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'Have not seen any rabbits survive': What rabbit owners need to know about a deadly disease in Arizona

The warning comes after 15 pet rabbits recently surrendered with the virus died due to it, the Pima Animal Care Center said.

PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. — Attention Arizona rabbit owners: It's time to vaccinate your pets against a deadly disease spreading through the state.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV2) causes "rampant, swift death" in pet and wild rabbits and is making its way through Southern Arizona, according to the Pima Animal Care Center (PACC).

The warning comes after 15 pet rabbits recently surrendered to the center with the virus died due to it, despite the center vaccinating them rapidly after receiving them.

“This is the third year that the virus has been detected in Southern Arizona, but it’s the first time rabbits coming through PACC have tested positive,” said the center's director of veterinary services Dr. Jennifer Wilcox.

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Rabbit owners in need of assistance in vaccinating their pets or who have questions about the virus should contact the PACC Pet Support Center here.

RHDV2 can be spread to rabbits through any secretions of infected rabbits, contaminated food and any other animals or items that come in contact with it, PACC said. The virus is not contagious to other animals or humans.

Symptoms of the virus, other than death, include:

  • Fever
  • lethargy
  • hemorrhage
  • seizures

“So far, the number of infected rabbits has been fairly small, but we want pet owners to take precautions, because this virus is deadly,” Wilcox said. “We have not seen any rabbits survive RHDV2. Ideally, all pet rabbits should be vaccinated twice and housed indoors.”

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