Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

Learn about the worrying spread of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease in the United States

Amy J - Big Bunny at HCB

2/19/20243 min read

This article was originally posted to our website in September 2018 and moved to the blog 1/30/19.

RHD-2...at first glance it appears to be a typo of the beloved Star Wars character's name, but it most definitely is not. RHD-2 stands for Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease, Strain 2. This disease, along with the first strain called RHD-1, are common killers of beloved bunnies who live "across the pond" in the United Kingdom, but has only been found in the United States as of September 19, 2018. The first reported incidence was in Medina County, Ohio, which is very close to Hot Cross Buns' home. You can read the article from the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association here.

As stated in the article, the disease is transmittable only to rabbits; people, other animals, and food sources are not affected by it, although people and animals can carry the virus and unwittingly infect rabbits. According to the article,
"Transmission of the RHD virus over short distances can occur by the contaminated
clothing of people, biting insects, birds, rodents, wild animals, fur or vehicles."

Rabbits are very common house pets in the UK and the rest of Europe, where vaccines have been developed for protection against both strains of the disease. However, pet rabbits are not routinely vaccinated in the United States and these vaccines are not available for use here. The only ways to protect our beloved pet bunnies are through precautions and knowledge of the disease and its transmission.

What does this mean to our clients and the bunnies at Hot Cross Buns?
We have operated as a closed rabbitry for over a year now, meaning we don't allow people into our rabbitry to meet the Buns, nor do we allow anyone to walk in their living areas and play spaces. We will begin taking the extra precautions of asking clients to clean the soles of their shoes by stepping into a disinfectant solution prior to entering the premises, and to use hand sanitizer prior to meeting the Bun with whom they have been matched.

Going forward, we will have a waiting list and clients will reserve bunnies online, based upon their submitted information and conversations we have via email. Rather than meeting multiple bunnies, clients will come to Hot Cross Buns to pick up the bunny with whom they have been matched. This is to protect our Buns from any potential contamination.

We have never allowed the Buns to play outside, as we know how easy it is for them to ingest or attract parasites. This will continue to be our standard practice. Because RHD-2 can be transmitted to healthy rabbits through contact with wild rabbits' urine and feces, we urge our bunny families to be cautious and consider the risks of allowing out of doors playtime for their bunnies.

Hot Cross Buns will no longer be able to accept the return of any bunnies. In the past, bunnies waiting to be re-homed (when allergies developed or when other situations arose in their first families) were cared for in a special area of our home, but in order to protect the health of our breeding stock, we will no longer be able to do so. We will gladly post information about any Buns who need to be re-homed on our site and Facebook page, but we will not care for them at our facility.

We will be monitoring the RHD-2 situation very closely and will make further changes for the safety and well-being of all of our Buns as the needs arise.

**Since this article was originally written, cases of RHD-1 have been found in western Pennsylvania. No further cases of RHD-2 have been discovered at this time.

***There is now a vaccine available in most states to prevent RHD-2. It is a series of two vaccines, given 2-3 weeks apart. Boosters are given annually. This vaccine is strongly recommended for those who plan to take their rabbit(s) out of doors for exercise, as well as for those who will be travelling to areas where cases of RHD have been reported.

brown rabbit on green grass during daytime
brown rabbit on green grass during daytime