China disease in rabbits: symptoms of RHD infection

RHD, also called China disease, is one of the most feared diseases in rabbits. In most cases, once the animal has become infected with the RHD virus, the disease is fatal. Fortunately, you can prevent infection by getting your rabbit vaccinated at the vet and then regularly refreshing the vaccine. Find out more about the causes, symptoms and prevention of dangerous rabbit disease here. Regular vaccinations protect rabbits from RHD - shutterstock /

Every rabbit owner should be aware of the dangers posed by RHD. There is no effective treatment for the Chinese disease. That is why it is all the more important to take preventive measures in the form of vaccinations - not just for rabbits living outside, but also for pets in the house. Especially if you are holding several rabbits, you should also be aware of the symptoms of the China disease so that you can act quickly in the event of an animal becoming ill.

What is RHD or China Disease in Rabbits?

RHD (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease) first appeared in China in 1984. This is how the name China search came about. In 1988, rabbits in Germany were also infected with the dangerous viral disease. The pathogen is a so-called calicivirus, with which wild and breed rabbits are increasingly infected, but domestic rabbits that are kept indoors can also become infected. Cases of illness increase, especially in the summer months, but infection with the disease is generally possible all year round.

In 2010, a new pathogen (RHD-2) appeared in France. This was also detected in Germany in 2014 and is more resistant than the original RHD virus. Rabbits vaccinated against RHD-1 also died from the new virus. You should therefore have your animals vaccinated against both virus variants of the China disease in order to protect them safely. Otherwise, the disease quickly leads to the rabbit's death in almost 100 percent of all cases due to organ swelling, internal bleeding and blood clotting disorders.

Vaccinating rabbits: what vaccinations are needed?

If you want to enjoy your rabbits for a long time, you should think about vaccination ...

This is how RHD is broadcast

The incubation period is usually between one and three days. The RHD virus is transmitted in different ways:
● The healthy rabbit can become infected through direct contact with a sick animal.
● Parasites such as mosquitoes and rabbit fleas - but also mites, ticks, lice or flies - transmit the disease.
● The rabbit can become infected when visiting the vet or when walking outdoors, but also from objects that have come into contact with the virus, such as shoes, clothing or contaminated food.

China disease symptoms: signs of RHD in rabbits

The perfidious thing about the China search is that the symptoms are not very characteristic. Often death occurs suddenly without the animal showing any major abnormalities beforehand. The following signs suggest that your rabbit may have been infected with RHD:
● The animal appears apathetic or dazed and refuses to eat, or at least shows reluctance to eat.
● The rabbit's breathing is irregular: it can be accelerated or difficult. If the disease has progressed, the animal often gasps for breath, as breathing becomes increasingly difficult.
● The rabbit's body contracts in a convulsive manner.
● The animal bleeds from openings in the body such as the nose or anus. Blood in the urine or feces can also indicate an RHD disease.
● Shortly before they die, the rabbits often get a very high fever, then their body temperature drops sharply.
● In addition to the acute and fatal form of the Chinese disease, there is also a weaker variant in which the chances of survival are significantly higher. However, this is extremely rare. The rabbits usually fall ill with the virus only two weeks after infection. They are also apathetic, eat less food and in some cases have diarrhea and / or fever. However, they recover from the disease after a few days.

This is how you can protect your rabbit from the Chinese disease

Since there are no effective treatments for RHD, prevention is the only safe option to protect your rabbit from the disease. Vaccination against China disease is even mandatory for animals at exhibitions, but all other rabbit owners should not hesitate to take this protective measure. Have young rabbits about six to eight weeks old vaccinated against RHD at the veterinarian.

The vaccination is carried out subcutaneously - i.e. with a syringe under the skin - and in most cases the rabbits tolerate it without any problems. The RHD vaccination should be refreshed annually, its immunization lasts for nine to twelve months. There is also a combined vaccination for RHD and myxomatosis. Your veterinarian will be happy to advise you on all other questions regarding the schedule, course and course of the vaccination.

To protect your rabbit from RHD, you should also avoid contact with wild rabbits and install insect screens on the windows to prevent insect bites in the animal. Greater caution should be exercised when the area around China is infected. Find out about the distribution areas on the Internet or at the veterinarian.

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