Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

This is a horrible disease that affects only rabbits. Domestic and wild. After exposure, it takes only 1 to 4 days for the onset of this disease. At first, the symptoms may go unnoticed. Fever, they lose their appetite and can become depressed. However, it then gets much worse as the animal can bleed from its nose or mouth, have internal bleeding, have difficulty breathing, and have neurological issues.

More often than not, these poor affected animals are found dead with some bleeding evident.

How do rabbits contract this horrible disease? They must be in direct contact with an infected animal’s urine, feces, saliva, nasal discharge, or blood. An infected animal can also transfer through their feed or in a cage of one or more rabbits. Wild rabbits can contract this through domestic releases. There have been so many domestic rabbit releases into the wild. Please and I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT just release a domestic rabbit. They will not survive and there are rabbit rescues out there to help you, some OSPCA will also take them in. Do the right thing by these precious lives if you can’t keep them.

 If an affected rabbit is hit by a car, that car can transmit the disease as well on its tires to other areas. So this has the potential to spread quite easily.

Although cases of this disease are primarily in Europe, to date, it has been found in Canada in British Columbia and Alberta, with two cases that have been reported in Langton, Norfolk County, Ontario on June 10th, 2022.

Currently, there are no treatments available in Canada and unfortunately, there are no vaccines available.

Myxo Virus causes myxomatosis in Rabbits.

The myxoma virus causes myxomatotis which is a fatal disease in rabbits. According to vca canada

This illness is caused by the myxoma virus, which is widely distributed in the wild rabbit population. Even if your rabbit never comes into direct contact with animals from the wild, it can still become infected with this disease, because the virus is spread by bites from mosquitoes, flies, fur mites, and fleas. It is also acquired from injuries caused by contaminated thorns or thistles, or by direct contact with an infected rabbit. It is found in North America (primarily California), South America, Europe, and Australia. Pet rabbits are more susceptible and more severely affected than wild rabbits, as wild rabbits have developed a better genetic resistance. Clearly, outdoor rabbits are at greater risk of getting this disease.

Chronic Waste Disease

This disease affects whitetail deer, moose, elk, red deer, and reindeer. And it is fatal. It affects the affected animal’s brain and nervous system. The good news is there is no evidence that it affects humans, however, if it is an animal expected to be infected with CWD, you are advised not to eat or use any part of that animal for safety’s sake.

Be advised some animals actually do not show signs, it can take literally months for an affected animal to die.

Symptoms are as follows:

  1. They become very thin
  2. They will go off on their own leaving the herd
  3. Can develop pneumonia
  4. Urinate excessively
  5. Become in need of drinking more water
  6. Drooling
  7. Trouble swallowing
  8. They can become listless
  9. Become uncoordinated
  10. General unusual behavior

So far this disease has only been found in our wild white-tail deer in North America, but deer are monitored closely through hunting and MNRF.

To sum up this disease, it is a fatal and untreatable and is highly contagious spreading through saliva, urine, feces, and blood of infected animals. It can possibly be active in the soil of infected areas for years.

Skunk Adenovirus (SKADV-1)

The first case of skunk adenovirus in Ontario was diagnosed in a striped skunk in the year 2015. This disease is also said to affect foxes, porcupines, and raccoons in Ontario. The infected animal looks like it has a cold with nasal discharge, lethargy and acute pneumonia. With porcupines if they contract this disease, they can sometimes recover with treatment if caught in the early stages. But unfortunately that is not always the case, this virus can affect many animals and even birds. However it is mostly species specific with some types infecting a variety of hosts.

Adenovirus is spread through direct contact with the infected animals nasal discharge, urine and feces and even contaminated water. Unfortunately there is no treatment for skunks affected with adenovirus. Another reason why in wildlife rehabilitation facilities we take safety precautions when caring for our wildlife patients. Masks, gloves and sometimes gowns.

Covid and Wildlife

It has been proven that if you have Covid, you can spread it to pets and wildlife. Refrain from feeding wildlife at this time if you are sick. Wear a mask and gloves to protect your pets. Covid has been found in whitetail deer in Ontario. Although the risk is low for wildlife to pass Covid to humans. Humans can pass Covid to some species of wildlife. Mink, raccoons, skunks, and bats along with the whitetail deer have the risk of being infected. We as wildlife rehabbers and anyone who cares for wildlife must wear masks and gloves near the animals and sometimes also gowns depending on species. Our centers must be sanitized and clean to kill any potential virus risks.

Another very sad result of the pandemic has been the discarding of medical masks in our environment. Please remember to cut the loops off the masks and dispose of them properly.

Ranavirus in reptiles and amphibians

In 2018 the first turtle, a snapping turtle was diagnosed with rana virus in Ontario. This devastating disease has killed so many amphibians, but until now no known turtle species aside from the snapping have been affected. We can not afford to lose any of our already declining turtle’s. All 8 of our Ontario native species are now on the Species at Risk List at various levels. As with most of these diseases, this virus is transmitted through food, feces, and water. Therefore this virus can survive for months in the environment if conditions allow. This is why it is important when handling these creatures you wear gloves and wash your hands well. Sanitizing everything afterwards.

  1. Possible internal bleeding
  2. Swelling around the eyes
  3. Abnormal behavior and swimming
  4. Lethargy
  5. Swelling of their limbs and body
  6. Skin hemorrhage near hind end
  7. Lesions and possibly ulcers inside their mouth
  8. Excess mucus.
  9. Discharge from their nose and their mouth may also be seen

This disease is thought to be the cause of a huge mortality rate with amphibians. Failure of their organs leads to death in usually 1 to 5 days.

Poor Nutrition in Deer

If you find a fawn that is for certain orphaned, crying, ears curling, lethargic and weak. You must call us right away. Do not keep and care for them. They are very fragile. They can suffer from malnutrition when given the wrong foods, or in the wrong amounts. They can suffer from capture myopathy, and stress. I have included photos of one issue that causes the fawn great pain and discomfort. This condition is from feeding the wrong foods. It doesn’t show up right away. However, if it shows it is very hard to fix, they are in a lot of pain and discomfort. Must be put on pain meds and antibiotics for infection. Please do the right thing. We are here for you.

Although not related to wildlife diseases, here are some interesting facts for you outdoors folks.

October through to December is white-tail deer rutting or breeding time. Fawns are born 6 ½ months later. Watch for them on the roads and be mindful while hiking. Their minds are elsewhere at this time.

The Moose rut is from late September to mid-October. Cows are to be at least 3 years and bulls at least 5 years plus before breeding takes place, calves being born 8 months later in May or early June.

And don’t forget to take in all the beautiful fall colors.

Jen Howard

Procyon Volunteer/ photographer

Wildlife Diseases – Part Two
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