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Deadly rabbit disease detected in Hill Country

todayFebruary 21, 2023

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The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has confirmed the first case of a deadly disease that affects wild and domestic rabbits in the Texas Hill Country. Two desert cottontail rabbits and one black-tailed jackrabbit in El Paso county tested positive for the disease earlier this winter. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease virus 2, or RHDV2, is highly contagious for both domestic and wild rabbits.

The new case was confirmed in a wild rabbit found in Gillespie County, While the disease is not known to affect humans, livestock or other pets, TPWD says pets should not be allowed to consume dead carcasses. The disease spreads easily between rabbits through direct contact with infected animals or carcasses. Contaminated meat, fur, food, water, insects, materials and objects can also spread the disease, and RHDV2 can persist in the environment for a “very long time,” making efforts to control the disease challenging.

Sudden death is often the only clinical sign of the disease. In less acute cases, symptoms can include dullness or apathy, not eating, bleeding from the nose and eyes are congested. Some rabbits may also show neurological symptoms, such as incoordination, excitement or seizure-like episodes.

Domestic rabbit owners who observe sudden death in their rabbits should contact their veterinarian. Vets should contact the USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service or the Texas Animal Health Commission to report suspected cases.


Written by: Michelle Layton

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