Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease found in California – The Carrot Tribune - May 2020

The Carrot Tribune

In This Issue...

  • Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV2)
  • Guinea Pig of the Month
  • #BunniesOfInstagram

Please note, we're still closed to public due to Covid-19. We're looking forward to reopening the shelter, restarting Hoppy Hour, and holding Basic Bunny and Guinea Pig classes again. Until it's safe to do so, we are here for the rabbits and guinea pigs and for bunny and piggie parents.

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The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV2) was found in a dead rabbit in the Palm Springs area. The RHDV2 virus has been spreading through the Southwest and has finally reached California. Because it is in the wild rabbit population, we can assume that RHDV2 will become common in California. We do not know if RHDV2 has reached Santa Barbara County. However, BUNS will begin changes in our operations at this time. We recommend that you consider any changes you may need to make in light of RHDV2 .

RHDV2 only infects rabbits and other members of the lagomorph family. You, your family and other pets will not get this disease, but you can spread it inadvertently, so awareness is key.

RHDV2 is highly contagious and resistant to environmental conditions. It spreads through rabbit contact with a diseased rabbit’s fur, feces, urine, bedding, or direct contact. It also spreads via feces from other animals (scavenging predators, including birds) or insects that have had contact with a diseased rabbit, or contact with a contaminated surface or food. The virus can survive for at least 3 months in the carcass of a dead rabbit or dried on cloth. On other surfaces the virus may survive from 1 to 2 weeks, depending on conditions. It is resistant to high temperatures (it can survive 1 hour at 122o F) and to freezing.

Rabbits housed outdoors are at the highest risk. Even if no wild rabbits are in your area, insects (especially flies) are able to transmit the virus. A single fly speck can contain enough virus to infect a rabbit. There is no treatment for this virus and mortality rates are very high, so prevention is crucial.

Symptoms can include difficulty breathing, bleeding, loss of appetite, lethargy, fever, jaundice, seizures, and sudden death. Most rabbits die within hours to days after exposure, while asymptomatic carriers can shed virus for over a month. The virus impairs the blood’s ability to clot, and death is most often caused by liver failure, or internal or external bleeding.

There are vaccines in England and Europe for RHDV2. While the vaccines are not available in the US, they can be imported by veterinarians with the approval of the USDA and the State of California. BUNS is working with local vets to import vaccine. Please contact your vet to discuss this as well.

The good news is that the precautions that reduce the chance of myxomatosis will also reduce the chance of RHDV2. Here are things you can do to reduce the risk to your rabbit and help slow the spread of this disease in our wild and domestic rabbits:

1. If you find a sick or dead rabbit do not handle or move it. Call CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab (916) 358-2790 to report dead wild rabbits, or Santa Barbara Wildlife Care network: (805) 681-1080, and tell them you suspect RHD.

2. Housing your rabbit indoors is the single most important step you can take to protect your rabbit from this disease. If you cannot do that, then screen outdoor hutches to keep flies and other insects away from your rabbit. Exercise your rabbit indoors. If you cannot do that limit outdoor time and use fly prevention.

3. Remove your shoes when entering your home, and wash your hands before and after handling your rabbit.

4. Ask your vet about external parasite control. Vectra3D protects against flies and mosquitos and can be dosed correctly by your vet. Never use Frontline on rabbits.

5. Avoid contact with other rabbits. Until further notice or until a vaccine is available, BUNS will not do rabbit introductions, grooming or Hoppy Hours. If you have friends with rabbits, or visit an area with wild rabbits, change your clothes and shoes after visiting their homes. Wash your clothes in hot water and dry on high. Let your shoes sit for several days to 2 weeks in areas away from your rabbit. 

6. If you have a dog or a cat, avoid situations where they may come into contact with a wild bunny or dead wild rabbit; leashes outdoors are recommended. You may want to wash your dogs paws when they enter the house.

7. Tell your vet if you want to vaccinate your rabbit. 

8. Stop foraging for wild greens and know the source of your feed. The rates of infection through food are not known, but contaminated feed has been suspected in cases where rabbits housed indoors in urban environments got sick.

Here are some resources for additional information: 

Detailed info from the House Rabbit Society: https://rabbit.org/rhdv/
Handout that can be shared: https://rabbit.org/articles/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/hrs_rhdv_v5.pdf
CA Dept of Food and Agriculture: https://rabbit.org/articles/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/hrs_rhdv_v5.pdf

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Guinea Pig of the Month

Padrillio is our Guinea Pig of the Month for June!

Cute little Pod (a.k.a. Padrillio) is wondering why he is still at the shelter, as he knows how much he has to offer some lucky adopter! He is an independent boy who is not shy when it comes to expressing his opinions and would love to be the King of the household ! This great piggy  is happy to cuddle, and he won’t say no to a treat or two.  Pod also likes his time exercising and napping in his pen, no doubt dreaming of his forever home.

Learn who the Bunny of the Month is on our website: http://www.bunssb.org/bunny-of-the-month/june-2020/

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