Viral hemorrhagic disease, also known as rabbit calicivirus disease, is a very deadly infectious disease that can affect your pet rabbit. Here are four things you need to know about this disease.
How does it spread?
Viral hemorrhagic disease spreads either through direct contact with infected rabbits or through contact with contaminated objects. The disease doesn't affect cottontails or jackrabbits, only European rabbits. This means that your pet needs to spend time with another pet rabbit or share objects (like toys) with them to get sick.
Currently, the United States is free of this disease, but there have been multiple outbreaks in the past. The disease is endemic in many parts of the world like Australia, East Asia, and Europe, and if infected rabbits are brought to the United States, another outbreak could occur.
What are the signs of this disease?
This disease tends to kill quickly without causing many symptoms. You need to stay alert for small changes in your rabbit's behavior as this may be the only clue you get that something is wrong. For example, if your rabbit is acting lazier than normal or isn't interested in their food or toys, take them to the vet.
Sometimes, symptoms occur and may include things like bleeding from the nose or mouth. This bleeding is always a concern and needs to be evaluated by a vet.
Can it be treated?
There is no cure for viral hemorrhagic disease, but that doesn't mean that there's nothing your vet can do. Your vet can offer supportive treatments to help your rabbit fight off the virus. These treatments may include things like oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids, or painkillers.
With prompt treatment, your rabbit has a chance of survival, but since the disease progresses so quickly, people often seek treatment too late. As many as 90% of rabbits with this disease will die.
Can humans get it?
The only animals that are affected by viral hemorrhagic disease are European rabbits. The virus can't spread to humans or other animals, so you don't need to worry about getting sick. You still need to take precautions like wearing gloves and a mask, washing your hands, and changing your clothes after handling a sick rabbit to avoid spreading the virus to healthy rabbits that you come into contact with.
Viral hemorrhagic disease has caused outbreaks in pet rabbits in the past, and while it's currently not present in the United States, it could return without warning.
For further assistance, contact a local clinic, such as Covington Veterinary Hospital PC.