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Tamworth Veterinary Hospital

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Rabbit Calicivirus

Rabbit Calicivirus


In NSW, Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV), a kind of calicivirus, is released regularly to keep the wild rabbit population low. This virus can affect your pet rabbit and it is important that your pet is vaccinated against it. Currently, councils are planning to release rabbit calicivirus baits across Sydney in the coming March, so it is all the more integral to help protect your pet rabbit.


What will you see if your rabbit has RHDV?

There is no cure for this virus and more often than not, your rabbit may fall into a coma and die within 24-48 hours. This virus works by causing clots to form in organs, causing heart and respiratory problems.

Text Box:  The haemorrhagic cornea of a rabbit infected with RHDVAffected rabbits will display signs of:

  • Uncontrolled bleeding from the eye and nose




In less severe cases, affected rabbits will:

  • Stop eating

  • Lose weight

  • Become very weak

  • May develop severe jaundice

  • Might experience diarrhoea or constipation

  • Death after a few weeks.


How can RHDV pass to your rabbit?

RHDV can pass directly from rabbit to rabbit via nasal, ocular and oral secretions, as well as faeces and urine. This virus can also pass via the faeces of predators that have eaten infected rabbits. Things that have been in contact with infected rabbit such as water, bedding and food bowls can also harbour the virus. Even fleas, flies and mosquitoes can pass the virus.


What can you do to prevent your rabbit from getting RHDV?

As you can see, this virus is highly dangerous and easy to transmit. The best and most important thing you can do is to vaccinate! The vaccine contains a harmless strain of rabbit calicivirus that helps cross-protect pet rabbits against the stronger strain of RHDV that is released by the government. However, another emerging strain of calicivirus has recently been found and confirmed by the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI) in Sydney. Sadly, the vaccine has been found to be ineffective against this strain. Other ways you can protect your pet rabbits include erecting animal proof fences to keep wild rabbits and other animals out and separating all new rabbits from resident rabbits for at least 3 days (incubation period of RHDV is about 1-3 days).



Si Ying Erika Chan


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