Do Rabbits Carry Diseases? A Vet’s Advice!

Rabbits are adorable and beloved pets that bring joy and companionship to many households. However, like any animal, rabbits have the potential to carry contagious diseases that can be transmitted to humans and other animals.

As a pet owner, it’s important to be aware of these potential health risks and take appropriate measures to protect both your furry friend and yourself.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the topic of whether or not rabbits carry contagious diseases and provide some helpful tips on how to keep your rabbit healthy and safe.

We’ll cover topics such as common rabbit diseases, preventative measures, and what to do if you suspect your rabbit may be ill.

So, if you’re a rabbit owner or considering getting a rabbit as a pet, keep reading to learn more about how to ensure your furry friend stays healthy and happy.

Common Contagious Diseases in Rabbits

Rabbits can be susceptible to several contagious diseases that can affect their health and well-being. Here are some of the most common contagious diseases in rabbits:


Myxomatosis is a viral disease that affects both wild and pet rabbits. It is transmitted through direct contact with an infected rabbit or by biting insects such as fleas and mosquitoes.

This disease causes swelling, skin lesions, and could lead to severe respiratory distress or even death. Vaccinations are available to help prevent myxomatosis in domestic rabbits.

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) is a highly contagious and often fatal viral disease affecting both wild and domestic rabbits.

The virus can be spread through direct contact, contaminated objects like food dishes and bedding, or even through the air.

This disease can cause internal bleeding, liver damage, and rapid death. Vaccination is the best prevention method against RHD.


Pasteurellosis, also known as “snuffles,” is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida.

This contagious disease is common in rabbits and can cause respiratory, eye, and ear infections, as well as abscesses. Proper hygiene and care can help prevent the spread of pasteurellosis.


Tularemia is a bacterial disease that can affect both rabbits and humans. It is primarily transmitted through direct contact with an infected rabbit, ingestion of contaminated food, or via a tick bite.

Symptoms include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. Antibiotics are effective in treating the infection if administered early.


Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can affect rabbits through open wounds, especially those caused by rusty or dirty objects.

The bacteria produce a toxin that causes muscle stiffness and spasms, making it difficult for the rabbit to eat and drink. Vaccination and prompt wound care can help prevent tetanus in rabbits.


Encephalitozoonosis, or E. cuniculi, is a parasitic infection that can cause neurological problems, kidney disease, and eye issues in rabbits.

Transmission occurs through ingestion of spores shed in the urine of infected rabbits.

Treatment with antiparasitic medications and supportive care can improve the condition, and good hygiene can help prevent the spread of E. cuniculi.


Ringworm is a fungal infection affecting the skin of rabbits. Symptoms include hair loss and round patches of red, scaly skin.

The infection is contagious and can be transmitted to other rabbits and even humans. Antifungal medications and proper hygiene can help treat and prevent ringworm.


Tapeworms are intestinal parasites that can infect rabbits through ingestion of infected insects or contaminated food.

Infected rabbits may display symptoms such as weight loss, decreased appetite, and diarrhea. Antiparasitic medications can help eliminate tapeworms, and proper care can prevent reinfestation.


Salmonella is a bacterial infection that can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, and fever in rabbits. It is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food or water or through contact with infected feces.

Treatment involves antibiotics and supportive care. Good hygiene and proper food handling can help prevent the spread of salmonella.


Fleas are a common nuisance for rabbits, causing itchiness, fur loss, and skin irritation. They can also transmit diseases such as myxomatosis.

Flea treatments and prevention methods are essential for maintaining your rabbit’s health. Consult an exotic veterinarian for appropriate treatment options.


Rabies is a viral disease that can affect all mammals, including rabbits. It is transmitted primarily through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies is fatal if not treated promptly.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent the disease, and immediate veterinary care is required if your rabbit has been bitten by a potentially infected animal.

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) can infect rabbits, causing symptoms such as skin lesions, respiratory issues, and neurological problems.

HSV is highly contagious and is transmitted through direct contact with an infected rabbit or contaminated objects.

Treatment may include antiviral medications and supportive care. Proper hygiene can help prevent the spread of HSV in rabbit populations.

Symptoms and Signs

The symptoms and signs of contagious diseases in rabbits can vary depending on the specific disease. Here are some common symptoms and signs to look out for:

Physical Symptoms

When it comes to physical symptoms in rabbits, there are a few key signs to look out for. One common indicator of illness is a nasal discharge, which can be a sign of a respiratory infection.

Diarrhea is another concerning symptom, as it can indicate a variety of issues, including enteric diseases.

Keep an eye on your rabbit’s weight, as weight loss can signal an underlying health problem that needs attention.

Another physical symptom to be aware of is a head tilt. This can occur due to inner ear infections or other neurological issues, requiring prompt consultation with a veterinarian.

Behavioral Changes

Aside from physical symptoms, it’s essential to watch out for any behavioral changes in your rabbit. Stress can manifest in various ways, such as hiding, being less active, or showing aggression.

If you notice any significant changes in your rabbit’s behavior, it’s essential to consult with an exotic vet to determine the cause.

In summary, monitoring your rabbit’s physical symptoms, such as nasal discharge, diarrhea, head tilt, and weight loss, as well as behavioral changes, can help identify possible contagious diseases.

Ensuring your rabbit receives proper care and addressing any concerns with a veterinarian can help maintain their health and overall well-being.

Transmission Methods

Contagious diseases in rabbits can be transmitted through several different methods. Here are some common transmission methods:

Direct Contact

Rabbits can transmit contagious diseases through direct contact with one another. This includes touching, biting, or scratching, which can spread parasites like mites or fleas.

Saliva is another medium through which diseases may spread; for example, when rabbits groom each other, they may inadvertently transfer parasites or bacteria present in their saliva.

If you notice your rabbit exhibiting signs of anxiety or stress, it’s essential to determine the cause and take appropriate steps to help them feel more comfortable.

Check out these Expert Tips for Calm and Happy Bunnies for guidance on alleviating your rabbit’s anxiety issues.

Indirect Contact

In addition to direct contact, rabbits can also contract diseases indirectly through contaminated objects or environments.

For instance, a rabbit’s urine might contain harmful bacteria that can spread when it comes into contact with another rabbit’s fur, food, or living space.

Parasites like ticks or fleas can also jump from one rabbit to another, spreading diseases in the process.

To minimize the risk of indirect transmission, it’s vital to maintain a clean and hygienic living environment for your rabbits.

Regularly clean their enclosures, sanitize food and water containers, and watch for signs of illness or stress. If you’re unsure about how to calm a stressed rabbit, this guide may provide you with valuable insights.

In conclusion, while rabbits can carry contagious diseases, transmission methods can be minimized with proper care.

Keep a close eye on your rabbits to quickly detect and address any health issues, and consult with a professional if you suspect your rabbit is carrying a contagious disease.

Zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted from rabbits to humans

Rabbits can carry a few zoonotic diseases, which are illnesses that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

It’s essential to be aware of these diseases, especially if you own a rabbit or frequently come into contact with them.

1. Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E is an emerging zoonotic disease in humans, with certain strains found in rabbits being capable of causing infections in people.

Transmission may occur through direct contact with infected rabbits or consuming contaminated rabbit meat (source).

As an exotic vet, I recommend practicing good hygiene and proper handling of rabbits to minimize the risk of Hepatitis E transmission.

2. Cryptosporidiosis: This is a parasitic infection caused by the Cryptosporidium species. Some strains, such as the rabbit genotype, have been found in rabbits and can be transmitted to humans (source).

In people, cryptosporidiosis can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal pain.

Maintaining good sanitation and handling your rabbit properly can reduce the risk of contracting this infection.

3. Tularemia: Also known as rabbit fever, tularemia is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through contact with infected rabbits or their environment (source).

Symptoms in humans include fever, swollen glands, and skin ulcers. Wearing gloves when handling rabbits and avoiding contact with sick or dead rabbits can help prevent the transmission of tularemia.

To protect yourself from these zoonotic diseases, it’s important to:

  • Regularly clean and sanitize your rabbits’ living quarters
  • Wear gloves when handling your rabbit, especially if they are ill or their health status is unknown
  • Keep your rabbit’s vaccinations up-to-date
  • Consult an exotic vet if you notice any signs of illness in your rabbit

By being knowledgeable about these zoonotic diseases and taking the necessary precautions when handling rabbits, you can minimize your risk of contracting these infections, ensuring a healthy relationship between you and your rabbit friend.

Risk Factors and Control

There are several risk factors for contagious diseases in rabbits, and controlling these risk factors can help prevent the spread of disease. Here are some common risk factors and control measures:

Wild and Pet Rabbit Interactions

Interactions between wild and domestic rabbits can pose a risk for the transmission of contagious diseases.

To minimize this risk, ensure that your outdoor rabbit enclosure is secured against wild rabbits entering.

If you have any concerns about your pet rabbit’s health, consult with your veterinarian for advice on keeping your rabbit happy and well-protected.

Unsanitary living or breeding conditions

Poor hygiene and unsanitary living conditions can increase the risk of contagious diseases among rabbits.

It is important to regularly clean your rabbit’s living area and make sure there is adequate ventilation to maintain a healthy environment.

Additionally, ensure that your rabbit gets sufficient exercise for both physical and mental wellbeing.

Tips for maintaining a clean environment:

  • Regularly clean and disinfect the rabbit’s cage, accessories, and toys.
  • Remove soiled bedding and replace it with fresh, clean bedding.
  • Provide fresh water and food daily.

Failure to vaccinate

Vaccination is a vital part of responsible pet ownership. To protect your rabbit from contagious diseases, regularly consult your veterinarian about necessary vaccinations.

Timely vaccination is essential in reducing the risk of contracting diseases and ensuring the health of your pet.

To control and prevent contagious diseases in rabbits, consider the following:

  1. Vaccination: Keep your rabbit’s vaccinations up-to-date and consult with your veterinarian on the recommended schedule.
  2. Hygiene: Maintain a clean and sanitary living environment for your rabbit.
  3. Regular check-ups: Schedule routine veterinary appointments for your pet to monitor their health, detect any signs of illness, and ensure proper care.

Remember to always monitor your rabbit’s health and consult with a professional when needed.

By adhering to these risk factors and control guidelines, you can help ensure the wellbeing and happiness of your furry friend.

How to Isolate a Sick Rabbit to Prevent the Spread of Disease to Other Rabbits

Rabbits can indeed carry contagious diseases, so it’s essential to take precautions when you notice one of your rabbits is sick.

Isolating a sick rabbit is an effective way to prevent the spread of disease to other rabbits in your care.

Follow these steps to properly isolate a sick rabbit:

1. Choose a separate space for the sick rabbit Find a quiet and comfortable area away from the other rabbits to isolate the sick one. This could be a separate room, a penned off area, or a large cage. Make sure there is enough space for the rabbit to move around comfortably, and provide all the necessary supplies like food, water, and bedding.

2. Personal hygiene Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the sick rabbit to avoid spreading the disease to other rabbits or even yourself. It’s a good idea to also wear disposable gloves when handling the sick rabbit and its belongings.

3. Clean the isolation area regularly Keep the isolation area clean to prevent any buildup of bacteria and pathogens. Rabbits are sensitive to their environment, so maintaining cleanliness will promote their wellbeing. Regularly clean and disinfect the area, especially the food and water containers. Dispose of used bedding and replace it with fresh materials.

4. Monitor the rabbit’s health closely As an exotic vet, it’s essential for you to observe the sick rabbit closely and take note of any changes in its symptoms or behavior. This will help you determine if the isolation and treatment are effective, and when it is safe to reintegrate the rabbit with the others.

5. Gradual reintroduction Once the sick rabbit shows signs of recovery and is no longer contagious, you can begin the process of reintroducing it to the other rabbits. This should be done gradually, with close supervision, to ensure a smooth and stress-free transition.

By following these guidelines, you can effectively isolate a sick rabbit to prevent the spread of disease to other rabbits while providing a comfortable environment for its recovery.

Remember to always be cautious and prioritize the health of all the rabbits in your care.

Prevention and Treatment

Prevention and treatment are both important aspects of managing contagious diseases in rabbits. Here are some common prevention and treatment measures:


Vaccination is a vital part of prevention for your rabbit’s health. Ensuring your rabbit receives the necessary vaccinations will help protect them from contagious diseases.

In some countries, vaccines are available against certain diseases like Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD).

It’s important to consult your veterinarian to discuss the recommended vaccinations for your rabbit and the required frequency.

Stay up-to-date by following the vaccination schedule provided by your vet.

Proper attention to hygiene

Maintaining proper hygiene is essential for preventing the spread of contagious diseases in rabbits.

You should regularly clean and disinfect their living environment, including the cage, food and water containers, and bedding materials.

Make sure to separate sick rabbits from healthy ones to avoid cross-contamination. Washing your hands before and after handling your rabbits can also help reduce the risk of transmitting infections among your pets.

Consider creating a rabbit first aid kit that includes disinfectants and other essential items to maintain their hygiene and care for them during emergencies.

Supportive care

In case your rabbit gets infected with a contagious disease, providing supportive care is crucial for their recovery.

This care may include keeping your rabbit comfortable, ensuring they have a clean environment, and monitoring their food and water intake.

Consult with your veterinarian regarding the appropriate treatment options, medications, or any other supportive care that may be necessary for your rabbit’s specific condition.

After surgeries, such as spaying or neutering, it’s essential to follow post-operative care instructions to minimize the risk of infection and ensure a smooth recovery.

By following these steps and staying proactive with your rabbit’s vaccination, hygiene, and care, you can help prevent and treat contagious diseases to keep your beloved pet healthy and happy.

How to Minimize the Risk of Disease Transmission from Rabbits to Humans

Rabbits can carry contagious diseases, but taking some precautions can help reduce the risk of transmission to humans. Here are a few important steps to follow:

Maintain a Clean Environment: Keeping your rabbit’s living area clean is crucial in reducing the spread of diseases. Regularly clean their hutch or cage, remove soiled bedding, and disinfect surfaces to eliminate any potential harmful pathogens.

Practice Good Hygiene: Washing your hands before and after handling your rabbit can prevent the spread of bacteria or viruses. Additionally, using gloves and protective clothing when cleaning their space can also lower the chance of infection.

Ensure Proper Nutrition and Care: A healthy rabbit is less likely to carry and transmit diseases. Make sure your rabbit receives a balanced diet, including high-quality hay, fresh vegetables, and a limited amount of pellets. Regular veterinary check-ups will help ensure your rabbit maintains good health and can also catch any potential health issues early.

Avoid Contact with Wild Rabbits: Wild rabbits may carry various diseases that they can transmit to your pet rabbit. Therefore, prevent any contact between wild rabbits and your pet to avoid the spread of diseases. If you encounter any sick or injured wild rabbits, contact a professional wildlife rehabilitator for assistance.

Quarantine New Additions: When introducing new rabbits to your existing ones, quarantine them for at least two weeks to ensure they are not carrying any contagious diseases. This will help prevent the introduction of new illnesses to your current pets.

By following these steps, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of disease transmission from rabbits to humans and ensure a safe and healthy environment for both you and your rabbit.

When to Seek Professional Help for a Sick Rabbit

It’s important to be vigilant when it comes to your rabbit’s health since they can sometimes carry contagious diseases.

Knowing when to seek professional help from a vet can be crucial to their well-being. In this section, we’ll go over some key signs and symptoms that indicate it’s time to seek expert advice.

Decreased appetite and weight loss: If you notice that your rabbit has lost interest in eating or is losing weight, it could be an indication of an underlying health issue.

It’s essential to consult a vet as soon as possible, as it might be a sign of dental problems, digestive issues, or infections.

Lethargy: If your rabbit is less active than usual, seems weak, or sleeps more than usual, it can be a sign that they’re not feeling well.

Make sure to contact your local vet to determine the cause and get appropriate treatment.

Behavioral changes: Keep an eye on your rabbit’s behavior. If they’re hiding, being unusually aggressive, or not using their litter box, it might be an indication that they’re not feeling well.

Consult a vet to better understand the issue and what treatment should be administered.

Nasal discharge or sneezing: Respiratory infections can occur in rabbits, leading to symptoms such as sneezing or nasal discharge.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to seek professional help as soon as possible to diagnose and treat the issue.

Discharge or swelling in the eyes or ears: If your rabbit has discharge from their eyes or ears, or if you notice any swelling in these areas, it’s essential to consult a vet immediately.

Rabbits are prone to infections in their eyes and ears, which can worsen without appropriate treatment.

In conclusion, it’s crucial to pay close attention to your rabbit’s health and behavior.

If you notice any of the signs mentioned above or have any concerns about your rabbit’s well-being, don’t hesitate to contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Regular check-ups can also help ensure that your rabbit remains happy and healthy.


Rabbits can indeed carry contagious diseases, which could potentially affect other animals and humans. One such disease is rabbit hemorrhagic disease, a highly contagious virus that can cause significant population declines in rabbit populations.

Although this disease primarily affects rabbits, awareness of its presence and transmission is crucial for responsible pet ownership and ecosystem management.

Another disease to be aware of is the cottontail rabbit papillomavirus, which can lead to the development of skin tumors in rabbits.

However, immunization with virus-like particles has shown promising results in providing protection against this disease.

Apart from these specific diseases, rabbits, like any other animal, can potentially carry common bacteria and parasites.

Proper hygiene, regular veterinary checkups, and vaccination when necessary can help minimize the risks associated with such diseases.

As a rabbit owner or if you come into contact with rabbits, it’s essential to ensure your pet’s health and well-being.

Consult with an exotic veterinarian for tailored advice on preventing contagious diseases in rabbits.

Additionally, adhering to good hygiene practices and keeping your rabbit’s environment clean can help maintain a healthy environment for both you and your pet.


Do rabbits carry any contagious diseases?

Yes, rabbits can carry some contagious diseases. These diseases can affect either other rabbits or, in some cases, humans. Keep in mind that not all rabbits are carriers; however, it is essential to maintain proper hygiene and care when handling these animals. Some examples of contagious diseases that rabbits may carry include Pasteurella multocida, myxoma virus, and tularemia.

Pasteurella multocida, commonly associated with respiratory infections and abscesses in rabbits, is a bacterium that can affect both rabbits and humans. In one study, giving aspirin to rabbits seemed to harm their chances of surviving infections with this bacterium.

The myxoma virus, on the other hand, primarily affects rabbit populations. This contagious virus has been largely used as a means of biological control for rabbits in places like Australia, where they are an introduced and invasive species. You can learn more about the myxoma virus and its impact on rabbit populations in this publication.

Finally, tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that can infect rabbits, rodents, and even humans. To mitigate the risk of contracting this infection, it is crucial to take precautions such as using gloves when handling wild rabbits or their carcasses and thoroughly cooking any rabbit meat before consumption.

What precautions should I take when handling rabbits?

To minimize the risk of contracting any contagious diseases from rabbits, it is essential to practice proper hygiene and care, including:

  • Washing your hands with soap and water after handling rabbits or their cages.
  • Wearing gloves when cleaning rabbit habitats or handling sick rabbits.
  • Keeping rabbit enclosures clean and well-maintained.
  • Monitoring your rabbit’s health regularly and visiting a veterinarian if you notice any signs of illness.
  • Quarantining new rabbits before introducing them to your existing rabbit population.

By maintaining a clean and healthy environment for your rabbits and taking care when handling them, you can reduce the risk of contagious diseases and ensure a happy and wholesome life for your furry companions.

Maurice Alice

Dr. Maurice Alice is a veterinary expert with over 10 years of experience in exotic animal medicine, specializing in dental care for rabbits and rodents. He is dedicated to providing exceptional care for his patients and is passionate about promoting animal welfare.

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