Rabbits And Small Mammals

Emerging Disease- Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) was introduced into the US in 2020 and has been identified recently in Minnesota after being primarily a western US disease.  In late September, two house rabbits died that were exclusively indoors.  This is a very contagious and highly fatal virus with no cure.  Vaccination has been available only through importing the European vaccine, but on October 2nd, North Dakota and the FDA approved the vaccine made in the US for emergency use.  This will allow us to vaccinate our pet rabbits against this terrible disease.  It is spreading rapidly across the US and our surrounding states (Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota) all have had cases.

RHDV symptoms may include:

  •                 Loss of appetite
  •                 Lethargy
  •                 High Fever
  •                 Seizures
  •                 Jaundice
  •                 Bleeding from the mouth, nose or anus
  •                 Difficulty breathing
  •                 Sudden death

The symptoms develop 3-5 days after exposure, and the mortality rate approaches 90%.  Surviving rabbits can shed the virus for up to 42 days, and it is shed in saliva, nasal secretions and tears.  The virus survives about 3 ½ months at room temperature, and up to 7 ½ months near freezing, and survives freezing.  Flies have been implicated as a major vector as they spread the virus by contact.

We have the vaccine from MedGene, a US based company, and will be offering vaccination for your rabbit.  An initial vaccine is followed 3 weeks later by a booster, and then annual vaccines are re-administered.  The vaccine has not been fully tested by the FDA but is considered effective on preliminary results.  Since this vaccine is now available, the FDA will no longer approve of importing the European vaccine.  Due to the circumstances, we will be requiring each owner to sign a form acknowledging that you understand the emergency approval nature of the vaccine and that full effectiveness data has not been determined.

If current clients of Animal Health Clinic would like your rabbit vaccinated for RHDV, please contact us for an appointment.


Rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, and other small mammals have become popular pets as increasing numbers of pet owners come to understand the unique bond that can form with one of these special creatures. But did you know that small mammals need some of the same routine wellness care that dogs and cats need? Do you know if your pet should be spayed or neutered? Do you know if any vaccinations are recommended to help maintain good health? Do you have questions about proper nutrition, cage cleaning, grooming, or any other aspects of care and husbandry? Our staff of skilled professionals is well trained in the care and husbandry of small mammals and can give you the information you need to keep your “pocket pet” looking and feeling great.

Why not call to schedule a wellness visit? We can perform a physical examination, answer any questions you may have about your pet, and discuss whether any changes in diet or at-home care are recommended to help ensure the health and longevity of your pet.

Veterinary medicine for exotic pets is growing as the popularity of these animals increases. When pet owners have access to the best information about nutritional and environmental management, exotic pets have a greater chance to live longer, healthier lives. If you own one of these unique pets, we encourage you to schedule a complete physical exam and consultation on proper care and feeding. Our trained staff can assist you with all of your small mammal needs.