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Bunnies and biosecurity – What you can do

Recent cases of rabbit hemorrhagic disease are a reminder of the importance of biosecurity.

See event listings and more articles in this edition of Agri-News: September 26, 2022 issue

Additional recent cases of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) in feral rabbits around Calgary have raised concerns among rabbit owners.

“While it remains uncertain how rabbits are becoming infected, these cases serve as a reminder to rabbit owners of the importance of biosecurity, a term more commonly understood by livestock owners but relevant in this context,” says Dr. Keith Lehman, Alberta’s chief provincial veterinarian.

Biosecurity is essentially a collection of measures taken to prevent introduction or spread of disease among livestock, which includes rabbits, cows, pigs, chickens and more.

What you can do

RHD, like many other diseases, can be spread through contact with bodily fluids and infected objects – food, water, bedding and cages. People can also spread diseases on their hands, clothes or shoes or even through car tires.

The best way to prevent RHD from infecting your rabbits is through good biosecurity:

  • Wash your hands, clothes, cages and equipment between rabbits from different sources.
  • Only introduce rabbits from reputable sources.
  • Quarantine new rabbits away from existing ones for 30 days.
  • Use separate equipment for new or sick rabbits.
  • Prevent all contact with wild rabbits, hares and jackrabbits.

Most importantly, establish a working relationship with a veterinarian.

“Establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship is key for animal owners. This relationship provides a proactive opportunity for professional advice on disease prevention as well as access to trusted veterinary care should illness take hold in your animals. It will also provide access to a vaccine, which is in the process of being approved for use in Canada. That will enable veterinarians to access it more easily for their clients.”

As well, register your animals through the Government of Alberta’s Premises Identification (PID) program. The PID program was established to plan for, control and prevent animal diseases’ spread. It also acts as an early warning system to notify animal owners of a natural disaster such as a flood or wildfire that could affect their animals.

RHD is a sudden, highly contagious, fatal disease that affects rabbits. This case’s strain, RHDV2, affects both European rabbits as well as North American rabbits and hares.

For more information, see:

Biosecurity and livestock – Overview


Connect with the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian for more information:

Phone: 780-427-3448
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)

For media inquiries about this article:
Phone: 780-422-1005

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