With the growing threat of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is recommending that shelters and rabbit owners review their bio-security measures to help protect their animals.

To read the latest update from the DATCP, click here.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 (RHDV2)

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 (RHDV2) is a highly contagious virus that affects both wild and domestic rabbits. It spreads through direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s excretions (blood or bodily fluids). It can also spread indirectly through contact with affected carcasses, food, water, or insects. People can spread the virus indirectly by carrying it on their shoes or clothing after being exposed to an infected animal or its excretions in the environment. Symptoms of this disease include fever, decreased appetite, and respiratory or neurologic symptoms. Often, the only sign seen is sudden death. RHDV2 is considered a reportable foreign animal disease in the United States.

The FDA and the Wisconsin State Veterinarian have granted the RHDV2 vaccine from MedGene Labs emergency use authorization. Vaccine studies showed the vaccine to be efficacious. The only side effect noted in their research was mild swelling at the injection site, which subsided in under 48 hours. Other signs the manufacturer recommends monitoring include slight fever and mild lethargy of one to two days duration.  This vaccine requires two doses, twenty-one days apart, to be fully protective.  It is safe in rabbits as young as four weeks of age. Data shows that protection occurs two weeks after the second vaccine. Although data collection is incomplete, we recommend an annual booster of this vaccine due to the disease’s mortality.

Care Animal Hospital is offering the vaccination every three weeks. An appointment is necessary for your rabbit to receive the vaccine. Please schedule an appointment only if your rabbit is healthy. If your rabbit is experiencing any signs of illness, please call our hospital today to book a comprehensive visit. Payment is due in full at the time of scheduling.  

Since this is a new vaccine, you will stay with your rabbit in the hospital lobby 15 minutes after the vaccine to monitor for any immediate allergic reactions.

Additional resources:

 House Rabbit Society’s website

USDA website 

If your rabbit has received the vaccine and is experiencing a reaction after hours, please call VCA Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals (MECA) at 414- 543-7387