Have you noticed how as we get closer to Easter more commercials on TV have bunnies? I’ll admit, bunnies are cute. They’re soft, they can be social and as I was lucky enough to experience as a child they can be snugglers. If you enjoy gardening you may have a different opinion of rabbits. They can be destructive and as my husband can attest to, rather than eating an entire pepper they take bites out of every single one so that we get none!
Rabbits, like any other animal are prone to diseases and there are some that can be very deadly. Case in point, for the second year in a row, residents of Vancouver Island are being warned to keep an eye on their pet rabbits as officials have confirmed the , with the virus showing up in four dead feral rabbits. While deadly for rabbits, the disease is not zoonotic, so rabbit owners do not have to be concerned for their health. There is also no concern for any other pets you have (cats or dogs) in getting infected. In 2018, outbreaks for RHD also occurred in and .
(RHD), also known as rabbit calicivirus disease or viral hemorrhagic disease, is a highly infectious and often fatal disease that affects wild and domestic rabbits. It has not been known to affect any North American native rabbits or hares, such as cottontails, snowshoe hares and jackrabbits. RHD, is often a very swift and sudden killer where rabbits often die without showing any symptoms at all, while others may show some bleeding from the nose, mouth and rectum.
There are a number of ways RHD can spread, including a rabbit coming in contact with contaminated inanimate objects (i.e. via fomites) such as clothing, shoes, as well as car and truck tires. RHD can also be spread via direct contact of a rabbit with an infected rabbit or the feces of an infected rabbit. Humans can also 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. Maintaining a clean environment is critical because contact transmission is a key driver for infection transmission. Therefore, ensuring you are using an effective disinfectant that is safe for use around animals is important.
If you’re thinking of getting or giving a pet rabbit for Easter, please keep these things in mind! You never know what you may be dragging in the door on the soles of your shoes. Be sure they’re left at the door and if you’ve been somewhere playing with someone else’s bunnies, think about changing your clothes before playing with your cute little ball of fluff!
PS – the bunny in the picture is Flossie. She’s , if anyone falls in love with her!
PPS – Fingers crossed the Easter Bunny is of North American Native Rabbit decent. I would be sad to wake up on Easter with no egg hunt!