Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD)

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD)

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD)

In View of the recent outbreak of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease in Singapore, this article aims to educate, you the rabbit owner, about the disease, why you should be concerned and what can you do.

RHD is a serious and fatal disease that occurs in rabbits. It is also called RCV (Rabbit Calicivirus) or VHD (Viral Haemorrhagic Disease).

There are 2 strains of this virus: RHD-1 AND RHD-2.

The disease has a high mortality (death) rate ranging between 50-100% in unprotected/unvaccinated rabbits.


The virus is transmitted directly between rabbits and also through body fluids such as nasal discharge, urine and faeces. Unfortunately, the virus can remain stable in the environment (approximately 100 days or so) at room temperature, longer if temperatures are lower. Hence it can stick to the fur, feet, surfaces, fomites (bowls, water bottles, toys, litter trays, cages etc.) that the bunnies come into contact with, hence aiding transmission. Even us humans can inadvertently transmit the virus on our hands, clothing, footwear etc.

Rabbits that do recover from the disease can still shed the virus for six weeks or longer, hence will need to be quarantined for a protracted period to protect other rabbits.

Signs of the Disease

The Clinical signs of RHD include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Bleeding from the nose, anus, mouth
  • Incoordination
  • Seizures, paddling
  • Bruising of the skin
  • Rash
  • Hind leg paralysis/paresis
  • Found lying on their sides
  • Letting out scream before dying
  • Liver failure
  • Sudden death

Unfortunately, the overall mortality rate for both strains is roughly the same. Death occurs within 24-72 hours. The problem with RHD2 is that the rabbits develop signs slower than RHD1, which means they are alive longer before succumbing to the disease, hence are around longer to spread the virus.


If your rabbit become acutely ill, bring it quickly to your veterinarian who may take a complete history and run some tests that include:

  • Full Blood Count –usually there is low white blood cell count
  • Biochemistry panel – all the liver enzymes will be marked by elevated.
  • Clotting profile- Clotting times will be prolonged.
  • ELISA Tests
  • PCR Tests
  • Post-mortem of rabbits that have died- samples may be taken from the liver, lungs kidneys, spleen etc.


There is no cure for this disease.

Rabbits that are suspected to have the disease or tested and confirmed to have it will receive supportive treatment and isolated (with strict quarantine and disinfection procedures having to be adhered to).

If they survive, the can still actively shed the virus for six weeks or longer so further isolation/quarantine is needed.


Vaccination is the only way to prevent RHD

At the moment, AVS is working with a local supplier to bring the vaccine into Singapore.

Check with you veterinarian about vaccination for RHD.

*At Vet Practice, Please call us if you want to reserve a vaccine for your rabbit.
Call us at 64621757 (Lorong Kilat)
                 67785285 (Holland Close).

Other Precautions

It is best not to send your rabbit to areas where they might be exposed to other rabbits. E.g. boarding, grooming.

*At Vet Practice, strict quarantine and sanitation practices have been put in place to deal with all potential deadly, transmissible diseases.