Rabbit sore hocks cause pain, infection, and can lead to death if untreated. Is this condition preventable? Can it be treated if it develops? What are the signs to watch for? 

What are rabbit sore hocks?

The hocks are the hind legs of the rabbit. They typically sit or hop using the long bone area between the hock bone and the feet. 

Sore hocks typically affect the hind feet as these bear the most weight. However, the front feet can also develop sores.

While these occur most often when the rabbit lives on wire flooring or with dirty bedding, it can happen to other rabbits, too.

rabbit sore hocks

 

 

Symptoms

Bald patches on the bottoms of feet (most often back feet)

The first signs of sore hocks appear as balding patches on the bottom of the rabbit’s feet. At first, it might look like thinning hair. But as it continues, the feet begin developing sores, too. These are pressure sores, similar to those that bedridden people sometimes develop.

Red, inflamed patches on feet

Where the thinning hair becomes bald patches, left untreated, you’ll notice red, inflamed skin. Your pet rabbit may shift around, indicating that his feet are sore. He’s trying to find relief from the discomfort. If you haven’t noticed the problem before now, you see it quite apparent.

Raw, ulcerated sores on feet, possibly with abscess or bleeding

While the developing sore hocks are very uncomfortable and even painful, when they reach the ulcerated sore hocks stage, they can quickly lead to a serious infection. If you have not noticed them before, your healthy rabbit now starts to show signs pain and possibly illness. Left untreated, sore hocks often develop into a serious bacterial infection that can be fatal.

 

 

Causes of Sore Hocks in Rabbits

  • Improper flooring

    • Wire

Rabbit cages are often made with wire flooring to make cleaning easier. Urine and feces go through the wire holes, keeping them away from the rabbit’s feet. But even the best wire can irritate tender rabbit feet. In short, wire flooring helps the person but might not be the best for every rabbit.

Tip: If you use wire, consider setting up a resting mat, resting box, or a platform to allow the rabbit to spend time off the wire, too.

  • Wood Floors

Wood flooring can be a good choice, especially for indoor rabbits. But only if it is kept clean and dry. Wood works well if the rabbit uses a litter box. However, when soaked with urine or spilled water, wood becomes a problem for your rabbit’s feet and general health.

One tip for wood floors- consider covering with an easy-to-clean material such as tile or rubber. Make sure it doesn’t allow the rabbit to chew the edges. These materials still need to be kept clean and dry, but are easier to maintain.

  • Dirty Floors

Any flooring material might cause sore hocks if left dirty. This creates a potentially serious health risk. Train your rabbit to use a litter box, if possible. Schedule regular cleaning times for the cage, too.

Poor hygiene extends to the rabbit, too. If his cage floor gets dirty, check his feet and underside to make sure they are still clean.

  • Overweight rabbit

Just as with people, being overweight causes extra pressure on the areas that support the weight. For rabbits, the hind feet bear most of the weight. Keep him at a healthy weight for his hocks and his overall health. If your rabbit’s weight seems to increase even on a regular diet, he may need more roaming exercise. This also helps him distribute pressure evenly on his feet.

 

rabbit sore hocks
  • Insufficient fur padding on the feet

Some rabbits, especially certain breeds such as the Rex and Mini Rex rabbits, have thin fur on the bottom of the feet. This makes them especially vulnerable to sore hocks. But keep in mind that any breed of rabbit can get sore hocks.

  • Long nails

When the nails are allowed to grow too long, the rabbit changes the way it sits on it’s feet to accommodate the nails. This can lead to sore hocks because the rabbit’s foot is in an unnatural postion.

  • Nervous rabbits

Rabbits who are nervous or those who stomp their feet often may develop sore hocks.

  • Sometimes just because

Even if your rabbit is kept in the best of conditions, it is possible he may still develop a case of sore hocks. He might be genetically predisposed to the condition. This sometimes happens with the mini rex rabbits but can happen with other breeds, too.

Tip: When choosing your best fur friend, look for a bunny with lots of fur on the bottom of his feet. It’s cute and functional! (Mini Rex lovers, don’t despair–it is possible to avoid sore hocks in your best fur buddy, too)

 

How Do You Treat Rabbit Sore Hocks?

Treating sore hocks involves a few steps. First, you need to consider the severity of the sore hocks.

In the early stages where the hair is thinning or you see a thick layer of skin building into a callous, but the area is not red or inflamed, simply ensure that:

  • the hutch floor is clean and dry

  • the rabbit has a place to rest away from the hutch floor, such as a mat or box

  • there are no irritants rubbing on the rabbit’s feet

  • your rabbit is at the proper weight; too much weight increases risk of sore hocks

  • trim your rabbit’s nails regularly and keep them to the right length

  • check the feet daily- notice minor redness or increasing bare spots on the feet.

If the problem is more advanced and shows signs of hardened pink skin, you might need to provide some extra medical attention. Consider:
  • adding soft bedding

  • change the bedding frequently, perhaps once a day

  • check his feet daily, looking for any signs of breakage in the skin.

If the pressure sores develop into open wounds, the deeper tissues become infected easily. Begin treating immediately. An open pressure sore will soon affect deeper tissues. Early treatment, even at this advanced stage, can help prevent a bone infection. The longer sore hock advances, the more risk for bacteria growth and bone infections.

From this stage, it’s best to contact your veterinarian. Ask about antibiotic and pain medication that is safe for rabbits. Your vet might advise you about wrapping rabbit feet to protect the foot pads. Some people use vet wrap for this and usually, the rabbit sits patiently. Watch so he doesn’t chew at the vet wrap or other material.

Continue to keep the rabbit’s bedding clean and dry. With time and proper treatment, most cases of sore hocks heal, though he will need regular foot checks to ensure they don’t happen again.

 

 

Prevent rabbit sore hocks

As with most things in life, prevention is easier than treatment and curing. To keep your rabbit’s feet healthy, follow these tips:

  • trim your rabbit’s nails regularly and keep them at a good length

  • provide clean and comfortable flooring plus a resting area

  • keep him at a good weight

  • provide plenty of exercise time. This helps ensure he will evenly distribute pressure on both hind legs.

  • Check his feet during your weekly grooming. Also, check in between groomings if you suspect he may have a tendency toward sore hocks.

 

Keep Your Rabbit Healthy and Happy

Rabbits don’t have to develop life-threatening sore hock problems. Prevention is key. And if he does happen to have a bit of tenderness, early treatment stops the problem from progressing.

As with any medical issue, please check with your veterinarian for more detailed instructions and assistance.

 

For additional information:

PetMD: Sore Hocks in Rabbits

RWAF: Sore Hocks

Vet Help Direct: Sore-Hocks

 

 

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