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Biosecurity recommendations for rabbits

Biosecurity measures are practices intended to reduce the spread of infectious diseases and are essential in protecting animal health. Rabbit breeders and owners are encouraged to adopt the following biosecurity measures to reduce the risk of the spread of many infectious diseases in rabbits, including rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD).

Additional advice is available in the National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide Proactive Management of Animal Resources.

RHD is a sudden onset, highly contagious and fatal viral disease of lagomorphs (rabbits and hares). There are two main genotypes of the virus, both of which have been reported in Canada. RHDV1 was found in Manitoba in 2011 and has not been identified since. Since then, only RHDV2 has been found in Canada.

RHDV2 affects several species of rabbits and hares, including both captive and feral European rabbits, from which our own domestic rabbits are descended. It also affects several species of wild rabbits and hares that are indigenous to Canada. High rates of illness and death can occur in exposed rabbits.

The virus spreads among rabbits and hares through secretions and excretions including those from runny eyes/noses, saliva, urine, feces as well as contaminated bedding, fur, food and water. It can also be spread by humans, wildlife and insects on contaminated clothing, fur, and other surfaces. The virus can survive for long periods of time in the environment and remain infectious to animals.

The disease does not affect humans and is not known to affect other animals. In Canada RHD is a federally immediately notifiable disease; laboratories are required to notify the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) of suspected or diagnosed of the disease.

Some key biosecurity measures include the following.

People and equipment

Avoid non-essential visitor contact with rabbits; if this is unavoidable, employ these practices:


Feed, water, bedding

Additional information

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