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VHD In Rabbits: Signs, Symtoms And Treatment

Updated on August 27, 2014
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Anna studied psychology, law, English, and animal welfare in college. She is a mother of two and aspires to become a vet some day.


Why Is VHD So Feared?

Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD), also known as Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD), is every rabbit owner's worst nightmare. It is fatal in almost 100 percent of instances, and the very few rabbits who do not die from this evil disease remain as carriers and will shed it for at least two months, meaning that they need to be quarantined and kept away from any other rabbit or even other rabbit owners, as the disease can be carried and passed indirectly.

It is nearly impossible to destroy this disease, and so don't think that washing your hands will be enough - clothing, shoes and anything else that comes into contact with an infected rabbit might as well be thought of as another rabbit with VHD until it has been disinfected or put through the wash in near boiling water.

What Is The Cure For A Rabbit With VHD?

Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccination available to protect rabbits against Viral Hemorrhagic Disease in the United States, but there are steps that rabbit owners can take to prevent infection and the spread of viral hemorrhagic disease.

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Preventing Contamination And The Spread Of Disease


• Quarantine all new rabbits for a minimum of five days before introducing them to other pet rabbits and handle any new, quarantined rabbits last.

• Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your rabbits.

• Keeping rabbits indoors in a place where there are no other pets will reduce the risk of contamination.

• Try to swat any flies, mosquitoes and other pests that have got into the house, as they could potentially have previously been in contact with an infected rabbit.

• Spot clean your rabbit's hutch daily to prevent flies being attracted to the excrement.

• When cleaning out the hutch, use a pet-safe disinfectant and ensure it is in contact with the areas that need cleaning for at least ten minutes, otherwise it will be ineffective.


Signs Of VHD

Symptoms that a rabbit who has contracted Viral Hemorrhagic Disease may exhibit include:

• Fatigue and lethargic behaviour

• A loss of appetite

• A high temperature/fever

• Spasms and

• Sudden death

One of the most terrible things about VHD is not only is it incredibly tough (being able to survive temperatures of up to 60 degrees Centigrade and also being impossible to freeze), but it also has an incredibly short incubation period that may last for just 48 hours, and a rabbit may exhibit symptoms just a few hours before death.

It is a swift, sudden and silent killer that many rabbit owners fear. For this reason, it is vital that rabbit owners know all about VHD and how to help the affected rabbit, so that they can increase their pet's chances of survival.

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I Think My Rabbit Has VHD - What Do I Do?

Firstly, rabbits deal with high temperatures very badly and so it is extremely important that you cool them down. The best and fastest way to do this is by very lightly misting the rabbit's ears as rabbits regulate their body temperature through their ears.

Do not allow the ears to become wet, as this will not be comfortable for the rabbit. You can also help by offering water, although this may not gain any interest. The best thing you can do for your bunny is be there and make them comfortable. You could also try lying a cool water bottle beside the rabbit to aid with the cooling down process, but never try and put

A local veterinarian may offer advice over the phone, but never bring the bunny into the vets unless you have called to make an appointment, as you could potentially be putting other rabbits at risk. If one or more of your rabbits has died unexpectedly and suddenly, VHD could be the culprit, especially if you notice blood around the nose, ears or anus.

If your rabbit passes away and you suspect VHD was the cause, you must never bury the body - instead, call your local veterinarian to report the death(s), who will then examine the body, and if necessary, call the state veterinarian - this small step is vital to preventing outbreaks and the spread of this disease.

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For UK Rabbit Owners

In the United Kingdom there are vaccinations to protect your rabbit from VHD, and it is vital to get these done regularly.

They are required every year throughout your rabbit's life, and cost about £40 on average, though this will differ enormously depending on your vet and also whether you get the VHD vaccination on its own or as a double vaccine (which also protest against the fatal disease of myxomatosis).

It is recommended that you vaccinate your pet rabbits against both of these diseases regardless of whether they live indoors or not. These types of disease travel fast and kill swiftly, and when they hit there is nothing you can do for your rabbit.

Unfortunately, VHD may always be around, although it seems that some (very few), wild rabbits somehow have immunity to it, which is fantastic news for the species. On the other hand, because it is a viral disease, there is every chance it may mutate and still prove fatal for the rabbits who built up immunity to the original disease.

Thank You For Reading!

Will You Try To Take Some Of These Steps?

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Just A Quick Note

I didn't use any images of rabbits with VHD, because some of them are genuinely upsetting and I didn't want any young rabbit owner accidentally stumbling on photos that don't need to be seen.

I'm not over-sensitive to what people should and shouldn't see, but I think that the information on the internet can be accessed so easily by people of such a young age now that I would just rather leave out anything that may cause upset or any degree of trauma.

Comments, Thoughts, Questions Etc... :)

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