Rabbit Hemorrhagic Viral Disease 2

Rabbit Viral Hemorrhagic Disease is caused by a Calicivirus.  Though multiple types of this virus have been identified, the serotype that has been seen in the most recent outbreaks here in the United States involves Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus serotype 2 (RHDV2). RHDV2 is a non-enveloped, single stranded RNA calicivirus that targets the liver and causes destruction of the cells within the liver leading to severe liver damage and dysfunction as well as problems with the animal’s ability to clot his/her blood.

Rabbit Diet Recommendations

A rabbit's digestive system is designed to digest hays, grasses, and fiber. Large amounts of sugary and starchy foods high in easy to digest carbohydrates can lead to serious medical problems. Grass hay is also essential in making sure the teeth in the back of their mouth don't become overgrown.

Encephalitozoonosis (E. cuniculi) in Rabbits

E cuniculi or Encephalitozoon cuniculi is a one-celled organism called a microsporidium. Rabbits can either become infected while they develop within their mother's uterus or by either ingesting or inhaling spores  passed in the urine from rabbits already carrying the disease. Ingested spores pass through the walls of the intestine into the blood where they then travel to other areas of the body. In some rabbits,the disease spreads onward to the kidneys, eye and brain.

Wry Neck/Head Tilt in Rabbits

Rabbits sometimes develop a head tilt that gets progressively worse until they roll uncontrollably when they try to move.  This condition is commonly known as "wry neck".  There are many different diseases that can cause wry neck such as an ear infection, a parasite known as Encephalitozoon cunniculi (often just called E. cunniculi or encephalitozoonosis), and others.  Depending on the cause, treatment is often quite successful if initiated early.  Sometimes the treatment arrests the underlying disease but the rabbit continues to have a head tilt.  Most of these learn how to live with their new view of the world and many gradually return to almost a normal posture.


Since a rabbit has to breathe through its nose, any medical condition that restricts or blocks the nose is life-threatening.  An infection of the nasal passages, also known as bacterial rhinitis, is often due to Pasteurella multocida but may be caused by many other species of bacteria. This infection is commonly known as "snuffles" for the congested breathing sound and watery mucus that drips from the nostrils.  It is part of an upper respiratory disease complex in rabbits which may include sinus infections (sinusitis), eyelid infections (conjunctitivis), ear infections (otitis), and trache

Giving Fluids

An ill rabbit may not drink enough water on its own to do well.  Your rabbit may be dehydrated if you see any of these problems: thick sticky saliva, crusty eyes, poor appetite, small amounts of dark colored urine, or hard dry fecal pellets.

In order to correct dehydration, extra water must be given to your rabbit.  Sometimes this can be done by helping the rabbit drink.  Some rabbits need to have fluids given by other methods, either by subcutaneous fluids, intravenous fluids, or intraosseous fluids.

Dental Problems

The image to the left shows a small molar spike within the mouth of a rabbit.  This bunny has started to eat less because that small sharp corner of this cheek tooth is starting to irritate its tongue.  If not corrected, this may create a painful ulcer on the tongue and lead to a crisis situation.


Rabbits often develop a cloudy appearance to their eyes.  The eyes may become cloudy on the cornea (surface of the eye), the lenses, or any of the chambers inside.  There may be many different causes for this disorder ranging from a parasite, Encephalitozoon cunniculi, to a corneal scratch or ulcer, cataracts, or various infections.  A rabbit eye can quickly get damaged beyond repair so any time you see a change in an eye, a health consulta

Basic Care: Rabbits



The domestic rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) can be a fantastic and loving pet. When well kept, the average rabbit can live for up to 10 years or more! Typically, dwarf breeds live longer than giant breeds. Let us help you set your rabbit friend up for success at home!

The domestic rabbits are a crepuscular species, meaning that they are most active around sunrise and sunset so that might be when your rabbit wants to play. Many bunnies will adjust their schedule so that they are most active when you first wake-up and between your dinnertime and\ bedtime. It is important that your rabbit has a dedicated “bed-time” so as not to interfere with normal circadian rhythms. Studies have shown that rabbits with interrupted sleep cycles while dealing with illness have a poorer prognosis than rabbits that are allowed to have normal sleep cycles.

Most rabbits are gregarious animals meaning they enjoy the company of other rabbits. Typically, rabbits live a bonded pair. However, not all rabbits get along and some rabbits are best kept alone.

More information on pair bonding is coming soon!

While rabbits are typically regarded as a species that does not vocalize, rabbits actually have a variety of verbal and non-verbal cues to indicate how they are feeling. For example, a happy rabbit may hum or jump and kick their back legs (referred to as a “binky” in layman’s terms). An angry rabbit my thump their hind feet or grunt. A rabbit in severe distress may even scream. If your rabbit screams while being handled, immediately put the rabbit down.

If your friends like your rabbit and want one of their own, recommend that they adopt a rabbit from a rescue.