Pododermatitis in dwarf rabbits
Julie Lambert, Paris, France
January 19, 2021
01 – What is pododermatitis?
Pododermatitis is an ailment that regularly affects pet rabbits due to the fact that rabbits do not have pads to protect their feet but only a thin layer of hair. Pododermatitis is an inflammation of the skin on the underside of the paws, which is not contagious but often takes a long time to heal.
The main symptom of this disease is an inflammation of the paw, i.e. an area of the paw that becomes red, sheds its hair and then gradually becomes ulcerated.
Depending on the progress of the disease and the time of diagnosis, the consequences are more or less serious. Initially, the skin is inflamed superficially and over a small area. If the disease is diagnosed at this point, it is often easy to treat it.
Then the inflammation spreads and grows, forming a first ulcer. The disease must then be treated quickly by a specialist to prevent the disease from continuing to spread to the tendons and bones of the leg, which can have serious consequences for the animal.
02 – Identifying the origin of pododermatitis
As this disease can very often recur, it is essential to identify the cause of pododermatitis. This disease can often originate in the soil used for your rabbit. The plastic of the cages, for example, is very irritating, so you should cover the floor with suitable mats to prevent your rabbit from being regularly on an aggressive surface. It is also possible that the disease may appear when your rabbit does not get enough exercise. For example, after surgery, if your rabbit is unable to move for several weeks, pododermatitis may develop.
In my case, my dwarf Pipine ram rabbit had a pododermatitis following an operation on her hind leg. She was immobilized for two months and after these two months we identified a pododermatitis due to the lack of exercise in this leg.
Pipine’s pododermatitis after her hind leg operation.
Photographed by Julie Lambert.
03 –Fighting with exercise
A good way to fight this disease is to exercise your rabbit. Make sure your rabbit is able to move every day and on different types of flooring if possible. An alternation of hard and soft floors is the perfect mix.
04 – Fighting with carpets
As mentioned above, carpets and other soft surfaces can help relieve your rabbit’s foot by keeping contact with surfaces such as plastic to a minimum.
05 – Fighting with medicines
It is possible to fight this disease with medication. If the inflammation is mild, a healing ointment to thicken the skin may be enough to stop the disease. If the inflammation is more pronounced, the veterinarian may recommend a local antibiotic and anti-inflammatory treatment such as a paw bread or the application of an ointment or spray.