Sore Hocks on Rabbits: Prevention and Treatment

Keeping rabbits on the homestead means you need to learn about their anatomy and issues that come up with it. One big issue with larger rabbits is sore hocks.

What exactly are sore hocks?

Sore hocks are painful infections on the bottom of the rabbit’s foot or feet, which makes them difficult for them to walk.

When we first got our Angora rabbits, to say we were inexperienced in raising rabbits was an exaggeration.

We knew NOTHING of rabbits. At all. Nothing about diseases, or health issues, or sore hocks.

We had to quickly learn about sore hocks when our buck began losing weight and wouldn’t stay still at all.

We didn’t notice it right away, until it was way too late. Jacques wouldn’t eat, and his friendly demeanor was all but gone completely. He just wasn’t the same.

After 2 days, I finally brought him inside the house and began to inspect him. To our dismay, we discovered that all four of his hocks had become infected.

What on earth were we going to do? He was obviously in pain, and obviously suffering and the excuse “we didn’t know” wasn’t going to cut it. So, we hit the books and did some serious research.

We cleaned his hocks 3 times a day with Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, and then carefully added antibacterial ointment on them.

As for his weight loss, we added some oats mixed with coconut oil (referred by our rabbit expert pal) and made sure that we kept his cage clean.

We also added 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar to his 32 oz. water bottle daily to help him fight the infection.

It took 3 weeks of daily cleaning, babying and extra care, but I am pleased to say that Jacques is all healed up! He has gained his weight back, and is ready to breed again.

So how do you know if your rabbit is suffering from sore hocks – and how do you prevent and treat it, if that’s the case? Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Sore Hocks?

Sore hocks, also known as ulcerative pododermatitis, are a common condition in rabbits.

The condition is characterized by inflammation and soreness in the rabbits’ feet, which can make it difficult for them to walk or stand.

Sore hocks are often caused by an inadequate diet, lack of exercise, or an overly wet or humid environment. In severe cases, the condition can lead to infection and even amputation.

Sore hocks can be prevented by providing your rabbit with a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, as well as a clean and dry cage.

If your rabbit does develop sore hocks, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

The good news is that, with proper treatment, most rabbits will make a full recovery.

What Causes Sore Hocks?

Sore hocks, also known as pododermatitis, is a painful condition that affects the rabbits’ feet. There are several potential causes to keep an eye out for.

Certain Types of Coats

Though often overlooked, a rabbit’s coat plays an important role in its health.

In addition to providing insulation and keeping the rabbit warm, the coat also helps to protect against dirt and pests. However, some types of coats, particularly longer ones, can cause sore hocks in rabbits.

Regular grooming will help to keep the coat clean and free of debris.

Poor Hygiene

Poor housing hygiene is one of the leading causes. Sore hocks occur when the rabbit’s feet come into contact with urine or feces, which can lead to irritation and inflammation.

In severe cases, sore hocks can even lead to ulcers and infection.

Obesity

Sore hocks can also be caused by obesity, which puts pressure on the rabbits’ feet and makes it difficult for them to move around.

In severe cases, the condition can lead to infections and ulcers.

Disability

Disabled rabbits are more likely to develop sore hocks because they often have difficulty moving around, which makes it more difficult for them to stay clean and dry.

In addition, disabled rabbits are more likely to suffer from other health conditions that can weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to developing sore hocks.

If you have a disabled rabbit, it is important to watch for signs of sore hocks and to seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible if your rabbit appears to be developing the condition.

Bad Flooring

The most common cause of sore hocks is long periods of time spent in cages with wire floors. The wire can rub against the footpads, causing irritation and inflammation.

Large Breeds

Rabbits are relatively small animals, but there is a big difference in size between different breeds.

Some rabbits, like the Flemish Giant, can weigh over 20 pounds, while others, like the Netherland Dwarf, may only weigh a couple of pounds.

This difference in size can have an impact on the health of a rabbit.

For example, large-breed rabbits are more likely to develop sore hocks, a condition that is caused by pressure on the bottoms of the feet.

Sore hocks can be painful and even debilitating, so it is important for owners of large breed rabbits to be aware of the condition and take steps to prevent it.

Poor Physical Conformation

Poor physical conformation is one of the leading risk factors. rabbits with sore hocks typically have long, slender legs that are unable to support their body weight.

This puts pressure on the hock joint, causing irritation and inflammation.

In addition, rabbits with poor conformation are often overweight, which further increases the risk of developing sore hocks.

Without proper treatment, sore hocks can lead to serious health problems, including joint deformity and infection.

How Does a Veterinarian Diagnose Sore Hocks in Rabbits?

If you suspect that your rabbit has sore hocks, it is important to take them to a vet for diagnosis and treatment.

The vet will conduct a physical examination of the feet and may order x-rays or other tests to rule out other conditions.

Once a diagnosis has been made, the vet will develop a treatment plan to relieve the pain and help the feet heal. With prompt treatment, most rabbits make a full recovery from sore hocks.

Symptoms of Sore Hocks in Rabbits

Symptoms of sore hocks include redness, swelling, and bald spots on the feet. In severe cases, the sores can become infected and lead to serious health problems.

Some signs to look for when you suspect sore hocks in your rabbits

1. The rabbit isn’t eating like usual. The food dish still has nearly the same amount of food several hours later.

2. The rabbit isn’t hopping around much. Sore hocks hurt, and they can’t move much. If you notice they are in the same place a lot, check the hocks.

3. The rabbit will try and get off their hocks by hopping straight up in the air as much as possible.

We thought it was cute at first, but when we realized he was hurting and trying to get off his sore feet, it wasn’t nearly as cute.

4. Fur is being rubbed off the hocks. With rabbits, you shouldn’t be able to see skin at all on their feet.

Grades of Sore Hocks

Sore hocks, or pododermatitis, is a common foot condition in rabbits. It occurs when the pads of the feet become irritated and inflamed, often due to wet or dirty conditions.

Sore hocks can range from mild to severe, and are typically classified into five grades based on the severity of the condition.

  • Grade I – Grade I sore hocks are the mildest form of the condition, and typically only involve redness and swelling of the feet.
  • Grade II – Grade II sore hocks are more severe, and may involve open abrasions or ulcers.
  • Grade III – Grade III sore hocks are very serious, and can lead to bone infections.
  • Grade IV – Grade IV hocks often result in abscess formation, with deeper tissues affected.
  • Grade V – Grade V sore hocks is the most severe form of the condition, and often results in immobility of the hind feet. It almost always results in bone infections and tendons damage, resulting in a permanently altered stance.

How To Prevent Sore Hocks

Keep Things Clean

Keep the cage clean. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure that all the poop is gone, and not piled up in the corner, where their urine can stay and get on their hocks.

Regularly Inspect Your Rabbit

Inspect your rabbits fully each week, head to hock. Flip them over gently and make sure that their feet aren’t developing sores.

Our Angoras have a lot of fluff on them, so we had to have two people do this. One to hold, one to look through all the fur. This is a good time to clip nails as well.

Use Padding With a Cohesive Bandage

Fortunately, there are steps that rabbit owners can take to prevent this condition.

One of the most important is to use gauze when bandaging the heel. This helps to distribute the rabbit’s weight evenly and prevent pressure sores from developing.

Additionally, it is important to use a cohesive bandage that will stay in place without putting too much pressure on the feet.

Give Them a Resting Board

Make sure they have a resting board to lie on that isn’t just their wire cage. They sell those at pet and farm supply stores, or you can use an old piece of carpet or even towel.

Clip the Nails

One of the best ways to prevent sore hocks is to keep the nails clipped. This may seem like a minor task, but it’s important to prevent long nails so that they don’t dig into the flesh of the foot.

In addition, regular nail clipping can help to keep the feet healthy and free of infection.

Keep the Rest of the Outdoor Enclosure Clean and Dry

In addition to the indoor environment, it is important to keep the outdoor enclosure clean and dry.

This means removing any waste immediately and making sure that the enclosure does not get wet. It is also a good idea to provide a floor mat for the animal to stand on.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

To prevent sore hocks, it is important to maintain a healthy weight for your rabbit. Obesity puts extra pressure on the feet and increases the risk of developing sore hocks.

So how can you make sure your rabbits stay at a healthy weight?

First, it’s important to provide them with a diet that is high in fiber and low in calories.

Timothy hay is a great option, as it is not only packed with fiber but also low in sugar. You should also offer fresh vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and kale.

These are not only nutritious but also low in calories. And of course, water should always be available.

Secondly, you need to make sure your rabbits are getting enough exercise. This means providing them with plenty of space to run around and play.

If you have limited space, you can try setting up a small obstacle course for them to navigate or simply placing their food dish at the far end of their cage so they have to walk to get to it.

Treating Sore Hocks

Treatment typically involves cleaning the affected area, trimming the nails, and providing padded bedding. In severe cases, antibiotics may be necessary to prevent infection.

With proper care, most rabbits will recover from sore hocks without any lasting problems.

Early Treatment Might Not Be Necessary

While sore hocks can be a serious condition, early treatment is not always necessary for minor cases. The first step is to identify the cause of the sore hocks.

If your rabbit is overweight, then placing them on a diet and providing them with plenty of exercise can help to prevent further sore hocks.

If your rabbit lives in a dirty cage, then cleaning it out and providing fresh bedding can also help to resolve the issue. In most cases, minor sore hocks will heal on their own within a few days.

However, if the sore hocks are severe or if they do not seem to be improving, then you should take your rabbit to the vet for further treatment.

Early treatment might not be necessary for minor cases of sore hocks in rabbits, but it is always best to err on the side of caution.

Reduce Inflammation With an Ointment

There are a number of ointments available that can help to treat and prevent sore hocks.

These ointments typically contain ingredients that help to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

When applied regularly, they can go a long way in keeping your rabbit healthy and pain-free.

Try a Liquid Bandage

A liquid bandage can help to protect the sore from further irritation and allow it to heal.

To apply a liquid bandage, simply clean the area around the sore and apply a thin layer of the bandage.

Be sure to avoid getting any on the fur, as this can cause further irritation. Once applied, the bandage will form a protective barrier that will help to speed up the healing process.

Be Persistent

When it comes to sore hocks in rabbits, persistence is key.

This painful condition, also known as pododermatitis, is caused by inflammation of the pads on a rabbit’s feet. It can be difficult to treat, and often recurs even after successful treatment.

However, with proper care and treatment, sore hocks can be managed and the healthy rabbit can enjoy a good quality of life.

Antibiotics and Pain Medications

Antibiotics can also help to clear up secondary bacterial infections that develop as a result of this underlying condition.

Pain medications and antibiotics like betadine may also be prescribed to relieve pain and swelling associated with sore soles and heal open sores.

You will usually need to see a vet to get prescriptions and guidance for these medications.

Try Epsom Salts

One way to help relieve sore hocks is to soak the affected foot in a solution of Epsom salts and water.

The Epsom salt foot soak will help to reduce inflammation and pain, and can speed up the healing process.

Wash the Area Regularly

One important step in treating sore hocks in rabbits is to keep the area clean. Wash the area with warm water and mild soap at least once a day, and be sure to dry it thoroughly afterwards.

If the sore is located in a hard-to-reach place, you may need to use a cotton swab or Q-tip to clean it.

In addition, you’ll need to regularly trim any hair that surrounds the sore, as this can harbor bacteria and lead to infection.

By taking these simple steps, you can help your rabbit heal quickly and prevent further irritation.

Wrap the Hocks

Wrap the affected foot in a bandage or padding. This helps to protect the foot and speed up the healing process. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary.

Final Thoughts

If you think your rabbit is developing sore hocks, don’t wait. Get them cleaned, and apply a gentle antibiotic ointment to their feet. That will make for a much happier bunny.

Have you ever dealt with sore hocks in your rabbit herd? What steps did you take to help heal them? Be sure to pin this for later!

updated 06/06/2022 by Rebekah Pierce

13 thoughts on “Sore Hocks on Rabbits: Prevention and Treatment”

    1. Toni hollingsworth

      I have a Rex rabbit that has very little hair on the bottom of his feet. This is genetic, so if you have a Rex rabbit they need thin, padded floor covering. I finally figured out that a 1/4 inch cotton batting between cotton fabric works.
      Ohare is a house rabbit, his house is spotless, so sanitation was not the issue. He is a healthy hsppy 6 year old now.

  1. Wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas

    From a newbie homesteader, thank you! We’re getting my son a bunny, so I’m bookmarking!

  2. Thank you for this! We are new to French Angora rabbits and haven’t had this problem yet, but I’m so glad to know how to prevent it and how to treat it if it happens! I found you through the blog hop!

  3. Another great thing to put on sore hocks that helps to heal them up, and sooth at the same time is Preperation H. the good old hemroid ointment. The cream sooths the pain, reduces swelling and promotes healing. Apple cider vinigar is a great thing to use in the water. If you are having problems in the winter with poo getting matted in the wool, try trimming around the back side. so the wool isnt as long. this also works well if the buck is having problems with breeding due to too much wool. Resting boards can be made out of dry wall if you have scraps around, or know a builder. the rabbits love to pull off the paper and chew on the limestone inside. Just be sure it is not dry wall with fiberglass in it. you can use a ceramic tile. anything to get their paws off the wire. Make sure that poo does not build up on it. Some rabbits have a prefered corner to go to the bath room. some go where ever. Usually does are nice and clean, and bucks tend to be messier. Rex, mini rex, and larger breeds have this problem or rabbits that are over weight. Always a good idea to look over your rabbit from nose to toes several times a week. be sure to get hands on and turn them over so you can see tummies and feet. wear a long sleeved shirt so you dont get scratched. Have fun with your Buns !

  4. Hi, may I know how you feed the rabbit? Currently my rabbit is suffering from sore hocks and now wasn’t eating much, due to that he’s getting skinny and I could feel his bone while holding him. Hope you could guide me through. Thanks.

    1. Heather Harris

      We just made sure his food dish was close to him so he didn’t have to move much on his sores. I would say watch closely and make sure that your rabbit is eating, if not, you may have to hand feed it…hold him in one arm and hold a carrot or apple piece in your other hand until they are getting some nutrition.

  5. this was super helpful. ive had rabbits most of my life but never a big one…..until we adopted Bruce last spring. He’s a lovely house rabbit and has been great fun to train to do all sorts of things……but we weren’t aware that bigger rabbits are more prone to sore hocs.
    Thank you for your help o the treatment thereof.

  6. Thank you for the blog!
    We are still-learning bunny owners and wonder if our one rex is just built differently than its peers (who have no issues with sore hocks). We’ve tried bringing the rabbit indoors (made it worse, despite 3 layers of fleece and cleaning/antibiotics/bandaging 3-4x/day plus being held off the sores for an hour each time), started monitoring his pellets (he WAS getting rather plump), tried putting him in a ground box (he tried digging out, that didn’t work!), and are now resigned to try NitroZone 1x/day and only pick him up from the extra padded hay area in his cage. The cages are super clean, always dry, and we add hay 2x/day for the extra padding on the floor. He still has sores and are at a loss. Any suggestions are much appreciated–thank you in advance!

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