As shelters and zoos scramble to obtain the preventative vaccine from Europe, us American bunny owners can’t help but wonder “is my bunny at risk?”
This virus is extremely contagious and can be spread by direct contact with infected rabbits including anything the rabbit may have come in contact with such as clothing, food, animal waste, other animals, and even humans. However, there have been no reported cases in the United States thus far and the rabbits known to have been affected have been quarantined. As of April 17, Vancouver and British Columbia have received the preventative vaccine.
However, the risk is still present. Washington state has recently cancelled rabbit shows and implemented measures to prevent potentially infectious rabbits from entering the country. Therefore, as responsible bunny owners, we should take an approach of caution.
To keep your precious bunny safe, we have compiled a list of preventative measures.
1. Know your bunny: Monitor your bunny’s mannerisms. Are they eating and drinking normally? What is their activity level? Are they acting like themselves or does something “seem off?” Often times a subtle change in behavior is the only sign of illness that your bunny will reveal.
2. Keep it clean: Wash your hands before and after handling your bunny, their food, or their waste. If you believe you may have come in contact with a sick bunny, change your clothing and remove your shoes prior to entering your bunny’s environment.
3. Keep your bunny indoors or at least in a safe area. Don’t allow your bunny to come in contact with any other animals or humans that you are unsure of.
4. Educate yourself. Research RHDV2 and keep yourself up to date on the incident in Canada. Ask your vet and talk with other rabbit owners. Keep yourself informed!
What is your opinion on this topic? Do you have any information to share with the bunny community? Go ahead and post your comments below.