With the RHD virus potentially in our area, there are few options for people who stumble upon sick rabbits. But turning down critically ill babies is beyond difficult, so we enlisted the help of a friend with biosecurity awareness, a huge heart and no rabbits of her own. Laura-Leah Shaw dropped everything she was doing to go pick up this little guy after Kevin from Kanata Blankets in Richmond called us about a street baby that wasn’t running away from him. It turns out he was suffering from injuries and a terrible case of flystrike. It’s apparent he was picked up by a bird and dropped on his face given the tell-tale talon marks — and the lack of front teeth. We have to give huge kudos to the Terra Nova Veterinary Clinic in west Richmond for seeing him so late and doing so much. (They’re a great clinic, we’ve always liked them). So far the little guy is hanging in there. He’s hungry and trying to eat, but that’s not working well given the lack of teeth. Deanna Hamm is heading over to Laura-Leah’s with some Critical Care and Wombaroo rabbit milk. Wish him luck!!
What is Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease?
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is caused by a virus in the calicivirus family. There are a number of related viruses, some which do not cause disease. RHD was first reported in B.C. in February 2018 in the Nanaimo area of Vancouver Island. Follow-up laboratory work identified an RHD virus. Since then, the disease is suspected to have killed rabbits in at least one other community on Vancouver Island and is confirmed in one location on the Lower Mainland (Annacis Island). All dead rabbits have been feral European or domestic rabbits. All domestic rabbits are susceptible, so pet rabbits are at risk. RHD is a serious and extremely contagious disease with high mortality rates. Most infected rabbits will die but some have survived. The disease does not affect humans or other species including dogs and cats. The virus can persist in the environment for several weeks and may survive both heat and freezing.
How does RHD virus spread?
RHD virus spreads easily between rabbits through direct contact with bedding, feed and water as well as feces and body fluids. It can also spread between areas through contaminated materials (food, bedding, water, surfaces, human clothing/ hands, vehicles), dead rabbits, insects and wildlife (flies, birds, mammals) that have contacted or fed on infected rabbits. What are the symptoms of RHD? The virus causes hemorrhages by affecting the blood vessels and attacks the liver and other organs. Most affected rabbits die suddenly, but can show signs of listlessness, lack of co-ordination, behavioural changes, or trouble breathing before death. There is often bleeding from the nose at the time of death. Once infected, signs of illness usually occur within 1-9 days.
How can I protect my pet rabbit?
- Minimize exposure to the virus
- Limit human visitors who have been in areas where the disease was reported and avoid your travel to these areas.
- Avoid taking your rabbit to shows/fairs or introducing any new rabbits into your home.
- Ask visitors to remove footwear before entering your home and wash their hands before handling your rabbit.
- Use designated clean clothing that has not been outside when caring for your rabbit.
- Clean and disinfect any rabbit supplies entering your home (see below).
- Use only high-quality commercial feed from manufacturers with good quality control.
- Don’t use wild plants or vegetables or grass grown in areas accessed by feral rabbits or other wildlife, as food.
- Remove or tightly secure anything outside (feed, garbage) that could attract feral rabbits, wildlife, or flies.
- Exercise rabbits outdoors only in secured areas with no possibility of contamination. o Do not allow cats or dogs who go outside to potentially contaminated areas to access your rabbit’s housing area.
- Monitoring and prevention
- Monitor your rabbit daily for signs of illness and contact your veterinarian immediately with any concerns.
- Talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating. A vaccine is not yet available in Canada but a process is underway and a vaccine may be available later this year.
How do I clean and disinfect rabbit supplies?
Feeding and housing should be cleaned with soap and water, and then disinfected with a disinfectant that is effective against caliciviruses following manufacturer instructions. Most household cleaners are not effective against this type of virus. Advised to be effective: bleach (1:10 dilution), potassium peroxymonosulfate (Virkon), accelerated hydrogen peroxide (Prevail, Accel, and Peroxigard). The latter disinfectants are more user-friendly than bleach and may be obtained from your veterinarian.
Who do I contact with questions?
Contact your local veterinarian with questions about your rabbit. If you find a dead rabbit or rabbits outside, do not handle the rabbit(s), and contact your local animal control. Veterinarians and shelters have access to additional professional resources and support. For more information, visit www.spca.bc.ca/rhd.
Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease published by Iowa State University (PDF)
EMERGENCY! The extremely contagious Rabbit Hemorrhagic Virus 2 has been found on Canada’s Vancouver Island and it’s likely to spread. Our rescue is more at risk than others because we take in abandoned rabbits from the street and house them in protected but outdoor colonies. We need to vaccinate our rabbits. The vaccine is insanely expensive, it’s being imported from the UK under an emergency drug release program. Please help us cover these costs!
Horrible news out of Vancouver Island. They have confirmed an outbreak of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD). This is incredibly contagious and deadly. Please keep your rabbits indoors. There is no word yet if the virus is naturally occurring or released by someone as a method of pest control. The deaths have occurred in area heavily populated by the feral domestic rabbits considered pests, but the virus is also occurs naturally when this kind of density exists. We’re reaching out for more information.
Rabbitats, more so than any other rescue, can be affected by this. We will start taking immediate precautions and hope the virus dies out before it hits the mainland. Our thoughts and prayers to our rabbit friends on the Island.
More info on the RHD outbreak… (Please note that the date mentioned in this video is likely wrong, Dr. Walton posted that he was going by second hand info when he said it was Feb. 18th, the Nanaimo News story pegged it as Feb. 27th, so that’s the probable date of the first deaths).
Our dear sweet Cookie passed away. She was our $2000 ‘posh’ bunny, she had managed to get a scrape on her leg in just the wrong spot back in 2016, the vets had to do constant cold laser and other extended therapies to get it to heal, but it did indeed heal. She and her best friend Lexy went on to be adopted by Sam last year. She called yesterday to say that she had found Cookie lying on the floor with hay still in her mouth. Whatever happened, it happened quickly. We’re hoping a vet can examine her and give us more info. (These things are not always affordable). Lexy will have Sam’s other recent rescue, a little bunny named Stella, to keep her company, but Cookie, the friendly outgoing ‘leader’, will be sorely missed.
Deanna Hamm takes such good care of our special needs guys. She built a nest from loose bunny hair for the little baby picked up off the street earlier this week, and when he/she started to get the dreaded diarrhea stressed out babies are prone to, she nursed the little one back to proper poops. She’s also been keeping the little tyke warm and de-stressed with some reassuring cuddles, and she’s been getting some grooming in return. The baby isn’t out of the woods yet, but he or she is in very good hands.
The little white baby found on the street went to see Dr. Martinez at the Little Paws Animal Clinic today. The little tyke tested positive for parasites so he or she (still too young to tell) has been prescribed panacur and (expensive) supplements along with nutritious food (like Dr. Joseph’s own dandelion). Thankfully there’s no sign of coccidia or further signs of enteritis. Please donate to our Sick Bunny Fund to help us keep helping these rabbits! https://www.youcaring.com/rabbitatsrescuesociety-1084561
Rabbitats and the Little Paws Animal Clinic helped out a little old bunny named Cafecito today. Cafecito is almost 13, he’s blind in one eye, very thin, he has some output issues and a bit of a wobble, but with some good advice and supportive care, he should be enjoying life with his disabled guardian for a while yet. Thanks so much to Deanna for taking him in and Dr. Joseph and staff for seeing him on a busy day!
Meet Easter and Uno. Easter was a scraggly dumped white rabbit living right beside a very busy road our volunteers have been keeping an eye on. We don’t have the room or the funds to take her but when she stopped eating and started looking even worse for wear, we figured we’d squeeze her in somehow, even if it meant separating her from her mate, Uno (named for his one white paw). As it turned out, both Easter and Uno almost immediately came hopping into our net and *poof*, we have two more rabbits. Good news for Easter and bad news for us, she’s probably looking so rough because she’s pregnant. PS: She really is a white rabbit, she’s just covered in boy spray. (Ick!) If you can donate towards their spay and neuter (and the spay/neuters of any babies) we’d appreciate it. We CAN’T keep taking on rabbits like this without your support. Here’s a link: https://www.youcaring.com/rabbitatsrescuesociety-1014158?utm_campaign=buttonshare&utm_medium=url&utm_source=copy&utm_content=cf_cp_01