Rabbits have paws that are completely devoid of any pads. Owing to the absence of pads, their paws need an extra bit of protection as they are extremely susceptible to injuries and infection.
However, most breeds of rabbits contain a furry covering on their paws that fulfills the need for paw pads to some extent.
Let’s take a deeper dive to explore this topic in minute details.
What are Paw Pads in the First Place?
Paw pads are a mushy part found in the feet of many furry mammals. They are normally hairless and are composed of keratins, collagens, adipose tissues, various kinds of muscles and bones.
Paw pads are made up of three vital regions:
- Carpal Pads (these are not present in all animals having paw pads. Typically seen in animals that walk on their toes or digits)
- Metacarpal Pads (they are generally located in the center hence taking the majority of the body load)
- Digital Pads (located under each toe that bears the front load)
Some of the animals that have paw pads include:
What is the Utility of Paw Pads?
Act as a load absorber
The paw pads act as cushions to neutralize the stress on the limbs of the animals. It kind of acts as a shock and load absorber that helps in reducing the workload of the joints and the muscles.
Protects the Soft Paws from harm
When out in the wild, animals have to put up with a variety of harsh conditions to survive. The paw pads help in that regard. They protect the paws from injuries, especially while walking on rough surfaces.
Provides that extra bit of stability
The pads make sure that the animal doesn’t slip very easily, even when it is running at a maximal speed. So, they enhance the balance of the animal as a whole.
Do Rabbits Have Any Kind of Paw Pads?
Rabbits unlike cats, dogs, and rodents do not have paw pads. Even though they do have soft-looking tender paws, they don’t usually have any kind of pads on them.
However, rabbits do have an extra covering of hair on their paws which serve the purpose of a pad to a little extent.
Their paws have sharp claws which must be trimmed every few weeks to be kept in shape. As rabbits don’t have any pads, their claws play a significant role in their movement.
They use their claws to grip the surface and in making sure that they don’t slip, especially when out on slippery surfaces.
Probable Reasons Why Rabbits Don’t Have Paw Pads
They already have stronger limbs in place
The legs of rabbits are extremely sturdy and agile. With time it has evolved in a way so that it can swiftly run away from danger at a steady pace.
The excess fur acts as a moderate cushion for shock absorption
The need for pads is somewhat compensated for with the presence of that extra layer of fur on their paws. They must help in tackling the extra stress on the legs and provide them with a soft footing.
Their claws serve them just fine on slippery surfaces
The claws help the rabbits with rapid movements, even in slippery conditions, with suitable ease.
The Disadvantage of Not Having Paw Pads: The Terror of Sore Hocks
Paw pads provide an extra dose of protection to the feet especially when walking or running on rougher terrains.
As rabbits do not have paw pads, they are quite vulnerable to paw injuries. They only have the extra bit of fur on their paws for protection which oftentimes is not enough.
‘Sore Hocks’ is the most common paw-related issue a rabbit can face in its lifetime. This is even truer if it frequently travels around in tough terrain or is kept in a metallic cage with unpolished and sharp surfaces.
What is ‘Sore Hocks’?
Pododermatitis, commonly known as ‘sore hocks’, is an irreversible foot condition in rabbits that develops because of constant pressure, developed owing to the movement of foot bones and tissues against an excessively rough surface.
This constant pressure ends up damaging the tissues which can shortly be followed by ulceration and microbial infection if no safety measures are taken quickly.
Symptoms for Sore Hocks in rabbits
- In the initial stages (Grade I and Grade II), the rabbit can lose its hair more often than it would normally do. Its movement, posture, and stance will start to be affected. If it escalates more, then the feet will swell up and can even turn red (a sign of infection).
- In the moderate stage (Grade III), the rabbit will start to show signs of serious agony as the condition of the affected regions is slowly getting worse. It can even lead to ulceration. Scab formation is pretty normal at this stage.
- In Grade IV, it is likely that the rabbit will have an abscess and there will be severe inflammation of the leg tissues.
- In the extreme stage (Grade V), the rabbit will experience a serious condition of ulcerative pododermatitis, which will intensely affect the foot tissues so much so that the walking posture of the rabbit will be seriously affected.
Causes of Sore Hocks in rabbits
- Obesity: Low movement rate and lack of exercise can lead to weight gain which can end up exerting extra load on the legs. The rabbit will have trouble standing in the right posture and this again will exert stress unevenly upon the limbs.
- Exposure to excessive moisture or unhygienic conditions: If the immune system of the rabbit is weak, then this can lead to Sore Hocks.
- Excessive damage and death of the limb tissues: This happens mostly when a rabbit is regularly exposed to hard and rough surfaces.
How to Make Sure Your Rabbit Remains Safe from Sore Hocks?
Follow a proper diet plan and prioritize physical activity
Consult with your vet to devise a diet plan for your rabbit. Keep your rabbit occupied with sufficient physical exercise regularly so that weight never becomes an issue.
Make sure your rabbit is never exposed to rough and hard surfaces
Always keep your rabbits in a cozy and soft terrain that mimics the tenderness of the earth’s surface.
Wire flooring, tiles, wooden floors are also a big no-no as they won’t allow the rabbit to jump in its natural posture. Soft cotton mats are perfect for them.
But make sure those mats have a rubber backing and are pet friendly (as rabbits have a habit of chewing stuff). Using hay is also a viable option especially for the cages.
Every once in a while, take a closer look at the paws
Even if there is no issue with your rabbit, once every few weeks, you should always check its legs and paws for any signs of abnormality. It a healthy practice to have.
Even in the earliest stages of Sore Hocks, the rabbit won’t show much intention to move around. This is directly related to the discomfort experienced during paw movement.
If you have any kind of doubt or feel that there is something wrong with your rabbit, take it to the vet without a second thought. Sore hocks can be painful and troublesome, taking prompt action is the key to avoid serious problems in the future.
Rabbits do not have paw pads. Instead, they rely upon the excess furry overgrowth on their paws for protecting their limbs against friction.
As these furry creatures don’t have pads, they are oftentimes found to be more prone to limb-related problems. However sharp supervision and basic precautionary measures can help a lot in nullifying such problems.