rabbit scratching nose with it s paw

What Are Sore Hocks In Rabbits & How To Treat Them

Posted by Daniel on 29 October 2022

No doubt, it delights every bunny owner to see their pet hopping happily around. Their powerful feet need to stay healthy! 

However, certain foot infections can arise and cause your pet to move less frequently. And a common foot infection in bunnies is sore hocks. Here’s what you need to know about it. 

A sore hock or bumblefoot (medically known as ulcerative pododermatitis) in rabbits is a condition where the skin around a rabbit's hocks suffers infection from bacteria.

This article will explain in detail what sore hocks entails and how you can easily identify it on your own! 

In addition to this, we'll be providing ways to effectively treat and manage this condition.

Now, let's get started!

rabbit feet

What Do Sore Hocks Look Like in Rabbits?

A rabbit having bumblefoot will start developing soreness on its hocks – the heel of the rabbit’s foot.

It can appear in different ways depending on how far it's occured. What’s more, these sores can become infected or start to bleed.

Furthermore, if ulcerative pododermatitis stays for long without treatment, it can become worse and bring about the following:

Deep Cellulitis – this is when the deep cellular and connective tissue—tendons, ligaments, etc.—around the affected skin suffers severe inflammation

Deep Pyoderma – this is a worsened condition characterized by severe inflammation of the sore accompanied by wounds that are filled with pus.

Prevent sore hocks, known as pododermatitis

Causes of Sore Hocks in Rabbits

Understand that sore hocks can happen to rabbits even if they receive proper care.

This is because a lot of factors bring about ulcerative pododermatitis in rabbits. See them below:

Inappropriate or Rough Flooring

This is a major reason for sore hocks in rabbits. Hard flooring—tile, wood, etc.—tend to place pressure on the hocks of a rabbit. 

Moreover, wire flooring squeezes the feet and causes them to bend abnormally. This can gradually create sore hocks. In addition, abrasive surfaces can cause rug burns and can wear away the fur around the hock, which can lead to sores.

Severe cases left untreated could lead to long term problems

Obesity and Lack of Exercise

So much weight places more pressure on the hind feet of a rabbit. What’s more, when a rabbit is overweight, it will adjust its posture in a way that adds more pressure to its feet.

Additionally, if a rabbit does not exercise regularly, its feet can start to develop sores from being in one spot for a long time. What’s more, the surface they stay on almost all the time might be a contributor to the ulcerative pododermatitis issue.

Overgrown Nails

A rabbit with long nails will have most of its weight placed on the back of its foot, which happens to be its hock area. This can gradually create sores on their hocks.

vet, bedding, fur, pet rabbit

Dirty Cages or Enclosure

This brings about the greatest dangers of bumblefoot – infection! When a rabbit often sits on urine-soaked feces, they are prone to skin infection. 

This kind of environment encourages the development of sores on rabbit’s feet. Bunnies with weaker immunity are likely to get bumblefoot this way. 

Damp Environment

Damp bedding, damp flooring and anything exposing a rabbit's feet to moisture too often, brings about bumblefoot. These are not good for a rabbit's back feet.

wet grass, disease of the feet, pet rabbit

Excess Thumping of the Feet

It's normal for rabbits to thump their feet. And when they do it so much, it can wear away their hocks leading to this issue. This is a rabbit behavior you can't control. 

Breed of Rabbit

Some rabbit breeds like the Rex rabbits have a very fine fur that easily wears away with friction. It makes them more vulnerable to bumblefoot.

In addition, ulcerative pododermatitis is common with Large breeds of rabbits like the checkered giants and Flemish giants. 

bacteria, health disease vetrinarian

Bacteria Infection

Ulcerative pododermatitis can also occur when rabbit's are infected by the following bacteria:

  • Staphylococcus aureus

  • Bacteroides spp

  • Pasteurella multocida (pasteurellosis)

  • Escherichia coli

  • Proteus spp.

Symptoms of Ulcerative Pododermatitis

Sore hocks in bunnies can come with symptoms that differ depending on the seriousness of the condition.  

Here are some of the signs you will see if your rabbit is developing sore hocks:

  • Loss of fur around their heel

  • Swelling and redness

  • Broken skin

  • Ulceration

  • Pressure sores

  • Scab development

All of these can lead to further symptoms such as:

  • Abnormal posture (standing, sitting, and walking)

  • Unwillingness to walk

  • Refusing to eat

  • Nervousness 

  • Abscess

  • Pain and discomfort

  • Inflammation of the tendons/ deeper tissues (tendonitis)

  • Bone marrow infection (osteomyelitis)

  • Swelling of the joint tissue (synovitis)

Pet vetrinarian disease symptoms

How Do You Treat Sore Hocks in Rabbits?

It's best if your veterinarian does the first treatment. Afterwards, you can continue the subsequent treatments at home. 

However, here's how the treatment of sore hocks should be:

Basic Treatment:

Clean the Affected Foot Thoroughly

Understand that the affected area must be cleaned before further treatment. However, if your bunny is feeling so much pain from the infection, it might try to struggle during the cleaning process. 

Try to keep your rabbit calm, as this process is one you should not skip. Use any suitable wound cleaner to clean the affected foot. Afterward, you can apply antibiotic cream to it!

Bandage the Affected Rabbit’s Foot Properly

After the sore and skin around the affected foot are clean, wrap it with a bandage. All you need is a bandage and a gauze pad or any soft cotton. 

Start by placing a gauze pad right underneath the feet (right on the sores). After doing this, begin to wrap the rabbit’s foot with the bandage. 

As you wrap the foot, wrap up to the rabbits lower leg - a little bit above the ankle area. The entire bandaging should look like a “bootie”. Your vet should show you how to properly bandage your rabbit’s feet.

Furthermore, there's no need to wrap their feet up to their toes. Moreover, make sure you do not wrap the foot too tight or too loose. If it's loose, it will easily shift away from the foot. 

Probably, the bandage can slide up to their knee area or slide out through the toes. On the other hand, a tight bandage won’t allow blood to easily flow to the rabbit’s feet.

Remember, bumblefoot can be painful and rabbits can be uncomfortable during treatment. Hence, try to keep them calm and reward them with treats often while they receive treatments.

pet bunny symtoms and disease of the feet

Additional Treatments:

Give Your Rabbits Antibiotics

Since ulcerative pododermatitis is a bacterial infection, it’s important to include antibiotics during the treatment. Normally, a vet will prescribe antibiotics for you to use. 

In addition, it could be oral antibiotics in liquid form. Rabbits can take this through a syringe. Moreover, antibiotics in this oral form are ideal for serious stages of ulcerative pododermatitis.

Additionally, you can use antibiotic ointments. Your rabbit does not need to take this kind of antibiotic into their bodies. Antibiotic ointments are applied directly to the sore instead.

Take Note:

Not all antibiotics are ideal for treating ulcerative pododermatitis. Most antibiotics can reduce the important bacteria in your rabbit’s guts. And this can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) issues.

Pain Medications Will Help

Sore hocks normally come with pain as a symptom, especially when it’s in a severe stage. Hence, you should help your rabbit feel better by giving them pain medications. 

It’s equally important that you get one recommended by the vet, especially for ulcerative pododermatitis. These pain medications are normally anti-inflammatory drugs.

When giving pain medication to a rabbit, it’s not easy for them to take it the way humans do. So you should try grinding it, especially if it’s in pill form, and mix with their favorite foods or treats.

pet veterinarian of rabbit

What Next!

Continue home care and treatment while your rabbit recovers. Rabbits don't like bandages, so do not be surprised if they rip it off very often.

However, it should not stop you from bandaging their affected foot whenever you need to do so. But do not forget to always clean the affected foot before bandaging it.

A veterinarian might give you some antibacterial solutions to do the cleaning at home. Moreover, always follow the instructions the vet gives you. 

It's equally important that you change the bandages and pads whenever they get wet. If they are wet and remain on the rabbit’s feet, they will contribute to sore hocks rather than helping to heal them.

pet rabbit

Above all, visit the vet regularly for check ups and inspection of the recovery process. 

Preventing Sore Hocks in Rabbits – What You Can Do!

As a bunny owner, here are the things you need to do to keep sore hocks far from your rabbit.

Regularly Trim Your Rabbit's Nails

Make sure you keep your rabbit’s nails short to ensure they don’t stand, sit or walk with much weight placed on its heel. Click here to know how to trim your rabbit’s nails properly.

Keep Their Cages Clean - Free of Poop and Pee! 

Generally, poor hygiene is very bad for the health of a rabbit. Specifically, a dirty cage littered with poop and pee brings about sore hocks infection. 

Most importantly, make sure you clean up regularly even before your rabbit's poop and pee accumulates. 

In addition to this, you can potty train your rabbit so it does not mess up every corner of its cage. Disinfecting your rabbit's cage often can help get rid of bacteria. 

Help Your Bunny Lose Weight and Exercise

If your rabbit has so much weight, adjust its diet and avoid foods that could promote unhealthy weight gain. Just keep their diet balanced! 

In addition, you should encourage your rabbit to exercise very often, preferably daily.

Only Use Soft and Comfortable Flooring

Take your time to prepare suitable flooring in your rabbit’s enclosure. What’s more, you should avoid wire flooring or using abrasive materials for your rabbit flooring. 

It should be soft enough not to place so much pressure on a rabbit's feet. Go for soft cotton or layers of fleece.

veterinarian wire cage medication

Keep Your Bunny's Environment Dry

Keep your bunny's flooring and bedding dry. A damp surface will encourage bacteria growth and skin issues. 

So whenever your rabbit's living area is damp, take your bunny out of it until it's dry. 

Avoid Little Cages - Your Bunny Needs Space to Stretch! 

Get a more spacious cage for your rabbit if it’s too small. If a rabbit can’t fully stretch out in their cages, then it’s too small for them. 

If a rabbit can’t stretch out often, it will sit straight most of the time. And this puts more pressure on their back foot, which you don’t want.

Do a Daily Check-up for Bumblefoot

Regularly inspect your rabbit’s hocks, preferably daily. It can help you catch the development of sore hocks earlier. An early stage of ulcerative pododermatitis is always easier to treat!

rabbit vet veterinarian symptoms of disease

Related Questions:

Can Rabbits Get Sore Hocks From Carpets?

Carpets, although being somewhat soft, can cause rug burns, which creates soreness around the bunny's feet. This can eventually bring about sore hocks. 

Can Sore Hocks Kill Rabbits?

Ulcerative pododermatitis is normally not a fatal condition especially when treated early. However, you should know that it’s a deep infection in a rabbit’s heel.

Hence, when it reaches a severe stage, it will be very difficult or nearly impossible to treat. As a result, the infection will greatly affect the rabbit’s health in many ways that can lead to death.

Can Sore Hocks Go Away on Their Own?

No, sore hocks do not go away on their own. When it occurs, you have to treat it as soon as possible. It might never heal if it reaches a very severe stage. 

This condition can easily return often. Hence, you should try as much as possible to reduce the chances of it happening again.

veterinarian vet disease treating

In Summary

To conclude, sore hocks are bacteria infections on a rabbit's hock area.

Moreover, bumblefoot can occur from different factors including a direct infection from certain bacteria. However, the good thing is that you can prevent it.

Certainly, this article has shown you how to do just that. Remember that loss of fur around the rabbits heel is normally the first sign of ulcerative pododermatitis. 

Hence, you should monitor your rabbit’s feet for this and other early signs everyday, if possible. 

And when you notice any signs, do not hesitate to meet the vet for a sore hock diagnosis. It’s always better to spot it early so it doesn’t reach a more severe and painful stage.

No doubt, sore hocks can be a serious concern. Nevertheless, with the right treatment, your rabbit will happily hop around in no time.

If you're a new rabbit owner and just got a bunny for the first time, don't leave without reading our full bunny guide! 

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