Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2

November 20, 2020: RHDV2 confirmed in domestic rabbits in Los Angeles County.
Please see our RHDV page for a list of veterinarians who have ordered vaccine.

RHDV2 is a lethal, highly contagious rabbit virus currently spreading across the US. It cannot be transmitted to people or other domestic animals. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, internal bleeding and/or organ failure. We urge all rabbit caretakers to take this disease seriously and take precautions to keep your rabbits safe.

The best way to protect your rabbits from RHDV2 is through a combination of vaccination, indoor housing, and biosecurity measures.

Here are some things you can do to help protect your rabbits from the virus:

  • Keep your rabbits indoors 100% of the time. If your rabbits are not indoors now, it's time to consider moving them inside.
  • Do not wear your outside shoes in the home. Practice keeping shoes outside if you don't normally do this, and set aside "indoor" footwear.
  • Avoid contact with rabbits or hares outside the home. Plan what to do if you volunteer at an animal shelter, or have friends with rabbits you watch or visit. See tips from www.rabbit.org/rhdv to minimize the risk of spreading the virus on your clothing, shoes, and surfaces, using shoe covers and disinfecting with recommended products only in recommended concentrations. Effective disinfectants include: bleach (1:10 dilution), potassium peroxymonosulfate (Virkon), accelerated hydrogen peroxide (Prevail, Accel, and Peroxigard). Do not use these on or around your rabbits.
  • Keep mosquitoes and flies out of the home with window and door screens.
  • Keep dogs and other pets that go outdoors separate from your rabbits. Plan what to do if you have other pets that go outside, and consider flea control for them if you don't have it already. If your dog goes on hikes, be careful to wash paws with soapy water and not allow your pup to go into the same areas as your rabbit.
  • Do not feed greens that you have foraged (dandelions from the yard, for example). Look for commercial greens sources in areas that haven't had confirmed RHDV2 cases. Leafy greens that are grown in a greenhouse are probably safe. There is no way to truly "sterilize" leafy greens and therefore, it's better to cut back on greens a bit to minimize any potential virus load, rather than attempt to clean them with any commercial cleaner that may be more of a risk to your rabbit. It does make sense to rinse vegetables thoroughly to reduce general contaminants and dirt that could have virus sticking to them. Consider growing leafy greens in indoor hydroponic or aerogardens.
  • Feed hay that has been harvested at least 105 days prior. If you buy relatively fresh hay from a hay barn, find out where that hay was harvested and avoid hay from outbreak areas. Then store the hay for 3-4 months to minimize risk before feeding it. Hay should be stored indoors only away from rodents or insects. You'll want to store it in cardboard boxes or other breathable container, or the hay could mold. Pre-packaged hay at least 3 months past harvest is likely safe.

Keep in mind that adherence to all the biosecurity measures above is no guarantee your rabbit will not be exposed to the virus. That is why most exotic veterinarians recommend vaccination.

For more detailed information on RHDV, including symptoms, information about the vaccines, and more, please see www.rabbit.org/rhdv.

If you see a deceased rabbit whose cause of death is unknown, do NOT touch the rabbit.

  • For domestic rabbits, contact California Department of Food and Agriculture at: 909-947-4462.
  • For wild rabbits, contact California Department of Fish and Wildlife at: 916-358-2790.