Hills Veterinary Clinic rabbits

Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (RCD)


Rabbit calicivirus disease


The first reported case of calicivirus (RHDV, rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus) was reported in South Australia in1992 and has since spread through the rest of Australia. This endemic form is known as RHDV1. There are also at least 2 strains of rabbit calicivirus that have accidentally entered Australia of recent times that are different to the endemic strain.(RHDVa and RHDV2)

The government is considering releasing RHDVK5 to try & increase the number of wild rabbits being killed by the disease

The virus is present in the saliva, nasal discharge and urine & faeces of infected rabbits and is spread either by direct contact or via clothing, objects and green food. Biting insects are also thought to spread RHDV.


Clinical signs


The time between the rabbit being affected & him starting to get ill is short, usually from 12 to 18 hours. You may notice your rabbit becoming quiet and not eating or drinking but this quickly becomes more serious and nearly 100% of rabbits that catch the disease die within 30 hours of heart or respiratory failure.


How to protect your rabbit


There is a vaccine available against RHDV1 which can prevent pets, show rabbits and breeding animals from becoming infected with the disease & spreading it to others. This vaccine is likely to provide some protection against RHVDa and RHVD2 but probably not in every single rabbit. This means that some rabbits may succumb to the disease despite being vaccinated. Kits can be vaccinated from as early as 4 weeks & the vaccine repeated monthly until the final dose at 10-12 weeks. The vaccination is registered to be repeated every 12 months but specialists recommend a booster every 6 months to try & achieve the maximum immunity against the new strains of disease.

This vaccination protocol should also be protective against RHDVK5

As no vaccine is 100% effective it is also important to minimise contact between your rabbits and other peoples rabbits and wild rabbits. Prevent infection transmission via people or equipment, the virus can survive for several days on clothing and equipment including supplies of green food (grass etc). Keep rabbits in insect-proof facilities and ensure any new rabbits are quarantined for at least 7 days.