rabbits health

Pododermatitis in rabbits_ an under-recognised drawback

Pododermatitis – usually referred to as “sore hocks” – is a continual, granulomatous, ulcerative dermatitis, which mostly impacts the plantar facet of the caudal metatarsal and tarsal areas of rabbits.

Much less regularly, the palmar facet of the metacarpal and phalangeal surfaces of the entrance toes could also be concerned, usually occurring secondary to a shift of the rabbit’s weight from the hind to the entrance toes in an try to alleviate the ache related to this situation (Harkness et al, 2010).

At relaxation, rabbits bear their weight on the world between the hock and the hind claws, however throughout locomotion they’re digitigrades, inserting their weight on the digits and claws relatively than on the metatarsi and hocks. Moreover, in another way from canine and cats, rabbits solely have thick fur to guard the plantar facet of their hind toes – lack footpads and the skinny pores and skin related to this space is adhered to the underlying tissues (Harcourt- Brown, 2002). This space is usually ignored throughout a bodily examination of pet rabbits.

The animal ought to be dealt with safely and appropriately (Determine 1), then the fur protecting the plantar facet of the caudal metatarsal and tarsal areas ought to be parted to reveal the pores and skin and permit shut examination of lesions (Determine 2).

Some contemplate ulcerative pododermatitis a severe and painful situation that may quickly progress and probably compromise the well being and welfare of rabbits (Webster, 2001), even when solely a callus is current on the plantar facet of the foot (Drescher and Schlender-Böbbis, 1996). Different authors (De Jong et al, 2008) questioned whether or not minor lesions are related to ache in rabbits, however they underlined how callus formation might improve the dangers of extra extreme abnormalities occurring, which poses a transparent welfare subject.

Regardless of rabbits being very talked-about pets these days, nearly all of the publications on pododermatitis on this species have been derived from research carried out in animals saved underneath laboratory or farm situations.

Industrial and laboratory settings

For business rabbits, components predisposing to pododermatitis embrace:

animal origin


physique situation



concurrent ailments

(Rosell et al, 2000; Rosell and de la Fuente, 2004; 2008; Hago et al, 1987).

Pododermatitis, in animals saved in intense farmed situations, is taken into account primarily secondary to bodily/conformational or husbandry-related issues. These happen, for instance, when animals are confined in small cages housed on arduous or wire flooring, as a result of the trauma because of persistent contact with numerous sorts of tough, soiled flooring can result in ischaemia and avascular necrosis of the plantar floor of the foot (Rommers and Meijerhof, 1996).

Regionally utilized stress, friction and shearing forces with subsequent ischaemia reperfusion and tissue necrosis are additionally thought-about predisposing components for growth of stress ulcers (bedsores or decubitus ulcers) in people (Nguyen et al, 2008).

Any situation that compromises locomotion and the mechanism of weightbearing can in the end improve the stress on the skinny, delicate pores and skin and the underlying bones of the rabbit’s toes, leading to ischaemia and avascular necrosis (Harcourt- Brown, 2002; Oglesbee, 2006). Situations generally related to these occasions embrace weight problems, spinal ache, lack of train or immobility because of different causes, and clipping the fur across the foot (Richardson, 2000).

Focal hair loss, erythema, scaling, and ulceration of the pores and skin of the plantar floor over the bony prominence of the metatarsus are regularly seen preliminary scientific indicators (Richardson, 2000).

It has been hypothesised the predisposing components resulting in ulcerative pododermatitis in farm and laboratory rabbits could also be comparable for pet rabbits (Harcourt-Brown, 2002). Nonetheless, laboratory settings and farm situations are in distinction to the scenario of pet rabbits presenting to native veterinary practices for routine care.

The pet rabbit inhabitants shouldn’t be composed of comparatively few breeds and animals should not housed underneath managed situations. Moreover, within the laboratory scenario, many rabbits are sacrificed at an early age, whereas the conventional lifespan of a pet rabbit can attain, on common, from 9 to 11 years (Carey and Decide, 2000).


Harcourt-Brown (2002) acknowledged pododermatitis is a standard scientific discovering within the pet rabbit inhabitants, however, till just lately, no knowledge had been accessible concerning the precise prevalence of this situation within the UK pet rabbit inhabitants or doable husbandry-related components which will predispose pet rabbits to growth of this situation.

This was the goal of a examine that got down to decide the prevalence of pododermatitis inside a pattern pet rabbit inhabitants and determine doable correlations with husbandry, intercourse, breed and origin of the rabbits (Mancinelli et al, 2014).


The info collected confirmed pododermatitis is a regularly encountered drawback, with a 93.8% prevalence within the sampled pet rabbit inhabitants within the UK, and that lots of the threat components beforehand recognized as probably growing the incidence of pododermatitis in business animals are comparable for pet rabbits.

Outcomes of this examine had been placing as a result of, of the 179 rabbits surveyed, solely 11 confirmed no indicators of pododermatitis, with the remaining 168 rabbits presenting with various levels of lesions.


The findings steered younger rabbits are at a decrease threat of pododermatitis in comparison with older rabbits. This is able to be per the idea pressure-related ulcers are the product of compression over a time period (Kosiak, 1961).

Intercourse and neutering standing

Feminine home rabbits look like extra predisposed to pododermatitis than males. When the impact that neutering might have on the incidence of pododermatitis was investigated, 100% of the neutered females examined confirmed scientific proof of pododermatitis. Equally, neutered males had a 54.9% prevalence of clinically main lesions in comparison with whole males (39.2%).

A communication by Courcier et al (2012) steered feminine rabbits and/or rabbits that had been neutered could also be extra prone to be chubby. The incidence of pododermatitis has been clearly linked to body weight (Rosell et al, 2000; Harcourt-Brown, 2002) and physique situation in farmed rabbits (Rosell and de la Fuente, 2008). It has additionally been steered that is the case in pet rabbits (Harcourt-Brown, 2002).

Within the 2014 examine, these animals within the chubby class (physique situation rating larger than three) had the next prevalence of pododermatitis at 97.4% in comparison with these rabbits thought-about to be at a great weight and people thought-about to be underweight (93.8% and 91.7%, respectively).

It may be speculated neutered feminine rabbits usually tend to be much less energetic and extra chubby and, subsequently, extra predisposed to pododermatitis growth. Nonetheless, additional research can be wanted to guage the impact of exercise ranges on the event of such situations and the correlation with intercourse.


The impact various kinds of bedding might have on the prevalence of pododermatitis in business rabbits has been extensively studied elsewhere (Rommers and Meijerhof, 1996; Harcourt-Brown, 2002; De Jong et al, 2008; Rosell and De la Fuente, 2008).

It’s typically accepted the kind of substrate on which a rabbit is housed has an incredible influence on the event of sore hocks (Rommers and Meijeroff, 1996) as it might probably have an effect on the load distribution, permitting a lot of the weight to be borne by the metatarsi. Moreover, many sorts of flooring are abrasive and may trigger friction and elevated shearing forces, growing the chance of sore hocks growing (Harcourt- Brown, 2002).

The 2014 examine confirmed hay, in comparison with different sorts of bedding, is related to a lowered incidence of pododermatitis. When different sorts of beddings (carpet, arduous flooring, newspaper, straw, shavings, towels, blankets, recycled paper bedding, carpet or foam mats) had been thought-about, no statistically vital correlation was discovered between any of these and the presence of pododermatitis, as 100% of the rabbits housed on these beddings offered numerous diploma of lesions.

Different components

The origin of the rabbit (whether or not from a breeder, residence bred, from a rescue centre or a pet store) was discovered to not have an affect on the prevalence of pododermatitis.

Rabbits are the third hottest pet within the UK after canine and cats. Nonetheless, rabbits are additionally essentially the most uncared for and misunderstood species, with giant numbers (round 67,000 rabbits based on figures launched by the Rabbit Welfare Affiliation and Fund; RWAF, 2012) ending up in rescue and adoption centres yearly. The aforementioned examine confirmed 58% of rabbits examined had been acquired as “rescues”.

Many homeowners purchase a rabbit as an impulse with out actually understanding how demanding this pet may be and the way complicated it’s to meet the wants of this distinctive species, which might in the end pose severe welfare considerations for these animals.

The examine’s outcomes additionally confirmed a big number of rabbit breeds being offered to the observe. This displays the wide selection of breeds accessible within the pet commerce. The British Rabbit Council recognises many various breeds and greater than 500 types of rabbits within the UK, which consistently evolve because of selective breeding practices (Meredith, 2006). Many pet rabbits at the moment are cross-breeds (Meredith, 2006) and this remark was confirmed throughout this examine, as the massive majority of rabbits seen had been cross-breed. Lop rabbits had been additionally current in giant numbers, adopted by lionheads, Netherland dwarfs and Dutch rabbits.

Earlier literature suggests business pet, recognised angora and rex rabbits as being extra predisposed to growing pododermatitis because of their advantageous sparse hair, which presents restricted safety to the metatarsi (Harcourt-Brown, 2002; Harkness et al, 2010). Flemish large and different large breeds are additionally thought-about extra inclined because of their elevated weight (Harkness et al, 2010).

Nonetheless, within the aforementioned examine, it was not doable to analyse the affiliation between breed and presence of pododermatitis as the massive number of rabbit breeds seen, with comparatively small numbers inside every group, and the massive variety of cross-breed rabbits precluded statistical evaluation.

Scoring system

The extent and severity of lesions offered by the rabbits examined had been additionally clinically scored by adapting current methods (Rommers and Meijerhof, 1996; Niitsuma et al, 2003) to provide the pet rabbit pododermatitis scoring system (PRPSS). On this system, dermatologic indicators had been scored for severity from zero (no proof of pododermatitis), one (gentle; Determine 3), two to 3 (reasonable; Figures 4 and 5), 4 to 5 (extreme; Determine 6), to 6 (lack of pedal perform).

Every grade was additionally related to a macroscopic description of the dermatologic lesions noticed on the metatarsi (“sore hocks”; Desk 1) to permit simpler identification of early levels, which can be necessary to implement husbandry modifications thus stopping growth of extra extreme lesions.

Desk 1. The pet rabbit pododermatitis scoring system (PRPSS) was developed for scientific evaluation of hock lesions. A macroscopic description of pododermatitis lesion from zero to 6 is predicated on the diploma of pododermatitis current. Modified from Mancinelli et al, 2014. Grading scale Macroscopic description Grade 0 No proof of pododermatitis. Grade 1 A localised, round space is current on the plantar facet of the metatarsal bone-calcaneus, with minimal alopecia, hyperaemia and/or hyperkeratosis of the pores and skin. Grade 2 Lesions are extending linearly alongside the plantar facet of the cranial metatarsal space with alopecia, erythema and scaling of surrounding tissues. Grade 3 Related an infection of subcutaneous tissue could also be current. Grade 4 Full thickness pores and skin loss with swelling and necrotic particles may be related to an infection of underlying tissues. Grade 5 Extreme infections with involvement of deep buildings together with bones and tendons. Grade 6 Finish stage illness with lack of pedal perform.


The analysis gives clear proof husbandry and captive administration have an incredible influence on the event of pododermatitis in pet rabbits. This challenge additionally produced a scoring system that can be utilized by veterinarians in observe to attain scientific circumstances and assist their decision-making on therapy suggestions. Its scientific significance subsequently depends within the identification of these components that may predispose pet rabbits to pododermatitis.

It hopefully additionally represents step one in direction of elevated consciousness of this extraordinarily frequent drawback that many pet rabbit homeowners are unaware of and is usually underestimated by many veterinarians.

However, a bigger examine permitting investigation of a larger pattern inhabitants and the identification of additional threat components is really helpful by the creator. This is able to considerably assist our understanding of the aetiology of pododermatitis in pet rabbits and allow the manufacturing of clear suggestions for the prevention and administration of this severe situation.