Does Rabbits Have Rabies? Tips and Guides

Sick Rabbit

Have you noticed certain unusual and strange changes in the behavioural patterns of your rabbit?

Does it seem like your bunny abnormally salivates, and has difficulty in swallowing as well as other behavioural changes?

Then this article is definitely for you! If you’re really concerned about the well-being of your rabbit and your health too because rabies affects humans just as it does to mammals.

In this article, your suspicions will be cleared and you’ll know the next step to take as touching the well-being of your rabbit.

Let’s delve in!

Does Rabbits Have Rabies?

Rabies are one of the greatest nightmares of rabbit owners. This is large because all mammals are at risk of contracting this virus, all mammals including rabbits & humans are susceptible to this virus.

So you see, this also could greatly affect your own wellbeing.

So pay gross attention.

Let’s Continue.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have proven scientifically and statistically that rabbits are at very low risk of contracting rabies compared to other mammals like cats, dogs, raccoons and other mammals.

No, that doesn’t mean your rabbit is totally safe from rabies. 

You must NOTE THAT…

Your rabbit is a warm-blooded mammal which means he is still susceptible to contracting the rabies virus.

And being able to recognize the symptoms and signs that your pets have contracted this disease and what to do after noticing and confirming this are qualities of a good rabbit owner. 

What Is Rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease caused by lyssa viruses in the rhabdovirus family though preventable that is mostly transferred through the bite of an infected animal called a Rabid animal (literally when the bite occurs and the infected saliva comes in contact with the body fluids of uninfected animal).

This disease can be traced back thousands of years and despite intense scientific discoveries and research, this neurotrophic disease remains responsible for thousands of human and mammalian fatalities in the world. 

Ultimately, this virus causes death and disease in the brain by infecting the Central Nervous System of mammals, rabbits as the case may be here.

The vast majority of rabies cases have been reported to be found in wild animals like dogs, raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks, even though any mammal can contract the disease.

What Does Rabies Look Like In Rabbits?

Well, having understood the basic concept of this virus, what really does rabies look like in rabbits?

Rabies in rabbits are characterized by noticeable feature changes like nasal discharge, head tilt, teeth grinding, and rhythmic uncontrollable shaking of the body especially the head (head tremors). 

If any of these signs are noticed, your rabbit could be infected.

Tips on How To Tell If Your Rabbit Has Rabies?

There are a handful of noticeable changes and anomalies that can give away that your rabbit is Rabid ( infected with rabies).

These anomalies when noticed can help you tell if your rabbit is infected. Rabbits affected with the rabies virus will exhibit behavioural changes.

Some clinical symptoms of the rabies virus in rabbits include:

– Lethargy

– Bilateral conjunctivitis

– Sensitivity to Light

– Slack Jaw (Dropping of the jaw or lack of mobility of the jaw)

– Anorexia

– Listlessness

– Abnormal salivating

– Paralysis

– Tremors and Seizures

– Difficulty in chewing and swallowing 

This disease progresses speedily in rabbits and can lead to death 3-4 following the onset of signs or symptoms of infection.

Amongst all these listed above, your rabbit may also become reclusive, and start behaving strangely or even aggressive.

But it has been stated that rather than a rabbit being aggressive due to the infection, the rabies virus would most likely cause Partial Paralysis of the limbs.

As a rabbit owner, keep your eyes peeled for any of these symptoms in your rabbits as rabies is rare in rabbits yet very FATAL. Your rabbit could be dead within 3 days of the onset of signs and symptoms of infection.

And you could get infected yourself though it rarely occurs that rabbits infect men with rabies, you’re still advised to see a doctor in case you come in contact with the virus via a rabid animal. 

Therefore, there are certain measures to engage to prevent your rabbits from ever getting infected.

But before we go into that, let’s see briefly,

Why Rabbits Are Susceptible To Be Infected With Rabies Virus?

First of all, the rabies virus seems to find its hub in all mammals, including Man affecting the Central Nervous System and brain of the infected animal, with symptoms like Head tilt, abnormal salivating and uncontrollable yet rhythmic movement of the body, especially the head.

And Rabbits are mammals hence they are susceptible to rabies infection so that’s part of it.

Also, it is a highly zoonotic disease – meaning it’s highly contagious, which can be transmitted via the saliva of an infected animal coming in contact with the body fluids of an uninfected animal as the virus is shed intermittently in the saliva.

The infected saliva is transmitted through existing fresh wounds and or through the mucus membrane though in rare cases.

And once the tissue is infected, the virus then migrates through the peripheral nerves to the spinal cord and the brain (the Central Nervous System) where the damage continues.

Apart from the fact that rabies affects all mammals including man, there is another reason your rabbit is susceptible to this infection. This is because a rabbit does not have much of a chance of surviving an attack by a larger Rabid predator or escaping without a bite and this truth combined with the extreme zoonotic nature of the virus, makes your rabbits susceptible to rabies

Therefore, in the event that your rabbit survives an attack from a mammal you suspect to have been infected, you must carefully handle your rabbit and take him to the veterinary clinic immediately.

How To Protect Your Bunnies From Rabies

It is important that you note that Rabies has no cure or treatment in particular, though you may have heard of the rabies vaccine, it is only available for specific mammals like dogs, cats, ferrets and livestock 

There is no approved rabies vaccine for rabbits and because of this, you must protect your rabbit as much as possible from potentially infected mammals or rabid animals.

This can be done by:

– Keeping your rabbit inside to greatly reduce its risk of exposure to rabid animals.

– Ensure all your household pets that can be vaccinated from the rabies virus are kept under their respective vaccinations.

– Any household pet that can’t be vaccinated should also be monitored for symptoms of this infection and immediately any of such is noticed, that animal must be quarantined.

– If your rabbit is kept outside, make sure his shelter is always closed and secured.

– Ensure you keep animals like raccoons and skunks away from your area by taking care of the trash regularly and avoid careless dropping of pet food which can beckon onto other wild animals.

These highlights are ways to ensure your rabbit is protected from the rabies virus and not just your rabbit, you too and the general public are kept safe by aligning to these principles.

Tips on Living and Management of Infected Rabbits

These are other ways the virus spread can be curtailed and managed. Because after noticing and quarantining an infected rabbit or suspected case of rabies, the virus can yet spread to other rabbits or animals including you, whose body fluids come in contact with the saliva of the infected rabbit.

Hence these management measures must be taken into consideration to curb the further spread of this virus in the home. One of the major ways the virus can be taken care of is to inactivate the virus.

To do this, you need to disinfect (with bleach) any area in the home where the animal was, especially its shelter and feeding trough which could be contaminated with its saliva and body fluids.

Other rabbits or animals that have come in contact with the infected rabbit must also be quarantined and watched carefully for signs of infection as well. 

For rabbit owners who have been exposed to the disease, the risk of rabbit to human infection is very low and rare. However, it is of vital importance that you evaluate your health clinically and visit a public health centre or official.

In the event that your rabbit has been exposed to the virus, it is highly recommended that your rabbit is euthanized for the safety of you and the public 

Also, if this is not done, your rabbit will have to be quarantined for a period of six months with no animal and carefully monitored for signs/symptoms of infection.


Rabies is a very rare yet fatal infection in rabbits, so it must not be overlooked as it’s highly zoonotic (transmittable) even to man. If your rabbit shows any of these signs, quarantine immediately and calls the veterinarian. 

It is advisable to take the measures stated in this article and prevent infection rather than to try to treat it. Do these and the well being of yourself and your rabbit will be in check against the rabies virus.

Written by Justin Michaels

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