New Contagious Disease in Rabbits

By December 18, 2020 No Comments


Good Life. Great Roots. 


Pete Ricketts, Governor

June 30, 2020


 Contact: Christin Kamm



 LINCOLN – The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) is warning rabbit owners in Nebraska to be aware of a serious and highly contagious viral disease of rabbits that has recently been identified in multiple states. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) has been diagnosed as the cause of death in wild and domestic rabbits in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Colorado, as well as domestic rabbits in Nevada and Utah and wild rabbits in California. To date, the virus has not been found in Nebraska.

 “It is important that rabbit owners know about this disease so they can more closely monitor the health of their rabbits, particularly ones that may be comingling with other animals,” said NDA State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes.

Symptoms of RHDV include fever, anorexia, wasting, diarrhea and respiratory illness. RHDV can also cause sudden death in rabbits. The virus is spread directly between rabbits and can survive for weeks in contaminated environments. Currently, there are no approved vaccines licensed in the United States for RHDV, although a foreign-produced vaccine is being made available in states where the virus has already been identified. RHDV does not infect humans, livestock or non-rabbit household pets.

 Enhanced biosecurity helps prevent the introduction and spread of viruses and diseases including RHDV. In addition to thorough cleaning and sanitation practices, rabbit owners should consider restricting visitors to their rabbitries, and isolating new rabbit additions for 30 days.

RHDV is a notifiable Foreign Animal Disease, and practitioners who suspect RHDV should contact the Nebraska Department of Agriculture at 402-471-2351. Individuals who have concerns about unusual deaths of wild rabbit and hare populations are encouraged to contact Nebraska Game and Parks at 308-763-2940.

All rabbits entering Nebraska must be accompanied by a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI, or health certificate). If you are considering moving an animal into Nebraska from an affected state, please call 402-471-2351 to learn more. Additional information on Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) can be found on NDA’s website at: nda.nebraska.gov/animal/diseases/rhd/index.html

July 29, 2020 

 More information for Rabbit owners, to prevent your rabbit getting sick or dying from RHDV2 Virus. 


Biosecurity = Keeping your rabbits as safe as possible: 

Avoid contact with wild rabbits, cages that can be contaminated with the virus in urine or droppings from a sick rabbit, or exposure to other pet rabbits that could be sick at large gatherings like swaps or rabbit shows. This Calicivirus is very contagious. It can survive outdoors for an extended period. The following are suggestions for biosecurity from the NE Dept of Agriculture.

Biosecurity Recommendations to Protect Your Rabbits: 

  • Establish a veterinary relationship.
  • House rabbits indoors if possible.
  • Maintain a closed rabbitry.
  • Always wash hands with warm soapy water 1.before entering your rabbit area, 2. after removing protective clothing and 3. before leaving the rabbit area.
  • Purchase rabbits from low-risk sources.
  • Quarantine new/returning rabbits for 30 days (Different room or different cage, far from your other rabbits).
  • Wear separate footwear for barn, house, off farm.
  • Control flies, biting insects, and vermin.
  • Sanitize all equipment and cages moved on or off premises before they are returned to the rabbitry.
  • Do not put rabbits on the ground outside, use elevated caging ONLY.
  • Do not use forage, branches, etc. for bedding.
  • Know where your feed comes from – do not feed grass or other forage that could be contaminated.

Other suggestions: If Rabbits MUST be housed outdoors:

Keep All Hutches elevated off the ground.

Have a second fence with electrified fence posts around the cage.

If any rabbits die, wait 90 days before bringing in any new rabbits.

The RHDV2 virus can survive and be contagious, for 3 months in a dead wild rabbit’s body (that is found outdoors).

The following are websites that can provide additional information about Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2:


https://nda.nebraska.gov/animal/diseases/rhd/index.html (This is the main link to RHDV2 on the NE Dept of Agriculture website. This gets updated weekly.)


The following websites are part of the USDA APHIS Risk Identification.  

They provide LOTS of detailed information about RHDV2. They include information about how to properly clean and disinfect if you have rabbits that were positive, and how to prevent the virus from spreading to other rabbits or other locations. There is a list of disinfectants that will be effective against this calicivurus.


Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus


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