Can Rabbits get COVID?

Outside of lab experiments, rabbits can’t get COVID. To date, there have been no documented cases of a rabbit infected with COVID-19, either wild or domestic outside of laboratory conditions.

The CDC has not released guidelines on rabbits and covid, but they have shared messaging on animals and COVID.

Key Messages from the CDC on Animals & COVID-19

  • If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or suspect you may have the virus, you should restrict contact with your companion animals and other animals, whenever possible, just as you would with humans. If someone else is unable to care for your companion rabbits while you are sick, wear a mask when caring for animals.
  • Currently, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low. Companion rabbits in particular are at very low risk of contracting, harboring or transmitting the virus.
  • There is no evidence COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of companion animals.
  • Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have approved any products for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of COVID-19 in non-human animals.
  • The CDC does not recommend euthanasia of animals that test positive for COVID-19.
  • At this time, routine testing of animals for COVID-19 isn’t recommended. Please do not use any COVID-19 testing materials intended for human use on your companion rabbit.
  • Contact your veterinarian if your companion animal gets sick or you have concerns about their health. If your companion animal has been in contact someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks, be sure to let your veterinarian know so they can take safety precautions if your companion animal needs to visit the vet.
  • If you have COVID-19, don’t take them to the vet yourself. Instead ask a healthy friend or family member to transport them to the vet, or ask your vet about telemedicine options.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 in animals are typically respiratory or gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, and may include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, nasal/ocular discharge, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Research and News on COVID-19 and Rabbits

A January 2021 article in Emerging Microbes & Infections demonstrated that rabbits can be infected with COVID-19 and are able to produce sufficient quantities of live viral particles to be considered contagious. None of the rabbits got sick or showed any symptoms of infection (they were asymptomatic), but swabs from their nose, throat, and rectum tested positive for COVID-19. Post-innoculation, researchers detected infectious virus shed from the nose up to seven days, from two rabbits’ throats for up to two days.

This study demonstrated that under experimental conditions rabbits could shed live, infectious COVID-19 virus from their nose or throat that could theoretically infect people or other animals. Subsequent studies have shown that a wide variety of animals can carry COVID-19 without showing symptoms and that many mammals are theoretically susceptible to the virus.

Another study in January 2021 analyzed wild North American cottontail rabbits and their susceptibility to COVID-19, along with several other species common in many parts of the U.S.; several of the surveyed species frequently come into close contact with humans and human dwellings, and some are highly social animals, highlighting the researchers’ interest in examining their ability to contract the virus from and to transmit the virus to humans. The pre-print study, titled “Survey of peridomestic mammal susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection”, was posted to bioRxiv and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Conclusions

Researchers found wild cottontail rabbits were found to be not susceptible to COVID-19; in the study, cottontail rabbits did not shed the virus and no antibodies were detected.

House Rabbit Society promotes domestic rabbits as household companion animals, not as livestock. Raising rabbits for their meat and/or fur is cruel and exploitative for the animals and and for the humans who participate in these operations. Equally concerning, the necessary close contact between humans and body fluids from butchered animals dramatically increases the risk that more deadly and/or pandemic causing viruses like COVID-19 will emerge.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend euthanasia of animals that test positive for COVID-19, and says currently the risk of companion animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low. There is no evidence COVID-19 can spread to people from the skin, fur, or hair of companion animals. To date, there are no documented cases of companion rabbits transmitting the virus that causes COVID-19 to a human.

This article was originally posted June 16, 2021 by Larissa Church and updated by Christie Taylor, PhD February, 2 2022.