Animal Health Update: Issue 30

a i d - michigan animal health update

Issue 30

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease

AID Preparing for RHD

Rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease in rabbits. At this time, RHD is considered a foreign animal disease in the United States. There are several strains of the virus including the classical rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) and a new variant, Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus 2 (RHDV2). With cases of RHDV2 being confirmed in wild rabbits from several Southwestern states, there is a concern that this disease could spread to other regions.

This year, there have been confirmed cases of RHDV2 in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. While the disease can be spread by ill rabbits or contact with their carcasses, exposures can occur through other means. Because the virus can survive in the environment for a long period of time, the virus can also be spread by insects, contact with items an ill rabbit has touched, the excretions from an ill rabbit, or possibly even the feces of birds and mammals that prey on rabbits.

Oftentimes, the only signs of RHD are a blood-tinged frothy fluid draining from the nose and sudden death. However, other symptoms can include fever, dyspnea, epistaxis, ataxia, paddling, opisthotonos, and seizure-like activity.

Currently, there are no licensed vaccines in the United States for RHD viruses. While there are several RHD vaccines licensed in Europe, they are in short supply. Further, these European vaccines can only be used in states with confirmed cases of the disease and must be imported with a special permit and have the State Veterinarian’s approval for use.

As a result, the best steps that can be taken with clients who own rabbits is to not only make them aware of the disease but also to encourage them to implement good biosecurity practices. Some of these practices include:

  • Avoiding the acquisition of rabbits from areas that have RHDV2.
  • Isolating all newly acquired rabbits for 30 days.
  • Preventing a domestic rabbit from having contact with wild rabbits, rabbits from other properties, and visitors.
  • Controlling insects and other pests. 

If a rabbit does show signs of illness, owners should isolate the animal immediately with its own dedicated cage and supplies; and a veterinarian should be contacted. When caring for the rabbit, owners should wear personal protective equipment (e.g., wearing gloves, having specific shoes to wear when around the rabbit or using shoe covers, etc.) and regularly clean and disinfect

Also, if a rabbit should suddenly die, owners should immediately remove the deceased the rabbit from the population and contact a veterinarian. If a deceased rabbit will not be tested for disease, it should be disposed of in accordance with state and local regulations.

Please note that rabbit hemorrhagic disease is reportable. If you have an animal that you suspect could have RHD, contact MDARD (800-292-3939) or USDA (517-337-4700) immediately. Further, do not collect and submit samples for RHD. If those at MDARD or the USDA feel that the case could be RHD, a Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician will be assigned to take over the care of the animal, including the collection of samples.

MDARD is regularly monitoring this disease and developing a webpage to help educate others on the disease.

Arbovirus Testing

Free Arbovirus Testing Returns This Year!

As a reminder to all veterinarians, funding is available again this year through a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) grant to cover the costs associated with testing clinically ill Michigan animals for arboviruses. 

As of August 18, 2020, there have been two confirmed cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in horses from Clare and Montcalm counties. Also, while there have been no cases of West Nile virus (WNV) in domestic animals in the state this year, the potential for this virus remains as it has been identified in a captive hawk from Lapeer County, a wild hawk from Oakland County, and a mosquito pool in Kent County.

To take advantage of this funding opportunity, when a neurologic animal is suspected of having WNV or EEE, please first request this testing by calling MDARD at 800-292-3939 or by sending an email with a completed Reporting a Reportable Animal Disease Form to

If approved, MDARD will send laboratory submittal forms. These forms are to be completed and submitted along with the sample itself to Michigan State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Further directions for sending the sample can be found on the submittal forms. Once the testing is completed, MDARD will send notification of the results. 

For this testing, acceptable samples include brain and blood. Brain is always preferred as this allows for a more definitive diagnosis of arboviruses. If submitting brain, an animal’s head can be sent to the laboratory; the brain does not have to be removed prior to the sample being sent. Also, MDARD may be able to transport the packaged head and completed forms to the laboratory, if needed. When submitting blood, please submit both serum and whole blood, which is a new procedure. 

Further, when submitting samples, it is crucial to collect a thorough vaccine history on the animal, particularly when submitting blood. If possible, please try to determine when the animal was last vaccinated against WNV and EEE. In addition, it is helpful to know if the animal completed an initial vaccine series and who last vaccinated the animal (e.g., owner, veterinarian).

Overall, testing for arboviruses helps to safeguard not only animal health but also to provide important insights for protecting human health. Therefore, please be sure to take advantage of this opportunity.

If assistance is needed at any point of this process, please contact MDARD at 800-292-3939 during normal business hours or at 517-373-0440 after hours.

EIA Forms

Reminder: EIA Forms Must Meet New Criteria

Recently, laboratories have been reporting a high number of rejected EIA forms because the submissions are not meeting one or more of the United States Department of Agriculture’s new requirements.

As a reminder, beginning in April 2020, all forms must meet the following criteria:

  • Submitted by a USDA-accredited Category II veterinarian who is authorized to complete accredited duties in the state where the sample is obtained.
  • Completed on an approved USDA form: A paper form that has “VS FORM 10-11, FEB2018” printed in the lower left-hand corner or on an electronic form offered through Global Vet Link or VSPS.
  • Finished forms must be fully completed: A National Accreditation Number is provided and no fields are left blank. If a field does not apply, please write “none.”

Since some laboratories are charging veterinarians service fees or discarding improperly submitted samples, it is important to ensure that these criteria are being met.

If current paper forms are needed, please either complete an order form and submit it to or place an order through our Supply Line by calling 517-284-5800

Please note that the Supply Line number is NEW. The old number will be deactivated soon, so be sure to update accordingly.

Cervid TB Testing

Cervid TB Testing Update

In response to the receipt of incomplete laboratory submission forms and the untimely arrival of samples for Dual Path Platform (DPP) testing, USDA AHPIS Veterinary Services has issued new instructions to help guide accredited veterinarians, producers, and regulatory officials.

The DPP Antibody Test is a serologic test used to check for bovine tuberculosis (TB) antibodies in captive cervids. Serum samples for DPP testing may only be sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. This testing may only be performed by Designated Accredited Veterinarians (DAVs) who have received supplemental training. They are responsible for the collection and preparation of samples, completion of the VS 10-4 submission form, and submission of the samples to NVSL.  

Unfortunately, Veterinary Services has recognized that some samples collected for the cervid DPP assay for TB testing are not received at NVSL in a timely manner.  Further, some samples are submitted to NVSL with incomplete VS 10-4 laboratory submission forms. To resolve the issue with delayed receipt and incomplete documentation, Veterinary Services is issuing VSG 6701.4, which includes the following instructions:

  • Samples collected for DPP analysis must be received by NVSL no later than five days after the sample collection date.
    • Samples received by NVSL more than five days after the sample collection date will be classified as “invalid.”  
  • Samples must be shipped so that they are received by NVSL on Monday through Friday.
    • Samples received on the weekend will be considered to have been received on the following Monday and classified invalid if this exceeds five days from the collection date.  
  • Samples must not be shipped for receipt by NVSL on weekends or holidays.
    • Samples received on a federal holiday will be considered received the following day and classified invalid if this exceeds five days from the collection date. 
  • Sample submission forms must be accurate, complete and must include a sample collection date.
    • Samples submitted to NVSL without a collection date or other required information will also be classified as invalid until the submitting accredited veterinarian provides a corrected copy of the VS 10-4 to the Area Veterinarian in Charge, State Animal Health Official, and NVSL.

Repeated failures to comply with submission requirements may result in removal of DAV status. In addition, falsification of collection dates or samples may result in removal of accreditation.

If there are questions or concerns, please contact Dr. Nora Wineland, State Veterinarian, at or Dr. Jean Ray, Area Veterinarian in Charge, at

Ear Tags for Cattle

Public Comments Sought Regarding Ear Tags For Cattle

USDA has published a bulletin in the Federal Register to accept public comments on the transition from visual ear tags to radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tags for cattle in order to enhance disease traceability nationwide.

Michigan has led the US in RFID technology utilization for well over a decade and is the only state to mandate its use in cattle and bison. Therefore, Michigan’s accredited veterinarians are in a unique position to provide comments based on their practical experience with RFID.

Please consider sharing the benefits and limitations of RFID ear tags from your perspective. Comments will be accepted through October 5, 2020, at the following site: