How do you treat sores on a rabbit’s feet? The sores on the feet are Sore Hocks, which need special attention.
Treatment involves many steps, starting with a trip to the vet. Be an advocate for your furry friend and learn what you can do to help him heal.
Sore Hocks (Pododermatitis, AKA Pressure Sores)
Sore Hocks, aka Pododermatitis, are spots on the feet that are missing fur.
They can be mild irritations or become pressure sores, which can create severe pain for your rabbit.
Early detection is the key to healing.
Hocks range in categories of Grades I-V, from least to greatest injury. Treatment depends on the severity of the hock sore and involves more than just wound care:
- The breed of the rabbit may determine the severity of the hock.
- Your rabbit’s environment can make a difference in recovery and prevention.
- Nutrition also plays a role in wound healing.
- Frequent supervision is necessary to prevent contamination.
Have a Veterinarian Check Your Rabbit
To treat sores on your rabbit’s feet, take her to the vet for evaluation. You require a diagnosis so you can provide the appropriate treatment.
Testing, such as X-rays or wound culture, may need to take place to rule out infection or fractures.
If there is an infection, the vet may need to debride (clean out) the wound before sending the rabbit home.
Your rabbit may need an antibiotic via injection or IV. Severe cases may require overnight stays at the veterinarian’s office for more aggressive treatments.
Your vet will tell you what to do at home to treat sores on the rabbit’s feet, such as antibiotics, pain control medications, or dressing changes.
Prepare a Foot Soak
After the vet debrides your rabbit’s hock sore, they will probably ask you to soak the foot at home.
Common agents are Epsom salt, betadine, or Nolvasan. The latter two are antibacterials for a thorough clean.
Two or three times a day, you will soak your rabbit’s sore foot for a time frame your vet recommends. Now you are ready to proceed with the remaining wound care.
Perform Prescribed Wound Care
Dressing types can vary per the severity of injury and preference of the vet.
Rabbit Fur Wrap
To treat sores on your rabbit’s feet, the vet may recommend covering the injured area until it heals. Common wound care involves using healthy fur.
Before beginning any wound care, carefully trim the fur around the wound without disturbing the rest of the coat. Hair can contaminate the wound and interfere with treatment.
1. Start With Rabbit Fur
A fur wrap is one technique your vet may recommend to treat the sores on your rabbit’s feet. It is applicable for hocks that are missing hair but may not require topicals.
A handful of rabbit fur is what you need for padding. If you can find a shedding rabbit with no injuries, comb through its coat to catch any loose fur.
Using your palms, form the hair into a 2x2x1 inch deep “felt-like” wad. You will use the fur in place of another padding because of its gentle and natural feel.
2. Prepare the Bandage
Cut a 9×2 inch piece of Vetwrap or equivalent self-adhering bandage (Coban) into a letter “H,” with approximately one inch of the center-left intact for the rabbit’s heel.
You can also use sterile gauze with the Coban if you do not have Vetwrap. Keep in mind that the self-adhering bandage can shrink when wet.
3. Apply the Bandage
Ask a friend to anchor your rabbit’s tummy out of the way while you apply the fur padding to the hock area of the foot.
Try to fold some of the injured rabbit’s foot hair over the wad, then wrap the foot with the cut bandage. Make sure the animal’s heel is against the uncut portion of the bandage.
If the bandage appears to bother your furry friend, consider using a rabbit sock instead. The sock provides perfect padding and the appropriate amount of pressure.
Rabbits tolerate socks better than bandages because they are softer and less restricting. The sock is more flexible and allows the toes to stick out so the rabbit can scratch.
4. Check Placement of the Bandage
Do not apply the bandage too tight, or it might put excessive pressure on the affected area. Wrap the Coban in layers around the rabbit’s ankle, above and below the injured area.
The layered bandage, along with the padding, will cushion the heel and sole of the animal’s foot. Having a wrap around the foot and ankle can be uncomfortable.
You will need to make a hole in the bandage on top of the rabbit’s ankle. Pinch the dressing and use blunt scissors when cutting so you do not accidentally puncture the skin.
A dressing too tight can cause swelling or redness in the foot. It should be loose enough to stick a tongue depressor between the dressing and the foot but snug enough to keep it in place.
Peek at it periodically over the next few hours and remove it if too tight.
After the foot has time to recover, redress it—you should do this once a week until new fur grows over the bare area. It is crucial that the dressing stays dry to prevent contamination.
If the hock wounds are open, your vet may prescribe medication to treat the sores on your rabbit’s feet.
Collagen removes bacteria from the wound (debridement) and allows for new tissue to form. Cow’s milk includes enough protein to cure sores.
As a common remedy, cow’s milk ointment is effective in clearing up wounds in rabbits. For swollen areas, anti-inflammatories are effective in decreasing inflammation.
Silvadene, X-Heal, or Neopredef are examples of ointments that decrease swelling. Barrier cream or New Skin will heal the irritated area and prevent further breakdown.
Before using any ointments, consult with the vet. After applying a topical, cover the area with rabbit fur padding and secure with the Vetwrap.
Monitor the Dressing
To help treat the sores on your rabbit’s feet, the rabbit must not chew on its bandage. Give your rabbit an appropriate toy or snack to distract it from its foot.
Try the sock. If your rabbit continues to mess with its foot, contact the vet for other recommendations.
Provide a Nutritious Diet
Nutrition plays a crucial role in treating sores on a rabbit’s feet—protein aids in wound healing.
For slow-healers, marigold is the way to go. Alfalfa hay has too much protein and is not a good choice.
Greens, such as spinach, dandelion greens, parsley, and collards, are an essential part of a rabbit’s diet.
Trim the Nails
Another way to treat sores on a rabbit’s feet is by trimming its nails. You must keep your rabbit’s nails short to prevent curling.
Long, sharp nails can irritate the hocks if they curl under the foot. Trim before wound care, then routinely during recovery.
Create Special Bedding
Treating sores on a rabbit’s feet includes appropriate sleeping conditions. Where your rabbit sleeps is crucial.
Provide a soft, dry, and well-padded bed that will cushion the rabbit’s feet during rest. A small egg crate mattress or layers of bubble wrap under the bedding work great.
Ensure your rabbit’s bedding is not abrasive. Surfaces too rough can irritate the wound and cause pain.
The bedding should stay clean and dry to prevent contamination of the wound. Experts recommend changing the padded bedding often.
Provide Soft Surfaces
The floor your rabbit sits on needs to be soft. Hard and rough surfaces can create more pressure on the hock and make it difficult to treat the sores on your rabbit’s feet.
Experts discourage using a hutch while your rabbit recovers. Wire floors can be too hard and uncomfortable for the rabbit, especially with a sore foot.
A soft non-skid mat will prevent slipping and sliding and will help keep your rabbit safe.
Maintain a Clean Environment
Make it a daily habit to check the cage for leftover food. Make sure the food and water dishes are clean. Replace the bedding. Change out the litter.
About every two weeks, clean the hutch with a disinfectant cleaner or a vinegar/water solution. A cleaner environment prevents contamination of the injured areas.
Supply Ample Space
Your rabbit needs to rest for healing purposes. If your rabbit lives outside, bring them inside to have a clean environment while they recover.
While you treat the sores on your rabbit’s feet, avoid placing them in a hutch. They need to spread out to prevent too much pressure on their feet.
A large enclosure may be an option. If you have a large rabbit, consider a 30 x 36” habitat. Smaller rabbits will need less space.
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