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The Dreaded Bumblefoot

When pocket pet families adopt a new family member they often ask: “What are some health problems I should look out for when caring for my new pet?” A great answer is always, bumblefoot. Bumblefoot is a very painful bacterial infection of the feet that can usually be prevented if your new pet has the proper housing and you know what to look for to catch it early.

What is bumblefoot? Bumblefoot (pododermatitis) is a bacterial infection and inflammation of the foot in pocket pets. Most commonly it is on the back feet because these are the feet that are the most weight bearing compared to the front.

How does this happen? Most commonly it is from husbandry mistakes made by us owners. Bumblefoot can happen from your pocket pet being housed in a wire bottom cage, or from having abrasive/ rough bedding. That is why purchasing the correct cage and bedding option for your pet is essential! In other cases, it can also be caused by your pet sitting in moist bedding for long periods of time, or from trauma already done to the foot that then got infected.

Signs. The most common sign your pocket pet will show is redness and swelling on one or all their feet. They may also develop scabs, ulcers or abscesses on their feet. In some extreme cases your pocket pet could have swollen tendons along with walking and standing abnormally.

What do I do!?! Don’t panic. This is very treatable! The first thing you should do is make an appointment for your pocket pet to see their local veterinarian. The veterinarian will evaluate your pet and form a treatment plan suitable for your pet. Most commonly your vet will have you do daily wound management and bandaging along with daily warm feet soaks. They may also prescribe your pocket pet with antibiotics and pain meds depending on the severity of the infection. In extreme cases your pocket pet may need surgery to debride the infection.

How do I avoid this? Taking a look at your cage and bedding and making sure it is suitable for your pocket pet is the best way to avoid bumblefoot. It is always important to make sure that your cage does not have a wire bottom or that your bedding is not abrasive. This helps in making sure that your pets feet do not get scratched and that they are on an even surface. Cleaning your cage regularly will also go a long way in insuring your pet does not get bumblefoot. When your pet is sitting in a moist surface all day it can lead to bacterial growth in your bedding that can then transfer to your pets feet. Therefore, cleaning your cage on a regular basis will help lower the chances of bacterial growth.

Bumblefoot is never any fun for your family or pet. However, by having a good cleaning schedule and proper housing you can decrease your chances of your pet developing bumblefoot. Just remember that if your pet does develop it to not panic and to call your veterinarian right away for an appointment. By following recommendations given by your vet your pocket pet will be back to their normal self again!

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