The National Rabbit Association of New Zealand

Rabbit club New Zealand

Rabbit Calici Virus Information

Vaccination. No vaccine is 100% effective but the rabbit vaccine, Cylap, produces good immunity to RCD. Vaccinate all of your stock. 

Quarantine all new stock for at least 5 days. This includes stock that has been to shows. 

Good rabbitry hygiene practices. The use of disinfectants that kill the rabbit calicivirus. Bleach 10% solution is effective, as is Trigene and Virkon.  Thoroughly disinfecting cages, bowls and carry cages after shows. Washing stewarding show coats in disinfectant or soaking in bleach/ napisan.  Disinfecting all new cages that come onto your property. 

Keep cages clean to avoid excess flies, especially during summer. 

Washing hands after handling other peoples rabbits, before handling your own. 

Contact time of 10-15 minutes is required with most disinfectants to kill the virus.  

Keep your property and rabbitry closed to the public, especially during times of outbreaks. Be particularly careful with pet buyers coming to your property to choose a new rabbit to replace one they had at home that has died suddenly. 

Do not buy in or transport any new stock during a national outbreak. 

Be a responsible rabbit fancier. If several of your rabbits die suddenly over a short period of time, then do assume that you have RCD. Until tests are done to rule out RCD the best way to approach the situation is to assume the worst until proven otherwise. This includes not taking yourself or your rabbits to shows and potentially further spreading the disease.



Rabbits can be vaccinated from 6 weeks old.At this  age they will require boosters every 3 to 4 weeks  until they are 3 months old.
If vaccination commences at 2.5--3  months old, they will not require another booster that year.
In order to maintain immunity, it is recommended that all vaccinated rabbits receive an annual booster.


What is RCD?

Rabbit calicivirus disease (RCD), also known as haemorrhagic viral disease (RHVD), is a disease that kills rabbits.  RCD first appeared in China in 1984. It was illegally introduced into New Zealand in 1997.  Thirty to eighty percent of animals exposed to the virus will develop the disease. Almost 100% of infected animals will die.    The disease is here to stay in New Zealand, so it is important for the rabbit fancier to have a thorough understanding of the factors involved in the viruses spread and measures that can be taken to reduce the likely hood of this highly contagious disease infecting not only their stock but the stock of other rabbit fanciers.  


Most rabbits that get RCD will die from this disease within 3 days of being infected. From first infection through to death, the virus is rapidly multiplying inside the rabbit, producing millions of new viral particles which are then released from the rabbit via faeces, urine, saliva, nasal discharge and blood.  

The following is a list of formites (agents) that may pickup, harbour and spread the RCD virus.

1. Rabbits - that are carrying the virus

2. People - on clothing, hands & shoes

3. Hay/Straw - Prefer ably to use hay that is stored for 3 months.

4 Vehicles - on tyres that have been in an infected area 5. Other Animals - that have been in contact with infected rabbits

6. Wind  

7. Insects - flies that have been feeding on a dead


8. Food & Water - that are contaminated with the virus 9. Second hand housing, water bottles & bowls - may have been from someone who had a rabbit that may have died from RCD but was unaware of  this


What are the signs of RCD

There are three forms of the disease which, in severe cases, causes bleeding in the lungs, the windpipe, liver, spleen, kidneys and the heart. 

* Death without any other signs 

* Depression, anorexia, difficulty breathing, shaking, and death within one to two days.  Other signs may include a foamy or bloody discharge from the nose or anus, nervous signs or rapid death. Rabbits may appear to recover, then die several days later 

* Mild form – depression, anorexia followed by recovery. These animals become immune from re-infection. Rabbits that survive RCD become carriers for at least 42 days.

What do I do if I contract RCD

If your rabbitry is affected by RCD, you should observe a quarantine period of 110 days from the date of the last death. This also includes no rabbits to be transported in or out of your rabbitry. If your rabbitry has RCD, then you are just as contagious to other rabbits, as your rabbits are to other rabbits.  

If your rabbitry is affected by RCD, you may not show or attend any shows till the period of 110 days from the date of the last death has lapsed. 

You should observe strict hygiene practices, including having special clothes while in affected areas. All equipment, clothing, foot ware, caging and anything to do with your rabbitry should be sterilized.  

Inform your area rep that you have RCD. Inform other breeders you have RCD. This is so they can take the necessary precautions to protect their own stock. 

Composed and written by Dr. Angela McFall