Recent cases of rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) found in one Alberta household have raised concerns among rabbit owners.
‘The investigation is still underway; and, while the cause is not yet known, this case serves 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, 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.
- 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,’ says Dr. Lehman.
As well, register your animals through the Government of Alberta’s Premises Identification (PID) program. PID was established to plan for, control, and prevent the spread of animal diseases. 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 particular case’s strain, RHDV2, affects both European rabbits as well as North American rabbits and hares, and this detection represents the first time this strain has been observed in Canada.
For more information, contact the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian:
Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
After business hours: 1-800-524-0051
For media inquiries about this article, call Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s media line: