We received the following message from the RWAF and were asked to share it with others who may not be aware of how important correct foot care is for your rabbits.


Rabbits' hind legs are a miracle of engineering that allow them to balance, jump and thump all with the same instruments. The hind legs are far longer than the front legs for good reason. They are the springs the body uses to propel them with joints at hip, knee and hock, and far smaller joints in the toes.

 

The part from the hock (heel) to the toes is what we think of as the foot and it has a thick pad of fur along its underside. Part that and you'll see a pink patch on the heel itself. As long as it's pale pink, this is nothing at all to worry about as that is how it's meant to be. It's only when that pink patch becomes red, inflammed, sore and sometimes infected that you need to worry about it. This is pododermatitis or 'sore hocks' and requires veterinary treatment. There are several things you should and shouldn't do to avoid it developing

  • Keep toenails short so that the angle of your rabbit's feet on the ground is correct.
  • NEVER trim the fur off the soles of the hind feet.
  • Don't give your rabbit a flooring/bedding that has no 'give' in it and especially not a wire mesh floor.
  • Keep bedding and litter dry and clean.

When clipping toenails, you need to be careful not to cut into the 'quick' which is the part of the nail that contains nerves and has a blood supply. With lighter nails, it is visible. With darker nails, try shining a torch from the opposite side of the nail so that it will show up and you don't cut too far down.

You can also use the squeeze, squeeze harder, cut method. If there is no reaction to either of the squeezes of your nail scissors on the nail, then it is very likely that you are not near the sensitive part and it will be safe to cut. Always have a styptic pencil or styptic powder handy, though, in case you do accidentally go too far. Putting a dry tissue or some dry cotton wool on the open end and squeezing will help stop blood flow and then applying some styptic will help any remaining blood to clot.

The quick will recede if you keep clipping regularly so if you really aren't confident, nibble bits away over a period of time and the quick will take up less and less of the nail shaft, so clipping will become safer.

If none of this gives you confidence to try yourself, then ask your vet or vet nurse to do the nail trimming for you and to show you how it's done.

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