There is this very common problem in pet rabbits called Sore hocks which is also known as pododermatitis or rabbit sore hocks. This occurs when the bottom of a rabbit’s foot develops sores that eventually become inflamed and infected.
The disruption of the normal stance or locomotion in rabbits may lead to pressure sores on the base of the feet, known as pododermatitis. Starting as a skin problem, this condition progresses over time to affect deeper tissues and can be extremely debilitating.
Pododermatitis is a condition where the hind feet near the elbow area or hock of the rabbit begin to show signs of infection. The surface of the hock that regularly receives pressure from the body is where rabbit owners are most likely to see the effects.
The severity of the condition also depends on the breed of rabbit. For example, rabbits with short or thin fur on the hocks, such as Rex rabbits, tend to develop the condition more easily than rabbits with longer hock fur, such as a Holland Lops.
Causes of Sore Hocks (Pododermatitis) in Rabbits
Some factors that can contribute to sore hocks include: excess weight and wire mesh cage flooring. Sore hocks can be extremely painful for rabbits, making immediate treatment very important. Therefore, it is recommended that If your rabbit has sore hocks, treat its feet as soon as possible by using medication and addressing the underlying cause of the sore hocks.
According to research, there are a variety of causes leading to pododermatitis. Rabbits that are routinely overfed will become overweight and put more and more pressure on their hind feet. This pressure on the hocks causes pain and irritation that leads to sore hocks.
This condition is worsened if the rabbit does not have a solid surface on which to sit. Even rabbits with a healthy weight need a solid surface in one-third of their cage to help relieve the discomfort that is caused by wire flooring.
Rabbits that are kept in too small of a cage will be unable to move around. This immobility will contribute to the onset of sore hocks.
In addition, pododermatitis is also caused by dirty housing conditions. These cages are breeding grounds for bacteria. Bacteria will easily be in contact with the hocks of the rabbits in the cage.
If the integrity of the hocks is failing, introduction of bacteria can lead to a severe infection.
In some circumstances, sore hocks can be caused by overgrown toenails. Nails that are not trimmed regularly will cause an imbalance in a rabbit’s feet.
This imbalance will create specific pressure points that lead to the onset of pododermatitis. Extremely long nails can also curl to the point where they can puncture the pads of the feet, causing pain and discomfort.
Signs of Sore Hocks (Pododermatitis) in Rabbits
Compared to other health problems in rabbits, pododermatitis is relatively easy to detect. Indicators of the condition include:
- Red or swollen feet
- Refusal to move around cage
- Extremely sensitive or sore hind feet
- In severe cases, ulcerations on feet
Prevention of Sore Hocks (Pododermatitis) in Rabbits
The best way to prevent pododermatitis is to keep your rabbit healthy and fit by providing a proper diet, cage, and exercise plan for your rabbit.
- Prevent obesity: Rabbits should be fed a balanced diet and grass hay. Consider factors such as age, reproductive activity, and health condition when measuring feed portion to avoid overfeeding the rabbit. Overfeeding will lead to unnecessary weight gain that will put excessive pressure on the rabbit’s feet. Grass hay is lower in protein and calories than alfalfa and will be better for adult rabbits.
- Cage: Cages should provide a roomy, clean, and dry environment for a rabbit. When preparing a hutch for your rabbit, you should provide one square foot of space per pound of rabbit. This minimum standard will help ensure your rabbit has enough room to move around. Urine and feces should frequently be removed from the cage to avoid growth of bacteria that can increase the severity of a sore hock infection. Cages with wire bottoms should always include a section that provides solid flooring. The recommendation is that this section cover one-third of the entire cage floor.
- Exercise: Rabbit owners should provide their rabbits with supervised exercise periods. Letting your rabbit run around in a fenced-in yard is the perfect way to provide exercise time. Exercise time is also an opportunity to interact with your rabbit and strengthen the bond you have with your rabbit.
- Trim toenails.
How to Treat Sore Hocks in Rabbits (Pododermatitis in Rabbits)
Take your rabbit to your vet right away. A rabbit with sore hocks can be in so much pain that it cannot find any way to rest comfortably in its cage. In addition, the bottom of its feet could be red, inflamed, and oozing discharge (indicating infection). If your rabbit just cannot get comfortable in its cage, and its feet are looking abnormal, take it to an expert as soon as possible for treatment
Allow the expert to clean your rabbit’s feet. After diagnosing your rabbit with sore hocks, your vet will gently clean the affected areas of its feet using a wound cleanser. If your rabbit is in a lot of pain, it may resist the cleaning procedure. However, the feet must be clean before any other medication can be applied to them.
Begin home care with a rabbit foot soak. After the initial foot cleaning by your vet, you will need to continue cleaning and treating your rabbit’s feet at home.
Your expert will recommend various products (Betadine, Nolvasan, Epsom salt) in which you will soak your rabbit’s feet two to three times a day. Betadine and Nolvasan are antibacterial solutions that are available at your local pharmacy.
Continue home care with bandages. Bandaging materials (sterile gauze pads, elastic bandaging material) are available at your local pharmacy. To bandage, place one gauze pad on the bottom of the affected foot, then wrap the foot and lower leg with the elastic bandage, leaving the toes unwrapped. Do not wrap so tightly to reduce blood flow to the foot.
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