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Rabbits/Sore hock on rabbit HELP


QUESTION: Hey guys,

I bought this rabbit in June.. He is 3 years old and he is a really good show rabbit.

Anyways.. The color on his belly is white like my other rabbit Lila. She has no stains on her and is perfectly clean (I don't clean her) My other rabbit Charlie is black tort like a brown color and he is perfectly clean with no stains.

My new rabbit Basil has a white belly like I said and it's like all yellow and full of stains. I keep all my rabbits in the hutch below, they are each in their own hutch:

They have a wire part on the hutch that they stand on and I took the tray out so their "droppings" won't be near them and I just let everything fall on the ground and I clean it up weekly. In the hutch, their is a little box and I put bedding in there and hay. All my rabbits just eat and sleep in there and poop/pee on the wire.

Basil ONLY poops in the box and WON'T poop on the wire. He then lies on his poop/pee in the box. It's so gross and I have to clean it up almost everyday. They also have playpens in the grass that he goes out in every other day.

I'm 16, in 4-H and so I show them in the county fair... My fair is next week. I was looking over my rabbits today and noticed this on the bottom of his foot today (attached picture)

I didn't notice it before because there is fur on top of it, I pulled back the fur for the picture. Is this a sore hock? If so please, how do I get rid of it fast? Also, what are good ways to get stains out of white rabbits??

I've never had to deal with this as all my rabbits are clean and tidy. I don't understand how he would get a sore hock.. I feel terrible  

Should I treat his foot and keep him in the playpen until the fair because the playpen doesn't have wire?? Where should I have him live??

His stomach and feet are SO gross..

Like I said his hutch doesn't just have wire there is his box but he poops/pees in it and I don't keep him in the hutch all the time he goes in the playpen and I take him out to play just like my other rabbits.. I don't think the wire would give him sore hocks..

Any advice ASAP would be awesome! Also, if he does have sore hocks, how do I treat it fast?

ANSWER: The wound in the photo is what "WAS" a sore hock that has healed since it was an open wound.
When sore hocks strike, the wound is red, open, inflamed and sometimes has puss draining from it.  If it heals (which is not common) a hard, callus like formation will grow over the sore - which is what you have now.  You cant heal or fix that - it's the 'scar' of the old wound.  The callus like growth takes the place of the open wound upon healing.  If you remove it, the hock will be a large open wound again.

Sore hocks are almost exclusively genetic, and has very little to do with housing or where the urinate or defecate.  It's almost certain that his littermates and other rabbits in his line also have sore hocks.

Commercial meat rabbits, such as I raise, are almost always kept in all wire housing which is, in fact, the best housing for rabbits, including their feet (contrary to popular belief).  I've been raising rabbits, in wire cages, for 37 years and during that time I have had 2 rabbits with sore hocks and in both cases they were rabbits I purchased (vs. bred) and was able to verify that both of them came from parents with sore hocks.

Rabbits live their entire lives in wire caging without ever developing sore hocks or dirty fur, however, a rabbit genetically pre-disposed to it will get sore hocks regardless of his care or housing.  A rabbit that has healed from sore hocks should be moved to a wire cage to prevent standing or laying in or on his poop or urine.  You can put in a small plastic resting pad only large enough for him to stand on but make sure its not in the corner and leave the rest of the cage bottom wire.

You'll need to check his feet at least 3 times a week as sore hocks have a very high reoccurrence rate.  They break open, heal, break open, heal - its ugly and hard to manage. Most breeders cull for sore hocks because it is so hard to manage. Check his feet often to look for signs of cracking or reopening of the callus.

As for his fur - you can trim it or shave him completely - his coat will grow back perfectly and should stay fine as long as he is in a wire cage where the droppings and urine fall through the bottom.  His foot condition is permanent.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for answering my question. I've had him since June so do you think he got the sore hock from his previous home or here in my care?

Also, should I put ointment or anything on his foot? And will he still be able to compete in the fair?

ANSWER: Based on the photo, he has had sore hocks on and off for a long time.  Each time the wound opens, the callus that forms over it gets larger.  Since the affected area is nearly as wide as the foot pad, I'd say he's had them on and off since birth - so you didn't cause it.

It's possible that it did reopen and heal up again since you had him, but he's certainly had it before you got him.

No - he wont be able to compete at the fair.  Fair judging is based on the SOP for each breed (standard of perfection/breed/breed standards) and sore hocks is an immediate disqualification.  in fact, most fairs wont even let a rabbit with evidence of prior sore hocks on the table.

You can either return him to the seller and get your money back, keep him as a pet knowing that his feet will need constant care, or have him humanely euthanized.  If you choose to re-home him, please be certain to let the new owner know that his feet will require special care for the remainder of his life.

For now, the first thing you should do is get him out of a cage with a solid floor and litterbox and into a cage with wire flooring and no litterbox.  You can put a small resting pad or ceramic floor tile for him to stand on - but he needs a cage where his waste will fall through so he cant sit on/in it.  If the wound opens again and there is poop on his foot, flies will lay eggs on it and the maggots will hatch and eat their way into his body.  It's a condition called "Fly Strike" and its horribly painful for the rabbit.  His cage, feet, body need to be kept completely clean at all times - with no litterbox.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I think that sore hocks are treatable so it sounds a bit drastic to me that you say rehome or euthanize him! I'm not sure how a judge would see prior evidence of sore hocks if all the fur was regrown (though of course it would take longer than a week if it's worn bare in spots). But yes, if a rabbit is prone to them, it will require "special care" for his entire life, but that might be as simple as changing the flooring and diet and monitoring for signs of irritation.

My answer wasn't meant to be drastic, I Just wanted to be sure to cover all the options based on the varying perspectives of different breeders/owners.

Sore hocks can be managed - not cured.  Once the foot pad is opened, the foot will never return to its original condition.  Fur wont grow over the callus that covers the old wound.

The condition of the foot as it is now - as it appears in the photo is how his foot will remain as long as it doesn't reopen. The fact that he has a large callus over it is a good thing; the bigger the better as protection from it happening again.
Sore hocks can range from a very small red 'pimple' looking bump when it first begins to a large leaking ulcer (hole) in the rabbits foot that can become the size of the foot if left untreated.  I've taken on rescues where the hole has gotten so bad the bone was exposed.  It makes me sick to know that anyone would allow an animal to get to such a horrific condition.

Since he obviously had the sore hocks before you purchased him, you don't know how bad his foot was, but based on the size of the callus, I can tell you with my nearly 40 years of experience that it was advanced.  Because of that, his chances of having it reoccur are high.  That's what I say it's not curable, but manageable.  

There are many owners/breeders that want only 'perfect' rabbits; those that conform to the SOP without any flaws and will cull anything that doesn't meet that criteria.  That's why I mentioned rehoming or euthanasia as one possible option  - it is the way most serious show breeders would handle such a defect. They cull/put down any less than perfect rabbit.  I don't agree with that standard, but unfortunately it happens.

There are also those, such as yourself, that are willing to keep a 'flawed' rabbit regardless, and manage his condition as needed, which is why I said you can make him into a pet and keep an eye on his feet and manage the outbreaks when/if they happen. I just wanted to be certain you realized that his hock may open up and heal many times in his life.

If the original problem was caused by poor hygiene or improper housing at his previous home then his remaining feet should be fine.  However, if his hock issue is the result of a genetic flaw; if he comes from a line of rabbits with sore hocks, then there's a good chance his other feet may develop the issue as well.  Just check them all often and you'll know soon enough.  When sore hocks are genetic, they happen even with the best care and housing.

Basil is very lucky to have found an owner that will keep him and take care of him even though he's not perfect ☺, it's awesome you are willing to do that - me and the other compassionate members in the rabbit community than you. That's an admirable thing to do.

Since he obviously endures some level of neglect prior to you getting him, he may have other issues as well.  Have you checked his teeth to make sure there are no malocclusions - especially with his back molars?  Have you cleaned out the build-up in his anal scent glands? (that's important - and often overlooked).  I'm sure you trimmed his nails which is a good thing.

With a little TLC, Basil should make a great pet and have many happy years ahead of him.

Please keep me updated with his status.

Lisa L.


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Lisa L.


I was introduced to meat rabbits at the age of 3. Began working with them on my own at the age of 8 and started my own large commercial rabbitry at the age of 20. I'm 46 now and for the past 26 years I have owned a large herd of meat rabbits and have become well known as the turn-to person whenever a problem arrises.

Member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association. Member of the Rabbit Industry Council. Member of the Yahoo - Meat Rabbits Group. Member of the American Council of Animal Naturopathy. Administrators of the FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

Yahoo Meat Rabbits Group. American Council of Animal Naturopathy FaceBook "Rabbit's as meat" group. Owner of Yahoo - Raising Meat Rabbit's for maximum yield group

There is no formal training for raising rabbits; its all hands on. I have had a steady rabbit breeding operation for 24 years and have read every book there is on raising rabbits for meat. Additionally, I am a member of several rabbit groups and associations as listed below.

Awards and Honors
None - there are none in this field.

Past/Present Clients
I have helped countless people over the past several decades. These have been people I knew personally or those referred to me by one of the many rabbit organizations I belong to.

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