Update: Rabbit hemorrhagic disease outbreak
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Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) found in Alberta

May 27, 2022

Earlier today, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) was confirmed in an indoor rabbit in Calgary, AB. This follows reports from mid-May confirming the disease in multiple rabbits in a single household in WA state north of Seattle. Prior to this, the last reports of the disease in Canada were in BC in 2018 and 2019 and AB in 2021. Since that time, the BC SPCA has had RHD control measures in place in all Island, Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley, and eastern Interior locations including vaccination and quarantine of incoming rabbits. Due to the current pattern of disease spread including both AB and WA, these measures have recently been extended to all BC SPCA locations.

The BC Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) strains from 2018 and 2019 did not appear to affect wild rabbits. However, based on genetic sequencing, the RHDV strain identified in AB in 2021 most closely resembled the one currently spreading across the US (sequencing information is not available from the 2022 AB case). This strain is different- it can infect and kill wild rabbits. This has significant implications for wild rabbit welfare as well as ecosystem health, and also means that if the virus spreads to BC, it could be virtually impossible to eliminate due to likely persistence in wild rabbit populations. At this time, there has been no directive/permission to vaccinate wild rabbits but a vaccine is available for domestic rabbits through a special government permit.

We encourage rabbit guardians to have their rabbits vaccinated. Guardians should contact their veterinarian with questions about the vaccine. For more information about how to protect pet rabbits, consult our information sheet (PDF).

Due to ongoing quarantine requirements and because rabbits tend to stay in care for a long time awaiting adoption, space for incoming rabbits will continue to be limited. Please contact your local branch before you go if you are looking to bring a rabbit into a BC SPCA shelter.

The BC SPCA continues to adopt out vaccinated rabbits who have completed their quarantine. We have many wonderful rabbits ready for adoption who can be viewed online.

Resources:

BC SPCA RHD Information Sheet for Rabbit Guardians (PDF)

BC SPCA RHD Information Sheet for Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries (PDF)

April 10, 2019 News Release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and Ministry of Agriculture (PDF)

September 23, 2019 News Release from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

Cute small rabbit half out of a tunnel

BC SPCA suspends intake of rabbits due to disease

Original story: March 2, 2018

The BC SPCA has temporarily suspended intake of rabbits into its Nanaimo shelter after tests conducted by the provincial government on deceased feral rabbits found on the campus of Vancouver Island University and in the Rotary Bowl in Nanaimo determined the rabbits died from haemorrhagic disease, caused by a calicivirus.

Rabbit haemorrhagic disease is an extremely infectious and lethal disease of rabbits. It is the third confirmed diagnosis of this virus in Canada, and the first in British Columbia.

The disease is exclusive to rabbits – other animals, including dogs and cats, cannot be infected.

Please see the news release (PDF) from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for further details.

The media contact listed with the release is: 250 356-7506.

Learn about our upcoming Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) public vaccination clinic on July 13.