Rabbit Focus

Do Baby Rabbits Have Rabies?

If you are a pet owner, rabies is probably your scariest nightmare of them all. Rabies outbreaks occur now and then in different parts of the world, posing all mammals at risk of contracting this disease, with humans included.

Do Baby Rabbits Have Rabies?

As a responsible rabbit owner, it is important to be familiar with the different ways of keeping your bunnies safe and protected from this nasty virus and to recognize the symptoms and signs that an infected pet may exhibit.

Do baby rabbits have rabies, too? Are your cute kits also susceptible to this virus?

Can Rabbits Get Rabies?

Bunnies are warm-blooded mammals, which means that it is very much possible for them to get infected with the dreaded rabies virus.

This rabies is transmitted every time an animal bites another, with the infected saliva coming into contact with the uninfected animal’s body fluids.

But the good news is that the experts statistically consider rabbits to be at extremely low risk of contracting the virus, unlike other animals like dogs, cats, raccoons, skunks, and ferrets.

What is Rabies?

Even though there are rare cases of infection, rabbits are still very much prone to getting infected by the rabies virus. After a rabbit is exposed to the virus, an incubation period will take place between two to three weeks with rapid deterioration after the initial onset of symptoms.

The only unfortunate thing here is that rabies disease doesn’t have an existing treatment. Due to the highly zoonotic and infectious nature of rabies, you must contact your vet right away if you suspect that your rabbit might be suffering from the disease or may have been exposed to it in any way.

While it is very rare for rabbits to have rabies, this condition can be quite fatal. The disease is due to the lyssavirus which belongs to the rhabdovirus family. It is a highly neurotropic disease that can be traced back many centuries and despite the extensive scientific research, rabies continues to be the cause of thousands of human fatalities all over the world.

Why is Rabies Rare in Rabbits?

Probably the number one reason why it is rare for rabies to occur in rabbits is that they don’t have a big chance of survival if a bigger rabid predator attacks them. If ever your rabbit does survive an attack from a suspected rabid animal, make sure you handle your bunny with care during the transport to the vet.

The incubation period of rabies may vary a lot which depends on the severity and location of the wound and the type of animal. Testing animals for rabies while they are still alive is not possible so your vet will probably quarantine your rabbit for some time anywhere around 10 days to 6 months to ensure that it doesn’t exhibit any symptoms of the disease.

What are the Symptoms of Rabies in Rabbits?

The visible bite wounds from infected animals are the most common signs of a rabies infection. Unlike in the case of other infected animals that may exhibit the illness’s aggressive signs, rabies disease is mainly observed in rabbits with paralytic signs.

Some of the noticeable symptoms of rabies in rabbits include:

  • Anorexia
  • Bilateral conjunctivitis
  • Head tilt
  • Nasal discharge
  • Neurological signs including grinding, ascending paralysis, and head tremors
  • Recumbent, non-responsive state
  • Weakness

The disease has an alarming quick progression in rabbits that can lead to death in just a matter of 3 to 4 days after the onset of its symptoms.

What Causes Rabies in Rabbits?

The lyssavirus which belongs to the Rhabdovirus family is the main cause of rabies disease. The infection will follow once the virus has reached the tissue Since the virus is intermittently shed in the saliva, the infection usually occurs after the rabid animal’s infected saliva is transferred to the bite wound.

There are also rare cases when the infected saliva gets transferred through the mucous membranes or existing fresh wounds. After the virus infects the tissue, it will move through the peripheral nerves to reach the spinal cord and finally, the brain.

Despite the dramatic decline of rabies cases thanks to the routine vaccination of domesticated animals for the past 60 years, there are still a few hundred cases reported annually, not to mention that wildlife and stray animals continue to pose a serious risk. In the US, for example, there is a higher rate of recorded rabies infection in cats than dogs, which is believed to have something to do with the spill-over infection from the lower number of laws on cat vaccination and the cats’ tendency to roam and fight.

How to Protect Rabbits from Rabies

Rabies vaccination offer protection from the virus for cats, dogs, livestock, and ferrets. However, there is no approved vaccine for rabies available for rabbis. Due to the absence of an available vaccine, it is important to keep your pet protected from any potential exposure to possibly rabid animals.

Keeping your rabbits indoors can greatly reduce their risk of being exposed to rabid animals. See to it that all your pets at home that can be vaccinated also stay updated with their vaccinations. If your bunnies stay outdoors, check and confirm the security of the enclosure.

Take all the necessary measures to keep wild animals like skunks and raccoons out of their area by containing your trash and not leaving pet food as well as other temptations in areas accessible to them.

The Bottom Line

Rabbits with rabies exposure have a grave prognosis. While it is very rare for the infection to be transferred from rabbits to humans, it is important to evaluate your health closely and get in touch with a public health official.

If there are other pets on your property or they were exposed to the infected rabbit, talk to the officials about the proper quarantine measures you need to take. Again, you cannot immunize your rabbits against rabies, but you can vaccinate the rest of your pets such as dogs and cats.

Keeping your rabbits indoors and ensuring their safety outdoors are by far the best measures you can take to protect them from rabies.

And with that, we officially end this blog post. But before you go, can you do us a solid and spread the love (or laughter) by sharing this on your social media? Who knows, maybe we might even find someone who can relate to our content and benefit from it... Wink