What to Do Immediately If You Find a Dead Rabbit in Arizona
A new, highly contagious disease has entered the Arizona desert, and this can affect domesticated species, under certain conditions.
Here's what you should do if you encounter a dead rabbit on your property.
What is Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD)
The Arizona Department of Agriculture (ADA) has identified a highly contagious disease. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease or RHD, was first identified in China in 1984.
Because rabbits multiply so quickly, the disease spread widely throughout the world and because well-established in some countries.
The form of RHD found in rabbits in Arizona and New Mexico is a form called RHDV2. This disease can infect both wild and domesticated rabbits.
RHD Infection in Arizona
Since the beginning of April, scientists have found infection in both wild cottontails and jackrabbits in Arizona and New Mexico. The virus is highly contagious and spreads through various means such as direct contact with a sick rabbit.
Other ways this infection may spread is through ingestion of contaminated food or water, direct contact with infected live or dead rabbits, and inhaling the virus directly.
Cages where sick rabbits have been contained should be thoroughly cleaned with special cleaners or disposed of since contact with contaminated equipment, tools, hutches and bedding can infect healthy rabbits.
Contact with feces of predators or scavengers that have eaten infected rabbits can also spread the disease.
What to Do: Sick or Dead Rabbits
The good news is, RHD is not transmissible to species other than rabbits. Dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals are safe. Humans can spread the disease to other rabbits if they handle an infected rabbit, then touch healthy rabbits; thankfully, humans won't become ill with the disease.
According to the AZ Deptartment of Agriculture, here's what to do if you find a sick or dead rabbit on your property:
- Remove and bury or dispose of dead rabbits immediately
- Submit carcasses for examination and sampling promptly
- Contact a veterinarian right away if you find sick or dead rabbits
Contact the Arizona Department of Agriculture if you have questions and to find out more.