Infection and Signs

Disease Progression
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease is a rapidly progressing, severe and often fatal disease. Rabbits may die within days of getting infected and typically exhibit little to no clinical signs of disease prior to death. In some cases, infected rabbits may exhibit clinical signs following a 3-5 incubation period. If an infected animal survives RHDV2, the animal can shed the virus for at least 42 days.

There is no cure for infected animals, however there are several vaccination options that can help prevent severe symptoms or death. See our Vaccination page for more information.

Clinical Signs
The progression of RHDV2 is so rapid that it is rare to observe clinical signs, especially in wild rabbits. Often, sudden death is the first sign of a problem. Finding dead rabbits and hares is a common sign of RHD in wild animals. Where observed, clinical symptoms may include:

  • Bleeding from the nose or other orifices
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of coordination
  • Convulsions

The observation of dead rabbits and hares with no obvious signs of trauma will likely be the most likely indication of infection.

Is it RHDV2?
Other diseases, notably tularemia, can also lead to death in rabbits with few to no clinical signs. Thus, it is important you contact your state agricultural agency (domestic rabbits) or wildlife agency (wild rabbits) if you observe dead rabbits and hares so they can accurately determine the cause of death.