Rabbits/sore hocks

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QUESTION: Dear Dana,
I'm obsessing about BB's feet. On vet's advice, we have been picking her up every day to apply a little Sudocrem to her heels. She has always been skittish and the picking up is really stressing her out. I hope you can see the pics - we need to push the fur out of the way to see the spots. I have put lots of fleece blankets down and am considering covering the whole flat in vet fleece (http://www.vetfleece.co.uk/) as currently BB is free roaming on wool, cotton, synthetic rugs. Some say Sudocrem is not the right treatment and recommend calendula ointment or manuka honey. What is your advice? Many thanks!
Best wishes,
Diane

ANSWER: Dear Diane,

While bald spots are not great, the ones shown in your pictures have not progressed to what I would call hock sores.  That condition is characterized by redness, inflammation, and--in severe cases--open sores.  

Though it might sound counterintuitive, one of the best things you can do is help BB toughen the skin on the bald spots. You can do this by holding a moist, cooled tea bag to the affected areas for 5 minutes or so a day.  This will help "tan" the skin and make it a bit tougher.

There are various remedies, and I hope some of the ideas here might help you:

http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/sorehocks.html

Hope this gets her started on the road to recovery.

Dana

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

QUESTION: Dear Dana,
Thanks very much for your response. Do you think we should continue with the Sudocrem? I am sure you are right about the teabags but it would be extremely stressful as BB hates having her freedom limited in any way. It's a struggle to pick her up for a few seconds. I had of course already read that link several times - for any rabbit question x, I google 'Dana Krempels x' :) I use straw pellets (texture is like wood pellets) in the litter trays. I can't imagine this is bad as she spends so little time in the litter trays but some people say you need to use very soft litter when they have these problems. Do you agree? What would be the best litter? Thanks again.
Best wishes,
Diane

Answer
Dear Diane,

The problem with bunnies like this is that not only is the fur wearing away abnormally, but sometimes it also *parts* to reveal the bare skin.  So anything hard will probably be uncomfortable.  You might try spritzing the straw pellets down with a bit of water from a spray bottle, which should soften them and allow them to fall apart.  This is what they recommend for this type of bedding when used for horses, and it's what we do for our bunnies with tender feet.  We also cover the pellets with a layer of soft hay.

I'm not sure if the Sudocrem would counteract the effect you want, which is to toughen the skin.  I've never used it.  But it probably won't hurt.

From the pictures, it seemed that BB's fur on her feet is pretty short.  But I have a friend in New York (Mary Cotter) who came up with the ingenious idea of using a tiny bit of superglue to tack long fur from one side of the foot over to the fur of the other side (you never put glue on the skin, only the fur).  Then it's kind of like a trump comb-over that actually stays in place and provides cushion.  You just need to be sure the glue spot isn't on the bottom of the foot, since it will be hard and probably uncomfortable to step on.

Just a thought.

Dana

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Dana Krempels, Ph.D.

Expertise

I've lived with companion rabbits for more than 35 years, and consider them members of my family. I can answer any questions about the biology and health of rabbits, from the commonplace to the unusual. But please note:

RULE #1:
THE INTERNET IS NOT THE PLACE TO SEEK HELP IN AN EMERGENCY.

...it is an EMERGENCY.

Find a rabbit vet at www.rabbit.org/vet for immediate help, and don't risk your bunny's life by spending time asking questions online! If you can't get in touch with your vet, read these Emergency Sick Bunny Instructions.

If you have found a wild baby rabbit, please read these EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS FOR WILD BABY RABBITS and then use this link to FIND A LOCAL WILDLIFE REHABILITATOR who can give you the right advice.


RULE #2:
Help me help you! Please make your subject line informative if you have an urgent question. then LET ME KNOW IN THE SUBJECT LINE so I can give your question highest priority over non-urgent questions. If you don't do this, then I can't guarantee timely assistance!

For all the best, most accurate rabbit health, care and behavior information, visit The House Rabbit Society.

Experience

I have been rescuing and rehabilitating domestic and wild rabbits for about 30 years. I have written articles for many rabbit rescue publications, as well as for the veterinary journal, Exotic DVM. I own EtherBun, the internet's largest listserve dedicated to health, care, and behavior of domestic rabbits.

Organizations
Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue, and Education, Inc. (H.A.R.E., Inc.) president National House Rabbit Society (Board member)

Publications
Exotic DVM
Warren Peace (Journal of the House Rabbit Society of Miami)
Various newsletters of the House Rabbit Society, nationwide

Education/Credentials
Ph.D - Biology
B.S. - Biology
B.A. - English

Awards and Honors
Lightspan Academic Excellence Award for web site on rabbit health and biology
(http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare)

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