Livestock & Poultry

Safeguarding human and animal health, assuring food safety and quality, and promoting Arkansas livestock and poultry industries for the benefit of our citizens

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

Notices and Important News 

USDA Letter of Retraction of RHD Positive Finding in Arkansas

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (Wild and Domestic Rabbits)

Currently, there is no useful approved serological test; current enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) methods on blood cannot differentiate RHDV1 infection from RHDV2 caused disease.

The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Service (USDA-APHIS) does not recommend live animal testing as a tool for determining animal status for regulatory decisions.   

Availability of the Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RDHV2) vaccine is regulated by USDA-APHIS. Import and use of vaccine has only been permitted in those states where the disease has been declared endemic (isolated from feral or wild rabbits). Considerable time and expense is involved in importing the RDHV2 vaccine. 

No rabbits or hares may be transported into the state of Arkansas if originating from a state or country where Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD – either strain) has been diagnosed in the prior twelve (12) months unless they meet the following requirements:

        Must have a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) from an accredited veterinarian that states:

1. “All rabbits and hares in the shipment have been examined within forty-eight (48) hours of shipment, are found free of communicable diseases and have originated from a single premises that has no signs of a communicable disease. Rectal temperatures recorded at examination did not indicate an elevated body temperature.

2. There has been no movement of rabbits or hares onto the originating premises within thirty (30) days prior to shipment.

3. No rabbits or hares in the shipment have had contact with wild rabbits or hares within thirty (30) days prior to shipment.”                         

        Must record an Arkansas Entry Permit number on the CVI. 

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Brochure

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHDV-2) does not infect humans or other animals, including dogs and cats. RHDV-2 is highly contagious and affects both domestic and wild rabbits.

Many times, the only signs of the disease are a rabbit’s sudden death and perhaps blood stained noses. Other signs include lethargy, decreased appetite, or trouble breathing. 

Rabbits can become infected through direct contact or exposure to an infected rabbit’s urine, feces, and blood. The virus can survive for months in the environment

People can spread the virus by carrying it on their shoes or clothing, contaminated feed/hay, using uncleaned cages and water sources, or petting and carrying infected rabbits.

Rabbit owners should be mindful of the heightened risk of adding new rabbits to their facilities at this time.

Biosecurity is the best defense against RHDV-2 infection of your rabbits. Avoid contact with other rabbits, their owners, kids for playdays, vehicles, equipment, and feed supplies. Change shoes before entering any of your rabbit housing; dedicate a pair of easily cleaned shoes to the rabbit shed and do not wear them outside the enclosure. Fence your animals away from access to your rabbitries, especially feed trays and water sources. SACK ALL BEDDING FOR DISPOSAL and secure storage. Burning used rabbit litter may be hazardous.

See the weblink from the House Rabbit Society for a good overview of interventions. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) | House Rabbit Society

Click here to view the ARBA Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Policy.