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Nutrition Team Blog

Sore Feet in Rabbits and Guinea Pigs

Published: Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pododermatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the toes or feet. This can be a painful condition where the skin on the feet has become red and inflamed. If left untreated the skin can become raw and infected.

The following factors can all cause rabbits and guinea pigs to develop pododermatitis, also known as sore hocks.

• Obesity • Pregnancy
• Inadequate sized living areas • Dirty hutch conditions (sitting in urine or faeces)
• Boredom • Arthritis and other pain
• Breed - Rex rabbits with fine short fur are more at risk • Unsuitable flooring

Pododermatitis can occur when for any reason the rabbit or guinea pig does not or cannot move around very much. This could be because the living area is too small or because they are in pain or are simply bored and have nothing to do. Obese animals or pregnant animals may also suffer because they are carrying extra weight.

If the bedding they are sitting on is damp or dirty they feet can become sore from ammonia in the urine. Elderly rabbits that spend time outdoors in wet weather may spend too much time sitting on wet ground.

Treating pododermatitis

A veterinary check up is essential but then there are also several things at home you can do to help. If you have an overweight pet or one which is bored then the diet and cage husbandry needs to be addressed. To encourage the rabbit or guinea pig to move about more the living area must be made more interesting and as large as possible. Toys, tunnels and scattering food to encourage foraging is a great way of doing this.  Obese rabbits should be put onto a higher fibre diet (which usually means more hay and less pellets) and arthritic or elderly rabbits should be checked out by your vet and if necessary put onto pain relief medication.

Grass is the perfect surface for rabbit and guinea pig feet because it is springy. Hard or wire flooring and even carpet can be a problem for some animals. If your pet cannot be outside on grass then lots of hay, straw or vet bedding can help to protect the feet.

For pets prone to this condition, feet should be kept dry or dried after your pet has been out on wet grass. A barrier cream can be applied to protect the skin on the feet and usually Sudocrem® will be suitable. Occasionally, if the feet become infected your pet might need dressings; your vet can advise you best on dressings and topical creams. These should be non-adhesive bandages and must be changed immediately if they become wet.

Finally, looking at the feet of your rabbit or guinea pig should be part of your weekly health check to ensure any problems are caught early.

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