Rabbit Feet. Info on healthy feet, calluses on rabbit hocks, and open sores on the bottom of rabbit hocks. How they got them and how to take
care of sore hocks in rabbits.
Very thick fur pads go a long way in protecting rabbit hocks from developing sores.
Nevertheless, certain rabbit breeds are more prone to sore
hocks than other breeds. Sore hocks are most often seen in...
--Thinly-padded animals (some rex lines get
sore hocks more frequently than other lines; not all rex rabbits have tendencies to sore hocks)
--Very large rabbits housed in all wire cages
--An animal in poor condition with a drained immune
system, such as one fighting snuffles, parasites or another condition.
But any rabbit, anywhere, on any type flooring, can turn up with sores on the bottoms of their feet, especially if the fur pads are not dense enough on the feet or the nails are not kept short.
Rabbits have been known to get sore hocks in various types
of living spaces, from all-wire cages which are blamed for everything, to the
insides of carpeted homes. Yep, carpets.
(Pictured – the callused hock of a 3-year-old chinchilla rex
All-Wire Cages and Sore Rabbit Feet
All-wire flooring is often blamed for causing sore hocks. But actually, wire floors are a wise choice IF constructed correctly.
Because urine and feces
can drop through the wire floor to the tray or ground below, use of wire
floors can break the life-cycle of various parasites by eliminating the
opportunity for reinfestation. This results in healthier rabbits and
rabbits that can attain the full reach of their genetic potential.
Wire floors lift the
rabbit up and out of their excrement, vastly increasing cleanliness and
reducing exposure to health-threatening ammonia fumes.
of wire more closely approximate the soft ground of dirt or grass, as the
claws can drop below the surface of the wire allowing the rabbit’s weight
to be correctly distributed over the foot’s surface.
Hard surfaces tend to push the claws upward along with the toes, disrupting the normal pressure patterns on the feet.
Wire that is weak, thin,
or excessively rusty can injure
rabbit feet. Select ½” x 1” 14 – 16 ga wire mesh for the floors of your
all-wire cages, with the heavier wire for heavier rabbits. This is ideal
for wooden rabbit hutches as well.
Slatted EZ mats can provide additional foot comfort for rabbits, if needed.
Protecting Rabbit Feet
Your rabbit's paws may be perfectly safe and healthy on an all-wire floor. This is true probably of the vast majority of rabbit breeds.
But is it true of YOUR rabbits?
Examine your rabbit's bone structure. When you lift up your rabbit, do
its feet come together under its body and nearly touch each other while
you're holding it off the ground? Or are there several inches between
them as they hang loosely?
Do the feet seem narrow or bony in structure? Or, do they seem to be thick and wide and plush? It helps if you can compare the feet of your rabbit with rabbit feet that are plush and furred on the walking surfaces. Compare rabbits of similar size and weight.
Ideally, your rabbit's feet will be both wide and widely planted.
The failure to utilize
survival-of-the-fittest culling strategies (as Nature does) has resulted
in increasing numbers of rabbits with inadequate anatomical structures of different sorts. Don't blame wire floors for poor bone structure.
No flooring types will completely protect the feet of rabbits with hip structure that places the feet close together, especially if the feet themselves are constructed very narrowly. These are the
rabbits whose feet are most at risk for breakdown no matter what type of housing you give them (including your own carpeted home), and which would tend to fall quickly to predation in the wild.
Thin-furred rabbit hocks
will tend to break down on any surface. Frequent checks of your
rabbit's feet will help you learn whether or not it will need special
care of its feet.
Claws that grow too long will disrupt a rabbit's weight-bearing. Long claws can also snag themselves and get broken or worse, ripped out of the paw. Keep claws trimmed, no matter what surface your rabbit lives on.
The giant breeds should always have
available to them at least a partially solid-floored cage or hutch, or
an adequately sized clean resting mat which will allow the rabbit a respite
from the heavy weight placed on its feet. Your giant rabbit might also be fine on very heavy wire mesh which will fully support its weight without sagging, for example, 12 ga 1/2" x 1" wire. Always provide a large resting board if you are not certain the feet of your giant rabbit will be fine within the environment you have provided.
As I hope you now realize, wire floors are only a tiny piece of the problem with sore hocks. Many other issues could be at the root of feet problems.
When you get a chance, flip your rabbits over and check out the bottoms of their feet, especially the hind feet.
What do you find?
Nuthin’ but fur? Great! That’s the way rabbit feet should be.
A furless callus, perhaps about
the size of a penny? This is okay, especially if there is no sign of breakdown
on the skin itself. The callus protects the foot. But, animals that like to
thump can damage the callus and cause bleeding. The callus may then heal fine.
But it's also possible that a break in the skin could get infected and fail to
Recommended: Some sort of resting pad in the living space of
this rabbit. Slotted plastic resting boards are excellent, as are (untreated) plywood or
wide pieces of wood. Plus monitor this rabbit’s feet regularly.
A bloody sore in the middle of a bare
spot on the hock? This is classic ‘sore hocks,’ and ouch, it doesn’t
feel very good. The rabbit may be posturing up on his tiptoes to avoid pressure
on that sore, and you might have seen some spots of blood.
Recommended: Rabbit feet with open sores (sore hocks) could
use some immediate attention.
Wash the feet gently with soapy water
and rinse and dry well. This is to reduce the bacterial count in the wound.
A topical antibiotic ointment can help prevent or eliminate an infection. Our favorite healing gel is Mannatech’s Emprizone (TM) ointment.
Emprizone (TM) inhibits infection and
facilitates healing (antibiotic ointments inhibit infection but can retard healing
due to the oily ointment base).
If the sore is deep, bandage and wrap carefully, covering with a final layer that will resist the rabbit's chewing.
Build up the rabbit's immune system by treating
underlying health issues, and augment the diet with a supplement such as calf
manna, whole oats (whole, not rolled, is better for immune-boosting nutrients),
or black oil sunflower seeds (including shells).
Along with a resting board, filling a portion of the cage with a cushion of soft hay or straw may improve the rabbit’s comfort level and speed healing.
Warning: The rabbit will eat some of that hay, and then likely rest there and foul other portions of the hay. Be prepared to clean it out daily and add fresh hay/straw, not only to prevent reinfecting the feet with feces, but to keep the cage clean.
We’ve seen mild sore hocks heal up quickly with
nothing but the addition of a hay cushion in the cage.
We recommend that animals that develop sore hocks not be
used for breeding purposes, because a thin fur pad is a result of rabbit genetics.
The offspring will likely also be prone to sore hocks. You don't need a barn
full of sore hocks.
With wise breeding and best herd management practices, it is
possible to develop a herd of rabbits in which rabbit feet problems, including sore
hocks, are a rare occurrence, whether in wire cages or in your home.
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