News and knowhow for farmers

Factsheet: Sore Hocks in Rabbits

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By George Munene

Sore hocks (ulcerative pododermatitis) is an extremely common bacterial infection in rabbits.  

It occurs as sores, usually on the heels of your rabbit’s back feet, i.e, its hocks. It is observed as an open furless wound at the tip of the heel.  

If unchecked this condition worsens in time affecting deeper tissues and can be crippling.

Signs: 

  • A rabbit keeper can detect sore hocks if they notice a disruption in their normal stance or movement. They may develop an awkward walk, become lethargic, and develop a loss of appetite.
  • Furless patches at the base of feet are also another key indicator of sore hocks.

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Causes:

They are largely a consequence of bearing a heavy body weight on poor flooring and genetic predisposition in breeds such as the Rex which have poorly furred footpads and rounded metacarpal bones.

Other common causes include: 

  • Unsanitary conditions
  • Damp bedding
  • Overweight/ pregnant inactive rabbits. This exerts pressure on tissues at the base of feet which wears down the fur and skin making the occurrence of sore hocks more likely.
  • Overgrown nails

*Pet rabbits are also more prone to sore hocks as the fur on their skin is thinner than in adults.

*There is no evidence that wire flooring causes sore hocks in rabbits.

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Treatment: 

  • Cleaning the back feet with Epsom salt and drying 
  • Culling of rabbits genetically predisposed to developing sore hocks
  • Bandaging the wound with non-sticky shed fur
  • Feeding probiotics through water
  • Provide the rabbit with a soft ground to rest on (straw/hay) to get away from solid/wired floor until it heals
  • Nail trimming to avoid reoccurrence

Treatment is most effective if the condition is detected early.

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