You might have heard on the news - or from a neighbour - Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) is now suspected in the Comox area (tests pending). 

Our B.C. government is warning pet owners to take precautions!

Recent tests on deceased feral rabbits found in Nanaimo as well as Delta have shown the presence of RHD. It’s a serious viral disease which affects European rabbits. 

Our local pet owners should be aware that many of our domestic rabbit breeds are derived from the European breeds, and so are susceptible to infection. 


The virus spreads amongst rabbits by way of secretions and contaminated bedding, fur, and water and other surfaces. It can be contagious for a long time in the environment. At this time, it’s not known to affect humans or other types of animals. 

What are the symptoms of RHD?

The virus causes hemorrhages by affecting the blood vessels and attacks the liver and
other organs. Most affected rabbits die suddenly, but can show signs of listlessness,
lack of coordination, behavioural changes, or trouble breathing before death. There
is often bleeding from the nose at the time of death. Once infected, signs of illness
usually occur within 1-9 days. 

Tips from the BC SPCA on how to protect your pet rabbit:

o Limit human visitors who have been in areas where the disease was reported and avoid your travel to these areas.
o Avoid taking your rabbit to shows/fairs or introducing any new rabbits into your home.
o Ask visitors to remove footwear before entering your home and wash their hands before handling your rabbit.
o Use designated clean clothing that has not been outside when caring for your rabbit.
o Clean and disinfect any rabbit supplies entering your home (see below).
o Use only high-quality commercial feed from manufacturers with good quality control.
o Don’t use wild plants or vegetables or grass grown in areas accessed by feral rabbits or other wildlife, as food.
o Remove or tightly secure anything outside (feed, garbage) that could attract feral rabbits, wildlife, or flies.
o Exercise rabbits outdoors only in secured areas with no possibility of contamination.
o Do not allow cats or dogs who go outside to potentially contaminated areas to access your rabbit’s housing area.

See their website for more info, here. 

How To Disinfect Rabbit Supplies

Feeding and housing should be cleaned with soap and water, and then disinfected with a
disinfectant that is effective against caliciviruses following manufacturer instructions. Most
household cleaners are not effective against this type of virus. Advised to be effective: bleach
(1:10 dilution), potassium peroxymonosulfate (Virkon), accelerated hydrogen peroxide
(Prevail, Accel, and Peroxigard). 


Our local rabbit owners should talk to their veterinarian about taking precautions to protect their pets. A vaccine is not yet available in Canada, but may be later this year. If you do find a dead rabbit, do not handle it - contact local animal control. 

Please get in touch directly with any of your questions: (250) 339-6555
From the desk of Dr. Stacey Gastis