What Is Bumblefoot?

Bumblefoot is a common bacterial infection that occurs on the feet of birds, rodents, and rabbits. This means that pet chickens, guinea pigs, rabbits and other similar pets can get the infection.

It causes an inflammatory reaction, which means swelling in the feet. Bacteria, namely Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, Escherichia, and S. aureus, are what cause the infection. Unfortunately, this bacteria can occur naturally in the animals’ environment. However, it enters the body through cuts and other open wounds.

The scientific name for bulblefoot is ulcerative pododermatitis

This is why it is so important to keep your pet’s living quarters clean, check them regularly for injuries and wounds and ensure they have been registered with a vet ASAP.

What does bumblefoot look like?

Bumblefoot can take a few different forms. Commonly, however, it will mean swelling of their skin with a central dark-coloured scab. This swelling can look like an abscess. There can also be pus or other material oozing from the swelling.

But it doesn’t always have to ooze. It can also be a hard swelling. This is why it can be hard to tell whether the swelling is bumblefoot or not, but any skin issue should immediately be taken care of either way.

In the early days, bumblefoot may present itself as redness, swelling, or small red sores. You will likely be able to see cracks or cuts and discolouration of the skin.

Bumblefoot on a guinea pig
Swelling of a rodent foot with bumblefoot infection

Which animals are at risk of bumblefoot?

Overweight animals, or those who are lame, are at higher risk of bumblefoot due to the additional pressure placed on their ‘good’ feet or legs. Animals with long claws, such as guinea pigs, can also be at higher risk; the curvature of the nail can cut into paw pads, causing open wounds.

Chickens and other poultry who walk on hard surfaces are also at risk. These wounds are very susceptible to infection. The same applies to captive birds of prey, who may perch for prolonged hours.

Captive pets are also more likely to get bumblefoot than wild animals. This can be due to poor husbandry practices and dirty environments.

Ulcerative pododermatitis is often referred to as “sore hocks” when in a rabbit and “bumblefoot” when in a bird. You may hear both terms when referring to a guinea pig or other rodent.

How is bumblefoot treated?

If there is pus present in the wound, this will need to be drained away before the bumblefoot infection can be treated. Then, it will require a mix of topical and oral or injected antibiotics to fight the infection.

If left untreated, bumblefoot will be fatal. So, all small pets need to be examined regularly for injuries and cuts on both their feet and other body parts. This will require them to be handled; pets should be used to being handled from a young age if possible. Handling can cause stress, so if this is only for long enough for an inspection, this is enough.

They should also be registered with a suitable vet. If you have any concerns for the health of your pet at all, always ring your vet, or make use of an online video vet who can guide you on the next steps.