Rabbits are prey creatures and therefore tend to hide signs of illness meaning diagnosis can be tricky. Their health can also deteriorate very quickly so when in doubt you should always consult a vet.

Rabbit Calicivirus Disease

Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (RCD) is a highly contagious pathogen that is usually fatal.

The virus is spread via direct contact with infected rabbits, infected urine, faeces and secretions, contact with fomites such as clothing, bedding, feed bowls and via the air.

The virus causes blood clots to form in the rabbit’s organs such as lungs, heart and kidneys. Rabbits exhibit symptoms between 1 and 3 days after infection with death following between 1 and 2 days. Rabbits under 8 weeks old rarely die of the disease, either because they have acquired immunity from their mother or because their immune systems are not developed sufficiently to produce the blood clots which kill.

As this disease kills so quickly, some rabbits exhibit no symptoms before death but symptoms can include a high temperature, bleeding from nose and anus, difficulty breathing and spasms.

There is no known treatment for RCD but a vaccination is available. Rabbits should be vaccinated at 2.5 – 3 months of age. If animals are vaccinated before the age of 2.5 months, they should be revaccinated at 3 to 4 weekly intervals until they are 3 months old. Healthy animals over 3 months of age in normal conditions may have lifelong protection against RCD following a single dose of vaccine. However, to ensure maintenance of immunity, an annual booster dose is recommended.