Rabbit Diseases - Sore Hocks (Pododermatitis)

Pododermatitis in rabbit
  • Sore hocks”, also known as bumble foot, has the medical name ulcerative pododermatitis.
  • Sore hocks are a relatively common problem, especially in house rabbits.
  • It is painful and stressful problem for both the animal and the owner.
  • Rabbits of all ages, breed and gender are able to get sore hocks although larger breeds seem to be more susceptible.
  • Bacterial infections in the affected regions can often result following the rabbit having sore hocks.
  • Causes:

  • Wire bottomed cages and carpets, are a common cause of sore hocks.
  • Some rabbits are also born with a thinner layer of hair on their feet or may have a small foot area in relation to their body size, putting more pressure on the feet. Issues arise when the skin becomes inflammed or abscesses form and it then becomes an ongoing illness that is quite difficult to treat.
  • Very long toenails can also contribute, tilting the rabbit's foot and putting more pressure on the heel.
  • Housing on a wet surface (e.g., damp resting board, or wet bedding), which can soften the feet and predispose to infections.
  • Lack of movement in a small cage may also cause pododermatitis.

    • Signs and Symptoms:
    • Animals with pododermatitis may start favoring one of their feet or appear lame and reluctant to walk.
    • There may be loss of hair on the affected foot, thickening of the skin, swelling, redness, and sometimes open, draining areas or scabs.
    • Some animals may become depressed and not eat.

    • Sore hocks are notoriously difficult to treat and should always be done in consultation with your vet.
    • The rabbit should not be kept on wire bottomed cages as these increase the likelihood or sore hocks and worsen the problem for those already affected.
    • The nails should be clipped and the affected area cleaned.
    • The feet may need to be repeatedly soaked and bandaged with topical dressings.
    • In cases of bacterial infection, some types of antibiotics may be administered to the rabbit. Care should always be taken here as some antibiotics can have adverse affects in rabbits.
    • Pain relief is given in some circumstances.
    • Nutritional support can sometimes be required where the results have been a loss of appetite.
    • Dead skin may need to be surgically removed by a vet.

      Pododermatitis treatment Prevention
    • Hygiene is of vital importance when dealing with the prevention of many ailments in rabbits.
    • Hutches and cages with wire bottoms should have smoother and softer surfaces fitted as the floor. This floor should clean and kept dry.
    • Bedding should also be clean and dry.
    • Give your rabbit a fleece blanket or synthetic sheepskin to lie on.
    • The rabbit’s nails should be trimmed regularly.
    • Obesity should be avoided and so it is important that owners understand how to prevent this.
    • Anything which could cause an abrasion of the skin should be removed.
    • Synthetic carpets can be rough and lead to sore hocks in rabbits so reduced exposure to these surfaces can be important.