NORTHERN VANCOUVER ISLAND, B.C. – Rabbit owners are being urged to vaccinate their pet rabbits against rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD).

Last spring, there was an outbreak of RHD in Comox and Courtenay, as well as parts of the Lower Mainland. Many European feral rabbits died as a result.

During that time, BC’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Jane Pritchard imported Filivac, a vaccine that effectively stopped the spread of the disease. The vaccine is only available through one manufacturer in France.

RHD is a highly infectious and often fatal disease affecting wild and domestic rabbits. Transmission occurs by direct contact with infected animals. Symptoms include fever, squeals, and often coma which leads to death within 12 to 36 hours.

In milder cases, rabbits display uneasiness, excitement, loss of appetite, swollen eyelids, paralysis, ocular haemorrhages and loss of skin.

RHD causes internal bleeding and organ damage in rabbits.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, there haven’t been reports of RHD since April 2018, but owners are still encouraged to vaccinate their pet rabbits against the disease. Rabbit owners can request the vaccine through their veterinarians.

The Ministry of Agriculture will order additional vaccines this spring by veterinarians who request it.