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Elmer Fudd isn’t your rabbit’s only worry. What to know about RHDV.

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus, or RHDV, affects wild and domestic rabbits. RHDV is a member of the calicivirus family. In humans, the norovirus variety causes vomiting and diarrhea and feline calicivirus causes upper respiratory infections and oral disease.

The virus travels through the bloodstream and damages the liver, causing uncontrollable bleeding in rabbits. Symptoms of this liver dysfunction include bleeding from the nose and mouth, jaundice (yellowing) of the eyes, lethargy and not eating or drinking and thereby not urinating or defecating.

RHDV vaccination has been used in other countries where the virus is present. Now that the virus is posing a threat to rabbits in the US, the FDA is in the process of approving the vaccine. At this time the US Department of Agriculture has authorized emergency use of the vaccine. Research shows that the vaccine is effective in preventing infection. Vaccine requires an initial dose, a second dose given 3 weeks later and annual boosters thereafter. Side effects reported were minimal. Vaccination site swelling, lethargy and mild fever shortly after administration.

The virus survives well in the environment. Along with the vaccine, rabbit owners should follow safe practices to prevent infection of RHDV.

  1. Wash hands before and after handling.

  2. Remove shoes before entering areas of the home that the pet rabbit has access to.

  3. Keep pet rabbits from roaming and grazing in outdoor areas where wild rabbits are known to frequent.

  4. Do not feed grasses and flowers from areas where wild rabbits are known to frequent.

Contact your veterinarian for a vaccine. For more information about this and more, take advantage of the research and information of Cooperative Extension Services of the USDA to keep informed of animal and animal related products:

With leash in hand,


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