Progression and risk factors of pododermatitis in part-time group housed rabbit does in Switzerland


In rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.), pododermatitis is a chronic multifactorial skin disease that appears mainly on the plantar surface of the hind legs. This presumably progressive disease can cause pain leading to poor welfare, yet the progression of this disease has not been thoroughly assessed on the level of individual animals. The aim of this longitudinal study thus was to investigate the possible risk factors and the progression of pododermatitis in group housed breeding does in Switzerland on litter and plastic slats. Three commercial rabbit farms with part-time group housing on litter and plastic slats were visited every four weeks throughout one year. During every visit, the same 201 adult female breeding rabbits (67 does per farm) were evaluated for the presence and severity of pododermatitis. Additionally, the does’ age, parity, body weight, reproductive state, hybrid, claw length, cleanliness and moisture of the paws and the temperature and humidity inside the barns were recorded as potential risk factors. The risk factors were analysed through general linear models and additive Bayesian network (ABN) modelling using a directed acyclic graph (DAG) for visualising associations between potential risk factors. The progression of pododermatitis was analysed with a transition matrix. Relative humidity inside the barns, body weight, number of kindlings, age, and claw length were the most important risk factors, all being positively associated with pododermatitis. In contrast to expectations, the cleanliness of the left hind paw was negatively associated with the occurrence of pododermatitis, but the effect was small. In young does, the severity of pododermatitis quickly increased and in some rabbits proceeded to ulcerated spots. It was shown that 60.00%, 14.17% and 3.33% of ulcerated lesions recovered to a state without ulceration within 4, 8 or >12 weeks, respectively.

Preventive Veterinary Medicine.