Bumblefoot (ulcerative pododermatitis) is a mass of rough, over keratinized tissue that develops on the heels. It starts out as a small cut or puncture surrounded by redness, and if left untreated, develops into a raised sore/scab. The sore will usually fill with blood, rupture and bleed, and then form a bigger sore that will again rupture. Inflammation will usually occur around the sore, but in some cases the whole foot may swell and cause a great deal of discomfort. Bacterial and fungal infections are likely to develop in the area, which may cause an abscess to form. If proper treatment is not started promptly, there is a risk of the infection spreading to the bone or blood.

There are many factors that can contribute to the formation of bumblefoot. Any type of uneven flooring that may cause tiny cuts or pressure points on the feet will increase the risk, but housing rats on wire flooring doesn’t automatically cause bumblefoot. Obesity also plays a major role because the feet are constantly under more pressure, and there is more friction/rubbing as they walk. Some rats may also have a genetic predisposition to bumblefoot. Health problems, such as type II diabetes and poor blood circulation, and the use of pine/cedar shavings have also been linked to the appearance of bumblefoot.

example of bumblefoot in its beginning stages

Bumblefoot is usually a chronic condition unless the cause is rectified. If your rat is overweight, encourage exercise and decrease the amount of fattening foods they eat. Make sure to keep the cage as clean as possible, cover any wire flooring, and do not use pine/cedar shavings. The use of litter boxes will keep the time spent on rough, soiled litter to a minimum. It’s important to start treatment as soon as the symptoms appear, because it usually takes weeks or months of constant treatment to fully heal a sore.

The following is a common treatment regime but your vet should always be consulted beforehand:

:: Clean sores with antiseptic (1% dilute of Dettol Antiseptic Liquid) twice daily
:: Apply topical antibiotic ointment (Neosporin) at least twice daily
:: Give oral broad-spectrum antibiotic (such as Amoxicillin or Baytril/Enrofloxacin) along with a probiotic or yogurt with live cultures 2 hours after the medication (some meds are negated by dairy)
:: A general wound-healing/anti-fungal ointment is also recommended

If symptoms do not improve or continue to worsen after a week of treatment, then consult your vet and modify the regime.

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