Rabbit hemorrhagic disease occurrences must be reported to State Veterinarian’s Office

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease occurrences must be reported to State Veterinarian’s Office

The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) reminds veterinarians and rabbit owners that reporting suspected occurrences of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2), including sudden, elevated numbers of rabbit deaths, is mandatory. Disease reports are identified by the county of occurrence only,  and all other personal information is protected from open record requests.

“This disease is very contagious and fatal to domestic and wild rabbits,” said State Veterinarian and CVMA member Dr. Keith Roehr. “The appropriate response by rabbit owners is vital to limiting further spread of the disease from affected rabbit facilities.”

The USDA and the State Veterinarian’s Office are currently investigating a case of domestic rabbit die off in El Paso county. The carcasses were disposed of and unavailable for testing, but the case is being managed as a presumptive positive due to the clinical signs exhibited prior to death.

RHDV2 does not affect humans or domestic species other than rabbits and is not related to COVID-19. RHDV-2 is considered a foreign animal disease and is of high concern at the state and federal levels.

RHDV2 vaccine is not licensed in the U.S. and is only available through manufacturers in Europe.  Therefore, veterinarians are required to apply for approval to import the vaccine through the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics.  Rabbit owners who are interested in obtaining the vaccine should contact their veterinarian. The State Veterinarian’s Office can guide veterinarians in vaccine procurement.

For more information about RHDV2 and to view a real-time map of confirmed cases in Colorado, visit CDA’s Animal Health Division RHDV2 webpage. Current CDA guidance on rabbit shows and fairs can be found here.

 Guidelines for wild cottontails, hares, and pika

  • Please report any sick/dead wild rabbits, hares or pika to your local CPW office.
  • Do not handle rabbits or rodents that have been found dead.
  • Do not allow pets or scavengers to feed on found carcasses. Though RHDV-2 is not a risk to pets other than domestic rabbits, a number of other pathogens and parasites from carcasses can affect pets.
  • Do not handle or consume rabbits or other game animals that appear to be sick. Instead, report these cases to the nearest CPW office.
  • Meat from healthy rabbits harvested by hunters is safe to consume when cooked thoroughly.

Guidelines for domestic rabbits  

  • Rabbit owners should exercise extreme caution and biosecurity to avoid accidental exposure of domestic rabbits through contaminated feed, bedding, equipment, or clothing that may have come in contact from infected wild rabbits or birds that could transfer the virus from infected wild rabbits.
  • Domestic rabbits should not be housed outdoors in areas where rabbit hemorrhagic disease has been detected in wild rabbits.
  • Rabbit owners who have questions about the disease should contact their veterinarian.
  • Veterinarians and owners must report suspected RHDV2 cases in domestic rabbits to the State Veterinarian’s Office at 303.869.9130.

Helpful Links on RHDV-2: