A fatal virus is killing rabbits on Vancouver Island — and the first cases have been discovered on the Mainland.. The Regional Animal Protection Society, which cares for many rabbits, is closely monitoring the course of the epidemic and veterinarians from the RAPS Animal Hospital are observing rabbits in our care. RAPS is also warning those with companion rabbits to take precautions and be aware of the symptoms of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD).
The disease is not a threat to humans or other animals, but it is extremely contagious among rabbits and usually fatal.
Symptoms include difficulty breathing, loss of appetite and coordination and reduced energy. Because the virus can be transmitted via insects, moving rabbits indoors can reduce the potential for infection.
Hundreds of feral rabbits have died in the Nanaimo area. (Warning: links in this blog include graphic details of the effects of the disease.)
Some veterinarians compare the effects of rabbit hemorrhagic disease to the Ebola virus in humans. The disease causes multiple blood clots that deplete the clotting agent until the animal bleeds to death.
“Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is a serious and extremely contagious viral disease of domesticated and wild rabbits,” according to a scientific briefing on the disease. Morbidity and mortality rates are high in unvaccinated animals; on some farms, most or all of the rabbits may die. This disease has also caused dramatic declines in some wild rabbit populations, particularly when it is first introduced. This has had a detrimental effect on some ecosystems in Europe, where wild rabbits are an important food source for certain endangered predators …”
RAPS is implementing protocols in light of the epidemic of rabbit hemorrhagic disease. We are following all recommended procedures and protocols and taking steps to monitor the rabbits in the city. Access to the rabbits is closed during a 14-day quarantine period and we regret that we cannot admit visitors to the shelter who have visited Vancouver Island since February 1, 2018. RAPS is also unable to accept any surrendered, stray or returned rabbits until the quarantine is lifted.
Please see below for more information and helpful resources.
- Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Information Sheet – for Pet Rabbit Guardians.
- Read more here on the latest news coverage on RHD. (March 21st, 2018)
- Read more here on the latest news coverage on RHD. (March 22nd, 2018)
- Advice for people faced with deceased rabbits: