Rabbits don’t have paw pads, but most rabbit breeders believe they do. Instead, rabbits have extra fur, which is distinctive from the rest of the body. Rabbits are the only mammals without paw pads, but their paws are protected by extra fur. However, this extra fur must be taken care of to function properly.
What Are Paw Pads?
Paw pads are thin pigmented epidermis upon a layer of tissue and fat. They reduce the weight of the body on the limbs of an animal. Paw pads are made up of five parts.
- Claws: This is the only feature a rabbit has. It is covered by fur and directly located under their skin.
- Digital pads: They are directly beneath the claws. They help to bear the body’s weight.
- Metacarpal pads: Together with the digital pads, they bear weight and help develop a tolerance to extreme temperatures.
- Dewclaws: The dewclaws are little pinky additional toes on the paw.
- Carpal pads: They balance the movement of the animal.
However, not all mammals have these five parts.
6 Functions of Paw Pads
The function of paw pads in each mammal is different. Just like the numbers of paw pads vary among animals, their functions also vary. However, the primary function of the paw pad is to protect the paws of your pet. Other purposes include :
- To increase speed: For most mammals, the paw pads help them move faster.
- As a shock absorber: while placing their feet on surfaces, paw pads absorb the shock produced by rough surfaces and steady their movement.
- As a sweat gland: it also functions as a sweat absorber but mainly for dogs.
- To absorb noise: This function is basically for cats and other predators. It makes them move stealthily without noise.
- Protect the paws: The paws are soft tissues. Therefore, pads serve as soles to protect these paws from harm when the animal moves on rough surfaces.
- For stability: It keeps them stable while moving at high speed.
Wild animals have thicker paw pads than domesticated pets to protect their paws through harsh and rough conditions. This doesn’t mean the paw pads cannot be injured, which is usually severe. Paw pads can get cut and infected. If not treated immediately, they can develop deadly yeast infections.
Why Do Rabbits Have No Paw Pads?
Rabbits are the only mammals that don’t have paw pads. Their strong legs and feet have extra fur, covering up the lack of paw pads, but this doesn’t mean they can’t walk or function like other pets.
However, the way they move is quite different from all other mammals. They have evolved to manage and adapt their movement to the environment. The reasons why they don’t have paw pads include:
- Strong legs: The primary function of a paw pad is to cushion the limbs. It carries the weight of the body and balances the animal. However, rabbits don’t need this. Their legs are strong enough to bear the weight of their body and balance their movements.
- Thick fur: Rabbits have thick fur under their toes and claws instead of paw pads. This extra fur protects and cushions their feet. Most pet owners are unaware of the protection this extra fur gives the paws and sometimes trim the hair ignorantly. Cutting the excess fur on the feet to the flesh puts your pet at risk of sore hocks.
- Different mammals have different reasons for having paw pads: While it functions to increase speed in dogs, it helps the cat to move silently. However, rabbits’ feet aren’t built for speed or stealthy movements but strength and longevity.
- Their claws: Rabbits have solid and durable claws. Their claws are strong enough to dig burrows. Asides from defense and digging, the claws steady their movement on slippery surfaces.
- Locomotion: mammals either move in digitigrade or plantigrade. While humans, bears, etc., move plantigrade-wise, cats, dogs, and birds move in digitigrade. But rabbits can move both in plantigrade and digitigrade. Their ability to alternate between the two makes them have no paw pads.
Does Having No Paw Pads Affect Rabbits?
Yes, it does. Rabbits are at a significant disadvantage as they hurt their paws due to the lack of pads. Even though they have extra fur for protection, most owners cut this excess hair, exposing their rabbits to injuries.
- Temperature affects the paws: Having pads does not mean other pets can walk on extremely hot or cold surfaces. However, pads protect and balance the temperature of their paws. On the other hand, rabbits’ paws are sensitive to any slight change in temperature due to a lack of pad. If not well managed, this can cause infections for them or even death.
- No Protection: While their feet are padded with their fur, the absence of a paw pad could be a disadvantage if the fur begins to come off or if there is none on their feet. Nothing would protect their paws from getting injured whenever they move on hard and sharp surfaces.
Are Sore Hocks Like Paw Pads?
Pododermatitis or sore hocks are often mistaken to be paw pads. However, it is a deadly infection that comes from not having the protection of paw pads. It is bound to occur when your rabbit steps on a wet and hard surface because the paws directly contact the floor. Below are what causes sore hocks:
- Fur loss: when your pet loses a lot of fur underneath the feet, which serves as a pad, it is at risk of getting sore hocks. The fur protects the feet from direct contact with the ground.
- Hard, wet and rough surfaces: cages with wire flooring and dirt might affect the paws of your bunny. Exposure of the paws to wet surfaces can cause sore hocks too. If your rabbit cage isn’t properly cleaned and the paws consistently touch urine and feces, your bunnies will likely develop pododermatitis. As such, don’t use wire cages to house your bunnies. Use hutches instead.
- Bacterial infection: Sore hocks could also be the secondary symptom of bacterial infections like Staphylococcus aureus.
- Obesity: An overweight rabbit would have difficulty standing correctly, as it’s too heavy for its feet to hold up. The pressure put on the feet could cause sore hocks.
Pododermatitis is very uncomfortable and painful for rabbits, but it can also be deadly if it spreads and affects the bones of your bunny. If you notice any swelling under your rabbit’s paws, visit your veterinarian immediately. However, some first aid tips to cure pododermatitis include.
- Provide appropriate bedding for your bunny: The leading cause of sore hocks is the paws’ direct contact with hard surfaces. Make sure the bedding is soft and comfortable for your bunny.
- Clean the cage and your bunny’s feet: You do not want your bunny’s feet to come in contact with waste that builds up. Make sure their paws are clean, as you often clean your rabbit cage. Bunnies are naturally hygienic pets, and unclean environments make them sick.
- See a doctor: Only the doctor can prescribe appropriate drugs for your rabbit. You will be given anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics for your bunny. Visiting the doctor for a general checkup is also important, especially for rabbits with less fur to protect their paws.
5 Ways To Protect Your Rabbits’ Feet Even With No Paw Pads
Since rabbits don’t have paw pads, their feet are vulnerable. Their paws need a lot of care to protect them from infectious diseases.
- Healthy diet: The best way to protect your rabbits from sore hocks is to ensure they eat healthily always. Good food such as hay nourishes the extra fur on their feet. However, don’t overfeed them, as obesity will make your rabbit too heavy for its limbs to bear. If your rabbit suffers from obesity, draw a meal plan to bring your pet back to shape.
- Trim your rabbit’s claws: it is essential to shorten your rabbit’s nails. Domesticated rabbits usually have long nails since they don’t dig burrows like wild ones. The claws raise their toes and rest their paws more on hard surfaces, leading to sore hocks.
- Wash your rabbit feet frequently: Though wet surfaces can affect their paws, washing their feet regularly to remove dirt is essential. Do not use toxic wash for your rabbit. Rabbits are sensitive and are affected by toxic chemicals. [3 Steps to Clean Rabbit’s Feet (Step-by-Step Guide)]
- Treat your bunny: If your rabbit has any problems moving or loss of fur, visit a veterinarian to treat it. Mobility problems can cause pododermatitis if not treated. Also, if your bunny is losing hair at its feet, visit the veterinarian to treat this as soon as possible.
- Stop trimming off the extra fur at the feet: if the fur is too long, it can be slightly trimmed but on no account should it be entirely scraped off.
Rabbits don’t have paw pads, but their paws need extra care. Some breeds of rabbits with less fur are more prone to injuries than others. As a pet owner, pay attention to your rabbit’s feet. The fur can be slightly trimmed but not to the skin to ensure a good cushion for your pet’s feet. Rabbits are fragile, and so are their feet!