Do you see bald pink spots on your rabbit’s hindfoot or front paws? These can be signs that point to sore hocks in rabbits. On this page, you’ll learn every detail about sore hocks – from symptoms, causes, treatment, and recovery, to prevention tips that you can follow.
What are Sore Hocks in Rabbits?
Sore hocks, also called pododermatitis, is a condition where rabbits exhibit changes in gait, loss of appetite, pink sores on the skin, and bleeding of the foot. Sore hocks are often seen on the hindfoot and front paws.
Sore hocks in rabbits present prominent and visible symptoms. Because the disease can be rapidly progressive, you have to be aware and cautious of your rabbit’s signs and symptoms.
Here are the symptoms of sore hocks in rabbits that you should watch out for:
- Loss of fur on the affected area
- Blood on the hindfoot
- Sores and pressure spots on the skin
- Pale pink callused skin on the hindfoot
- Localized epidermic hyperplasia, or thickening of the skin of the hindfoot
- Loss of appetite
- Slow movements
- Low energy
If not given immediate care, the symptoms may worsen and can result in irreversible tendon damage. Your rabbit can contract a bone disease if not treated by a vet.
Some think that sore hocks in rabbits are caused by neglect. But, more often, that is not the case. Even rabbits receiving lots of love and care can get sore hocks too.
There are many causes of sore hocks in rabbits. Among those predisposing factors are listed below.
- Unsanitary cage:The factor that may cause the most danger for sore hocks is an unsanitary living environment. We all know that rabbits can make quite a mess. Hence, it is very important to regularly clean and sanitize your rabbit’s cage.
- Damp bedding: Soiled bedding can cause pressure spots on your rabbit’s hindfoot. Therefore, you should change and wash your pet’s bedding regularly.
- Chronic immobility: Some rabbits with bone and joint disease have chronic immobility, leading to sore hocks.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is the inflammation of your rabbit’s joints. Because of arthritis, your rabbit can encounter difficulty moving and carrying itself. Arthritis then increases pressure onto the heel of your rabbit.
- Giant breeds: Giant breeds are heavier than mini rabbits. They tend to carry more weight, thus putting more pressure on their heels.
- Overweight and obese rabbits: Like giant breeds, overweight and obese rabbits can also get sore hocks. They put more pressure than rabbits with normal weight.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant rabbits can have a hard time carrying themselves and moving around. That’s understandable – they have growing babies inside their tummies.
- Older rabbits: Older rabbits aren’t as agile as young ones. Rabbits not on the move daily are prone to sore hocks.
- Inactivity: Inactivity also causes sore hocks because of the load a rabbit’s feet sustain.
- Long nails:Long nails result in too much weight stressed onto a rabbit’s heel.
- Rough bedding or flooring: Rough bedding or flooring can cause sores on your rabbit’s hindfoot.
Here’s what you can do to treat sore hocks in rabbits:
1. Gather shed rabbit fur
Get a fur shedding from a healthy rabbit. You can use a fine-toothed flea comb to obtain enough wad. This fur will be used as a mat or padding for your rabbit’s sore hocks.
To use this as padding, roll the fur between your palms. Continue until it reaches a firm and spongy mat, approximately 2 x 2 x 1 inch deep.
Other types of padding than “spare” rabbit fur can compress into rugged mats. Hence, these are not recommended. Rabbit fur is a better choice of padding than a piece of cloth or gauze.
2. Get a bandage
After rolling the spare rabbit fur, have a bandage ready. Cut the strip that’s about 9 x 2 inches wide.
After cutting in the correct dimensions, cut it again to make an “H” shape. Don’t forget to leave an inch of space between the “H”, as this will cover the heel of your rabbit in the affected area.
3. Place the pad onto your rabbit’s foot
Place the fur pad on your rabbit’s foot to cover the pressure spot. Then, press the “H” bandage on the mat, with the uncut middle portion against your rabbit’s heel.
4. Wrap the bandage around
After ensuring that all areas are covered, wrap the “H” bandage around your rabbit’s hindfoot. Be careful; Make sure not to wrap it too tight. A tongue depressor should fit between the plaster and your rabbit’s leg.
5. Check the foot regularly
Once you’ve wrapped the leg, observe your rabbit several times. Be sure that the bandaged leg does not show any signs of inflammation, like redness and swelling.
Checking the Bandaged Sore Hocks
If you notice signs of inflammation, it means that you’ve wrapped the bandage too tightly. Simply remove the bandage, allow the foot to rest for a few minutes, and repeat the steps above.
On the other hand, if you wrap the foot too loosely, the pad can get displaced. Unwrap the bandage and repeat the steps, so it hugs your rabbit’s leg perfectly.
The bandage should keep your rabbit comfortable. However, it would need replacement every couple of days or week. Once the dressing becomes wet and dirty, change it immediately. If not, you can worsen your rabbit’s sore hocks.
Other Treatment Options
Vets may recommend creams and ointments to treat sore hocks in rabbits. Other than topical medications, vets can also prescribe systemic antibiotics and pain medications. These would lessen the inflammation and treat your rabbit’s sore hocks.
If your rabbit exhibits more severe symptoms, such as bleeding and broken skin, head to the vet as soon as possible. Do not brush these symptoms off, as they may result in bone disease and irreversible tendon damage.
In most cases, sore hocks in rabbits are difficult to treat. Frequently, they return after a treatment that’s deemed successful. While less serious sore hocks have a good chance of recovery, severe cases of sore hocks cause damages that lead to poor recovery chances.
While your rabbit is recovering, there are helpful things you can do to speed up the recovery process and make your rabbit comfortable.
Here’s how to help your rabbit during the recovery stage:
- Provide soft and malleable flooring: Improper flooring can make your rabbit’s sore hocks worse. Ensure that your rabbit’s cage flooring is close to the natural texture of the earth, free from abrasives that can cause cuts and wounds to your rabbit’s skin. Wire, tile, and linoleum flooring are not recommended. You can use soft sheets and a cotton blanket to improve your flooring.
- Clean your rabbit’s cage: Always clean your rabbit cage to ensure a safe and sanitary environment. Outdoor rabbits may need to be transferred indoors.
- Maintain a healthy weight for your rabbit: Your rabbit needs to be in good, healthy shape. If your rabbit is obese or overweight, plan out a diet that reduces weight. It is also essential to have your rabbit exercise daily.
Treating sore hocks in rabbits costs around $200 to $1,800. If your rabbit gets sore hocks, the average amount that you should expect to spend is $500.
As you see, that’s lots of bucks to spend right there! Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent your rabbit from getting sore hocks.
Below are preventive tips to avoid sore hocks in rabbits:
- Keep your rabbit’s claws trimmed: Long claws can increase the risk of your rabbit getting sore hocks. Thus, keeping your rabbit’s nails trimmed would prevent sore hocks by decreasing abrasive forces stressed on your pet’s foot. Regular trimming should lower the risk of having sore hocks.
- Clean your rabbit’s cage regularly (every week or so): We can’t stress this preventive tip enough! A sanitary environment leaves no space for bacteria to grow and invade your rabbit’s skin.
- Provide appropriate soft and clean bedding: If you currently have wire, tile, or linoleum bedding, it’s helpful to switch to soft beddings, as improper flooring harms your rabbit.
- Plan a healthy rabbit diet: Your rabbit needs to keep a healthy weight. This not only prevents sore hocks but also improves your rabbit’s overall health.
- Change soiled beddings immediately: Clean, clean, clean! Rabbits can make lots of mess daily, so don’t ever forget to change soiled beddings right away.
- Do not place your rabbit in cramped hutches: Cramped cages and hutches limit your rabbit’s movements. Keep your rabbit in an enclosure where it can freely and easily move around.
- Treat immobility problems: Rabbits need to stay active. Inactive rabbits will likely have sore hocks. See a vet if your rabbit has arthritis.
Sore hocks in rabbits can be a severe condition that leads to irreversible tendon changes and bone problems. The symptoms make your rabbit uneasy, making it inactive for weeks.
With all the bothersome symptoms, the cost of treating sore hocks can reach $1,800! Thankfully, this condition can be prevented with proper care, safety tips, and sanitary measures.