Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 is a highly contagious and fatal disease of domestic rabbits and wild rabbits. This is a foreign animal disease (FAD) and is of high concern at the state and federal levels. The recent involvement of wild cottontails and hares is of particular concern.
Clinical signs: Often the only signs of the disease are sudden death and possibly blood-stained noses caused by internal bleeding. Infected rabbits may also develop a fever, be hesitant to eat, or show respiratory or nervous signs. Many of the rabbits confirmed with RHDV2 recently in Arizona and New Mexico have shown no clinical signs or gross pathology other than sudden death.
Transmission: RHDV2 can be spread through contact with infected rabbits, their meat or their fur, or materials coming in contact with them. Scavengers and birds may play an important role in indirect transmission of the RHD virus.
Prevention: Vaccines are only available in Colorado through private veterinarians who have applied for and been granted permission by the USDA to import and distribute the vaccine. Rabbit owners should practice good biosecurity measures to protect their animals from this disease, such as washing your hands before and after working with rabbits and not sharing equipment with other owners. Rabbit owners should also avoid contact with wild or feral rabbits.
RHDV2 is not infectious to people or domestic animals other than rabbits. However, multiple dead or sick rabbits can also be a sign of tularemia or plague, diseases that can cause serious illness in people. Do not handle or consume sick or dead wildlife, and do not allow pets to contact or consume wildlife carcasses.
Reporting of rabbit illnesses or deaths:
- Owners: Rabbit owners who have questions about the disease should contact their veterinarian.
- Domestic: Veterinarians and owners must report suspected RHDV2 cases in domestic rabbits to the State Veterinarian’s Office at 303-869-9130. Disease investigations will be completed by a Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician.
- Wildlife: To report suspect cases (sick or dead wild rabbits, hares, or pika), contact your local Colorado Parks and Wildlife office.
Click on the county below to see the number of confirmed RHD cases in that county
*07/08/2020 Please note color code changes below for consistency
Guidelines for Wild Cottontails, Hares, and Pika:
Please report any sick or dead wild rabbits, hares, or pika to your local CPW office.
Do not handle rabbit or rodent carcasses.
Do not allow pets or scavengers to feed on found carcasses. Though RHDV-2 is not a risk to pets, a number of other pathogens and parasites from carcasses can affect pets.
Do not handle or consume rabbits or other game animals that appear to be sick. Instead, report these cases to the nearest CPW office.
Meat from healthy rabbits harvested by hunters is safe to consume when cooked thoroughly.
Guidelines for Domestic Rabbits:
Veterinarians and owners must report suspected RHDV2 cases in domestic rabbits to the State Veterinarian’s Office at 303-869-9130.
Rabbit owners should exercise extreme caution and biosecurity to avoid accidental exposure of domestic rabbits through contaminated feed, bedding, equipment, or clothing that may have come in contact from infected wild rabbits or birds that could transfer the virus from infected wild rabbits.
Domestic rabbits should not be housed outdoors in areas where rabbit hemorrhagic disease has been detected in wild rabbits.
Contact your veterinarian for more information about this disease in domestic rabbits.