Rabbit Diseases - Calicivirus (RCD)

Liver of rabbit infected with calcivirus
  • Rabbit calicivirus disease is a haemorrhagic disease which is a highly infectious and often fatal to wild and domestic rabbits.
  • It is caused by a calicivirus that affects only rabbits of the Oryctolagus cuniculus species.
  • It is also known as rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) and Rabbit Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD).
  • It kills up to 90 percent of infected rabbits, typically within one to three days of infection.
  • It damages the rabbit’s internal organs such as the liver and gut, and can also cause haemorrhage or bleeding. Infection results in the rapid formation of blood clots in the brain, lungs and kidneys.
  • The incubation period of this disease is very short, and rabbits may die within 48 hours of exposure to the virus that causes RCD.
  • Studies have shown the virus can live in the environment for 105 days in 20 degree temperatures and even longer in cooler climates.

    • Transmission:
      The virus is present in the saliva, nasal secretion, urine and feaces of an infected rabbit. It can spread by following means:
    • Direct contact with an infected rabbit touching another rabbit
    • Indirect contact via contaminated food, bedding, clothing or other objects.
    • Birds, rabbit fleas, mosquitoes and insects can also transmit the virus between rabbits.
    • Humans can spread the virus to their rabbits if they have been in contact with infected rabbits or in contact with objects contaminated by the virus, including feces from an infected rabbit.

      Rabbits may die without showing any symptoms at all. But following symptoms may be noticed by the rabbit owners in rabbits suffering from the disease:
    • Loss of appetite
    • Lethargy
    • High Fever
    • depressed and quiet
    • Spasms/shaking
    • Difficult breathing
    • bleeding from the nose, mouth and rectum
    • Sudden death

      Calicivirus title = Treatment:
    • There is no cure for Calicivirus.
    • Generally, 70-100% of rabbits die once affected.

    • RCD, however, is often a very swift and sudden killer, giving little warning.
    • The disease can progress very quickly and is often fatal.
    • The best way to protect your rabbit is through vaccination.
    • All rabbits should be vaccinated from 12 weeks of age. Your rabbit will require one vaccination annually to maintain optimum protections.
    • The vaccination takes 7-10 days to offer full protection, so getting your rabbit vaccinated before they are exposed to the disease is very important.
    • House your rabbits indoors and avoid direct or indirect contact with wild rabbits.
    • House rabbits in insect proof facilities.
    • Maintain hygiene and a disinfection programme.
    • Seek Veterinary advice immediately if your rabbit becomes unwell.
    • Change your clothes and wash your hands thoroughly before handling your rabbits, particularly when you have come into contact with other rabbits.
    • If you’re introducing a new rabbit into your enclosure, it is important to quarantine them from your other rabbits for about a week, and make sure you keep the rabbit hutch regularly cleaned.
    • Educating yourself and others about RCD is one of the best ways to help protect your rabbits. Don’t panic, but get involved on spreading the word to others in the rabbit community.