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Anna, Pet Expert/Biologist
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 11549
Experience:  40 yrs.: herps, pocket pets, rabbits, poultry, dogs, horses. Biology degree. Vet assistant.
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We have four out of five pet rabbits which have all passed ...

Resolved Question:

We have four out of five pet rabbits which have all passed away within the past week. All except for the two females were kept in separate hutches outside in our garage. None of them appeared sick in any way. They all appeared fine and then within hours would get weak and limp and eventually die. The only thing we did notice on the female who just passed away overnight, is that she did have a spot of blood on her private area. How did they all contract it if they were in separate cages? We also have a dog that is a lab mix. Is this something that she can catch? I''m sure our last remaining rabbit will be passing away shortly. Can you help?
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Anna replied 9 years ago.

What area do you live in? Certain diseases are more prevalent in different areas, and climate is also an important factor, so this information may be helpful.

Thank you.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to Anna's Post: We live in NEPA (Poconos).
Expert:  Anna replied 9 years ago.
Thank you for getting back to me. I'm working on your answer, and will post it shortly.

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to Anna's Post: Thank you. We're worried about our dog.
Expert:  Anna replied 9 years ago.
I'm sorry for the loss of your rabbits. You probably don't need to worry about your dog. A rabbit disease that kills like this is most likely caused by a virus that isn't able to infect a dog. Chances of your Lab becoming ill are extremely remote.

As you already know, something very serious is going on with your rabbits. I don't know exactly what disease they have, but it is highly contagious with a high mortality rate.

Viral Hemorrhagic Disease (VHD) has been reported in scattered areas of the United States for several years, including New York. It has the kind of mortality you've seen with your rabbits. The bleeding from the one rabbit's genitals would be consistent with VHD. VHD often kills rabbits with very few symptoms present. It is just one possibility. There are also other calciviruses that could be responsible.

These diseases are not treatable, and rabbits that survive can be carriers. If you bought any new rabbits prior to this illness cropping up, that could be the source of disease, and you should notify the person you bought them from of what happened. The illnesses are also thought to be spread by mosquitoes, flies, and fleas.

It's also possible that what your rabbits died from could something else new or rare. Regardless of what it is, it would be a good idea to notify the United States Department of Agriculture. They monitor the serious contagious diseases of rabbits in order to detect any new diseases and prevent the spread of older ones. Here is their contact information:

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Veterinary Services, Emergency Management XXXXX Unit 41
Riverdale, MD 20737–1231
Telephone: (301) 734–8073
Fax: (301) 734–7817

Your local Extension agent could also be notified if you prefer not to deal with the USDA. This link will take you to a directory that will help you find the agent for your county:

If your last rabbit dies, it would be good to save the body for a necropsy. If you notify the Extension agent or USDA, there wouldn't be a charge to you.

If you have further questions, just let me know by clicking on REPLY.


(If you find my answer helpful, please click on ACCEPT. Thank you.)
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Thank you so much for the information. Your answer verified pretty much what I was thinking.

If our last rabbit does survive, do you think it would be wise to keep him? I know my children would be even more heartbroken if we had to put him to sleep.
Expert:  Anna replied 9 years ago.
If he survives, he could be a carrier for whatever disease swept through your rabbits. That means you couldn't get any new rabbits without risking their health. You would also need to make sure you and your children don't handle other people's rabbits or got to events such as rabbit shows or the rabbit barn at the county fair. Viruses can be transported on shoes or clothes. If you decide to put this rabbit to sleep and get new ones, you'll have to be very careful because some viruses can live a very long time in cages and bowls. Everything would have to be disinfected thoroughly with bleach water. Keeping all these things in mind, only you can make the decision about what to do. I know it's a difficult situation, and your children are already distraught over the loss of their other rabbits. If I can help in any other way, let me know.

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