Pododermatitis (Bumblefoot)

Bumble foot (Pododermatitis) is where an ulcerated foot becomes infected with Staphylococcus aureus. Common causes are wire bottomed cages, abrasive bedding, poor husbandry and obesity.

· Wire bottomed cages are not acceptable housing for guinea pigs, who do not have hair on the pads of their feet to protect them. This leaves them vulnerable to abrasions which may become infected resulting in Bumble foot. Similarly abrasive bedding will cause lesions that then become infected. Where sanitary conditions are poor as well the process is simply speeded up and infection is likely to happen quicker when a lesion appears.

· Guinea pigs that have Bumble foot should have access to soft bedding (e.g. Vetbed) though many will choose not to use it. There are some schools of thought that claim soft bedding results in less dense footpads and therefore the guinea pig will be more prone to lesions. It seems a happy medium is needed. Guinea pigs who have lesions on their feet and are in constant contact with unsanitary bedding are much more at risk of infection than those who are clean bedding and have the space to move away from wet or dirty patches. Favourite spots for sitting i.e. under a fiddlestix will need a daily change of bedding.

· Obesity can cause problems for different reasons; pressure may be put on the feet causing sores that then open and inevitably become infected. They are uncomfortable even if infection isn’t present. The answer to this would be to increase guinea’s hay consumption, and lessen the dry food. Do make sure that it is obesity that is the cause before changing guinea’s diet; it is very rare that guinea pigs become obese.

· Guinea pigs who have not had their nails cut regularly (to the point where they are curling round and under) may be putting pressure on one foot in particular causing sores. Cutting the nails should right this.

· Another common reason for sore pads is age; older guinea pigs (and sometimes younger ones) may develop Arthritis, or other mobility problems, that shift the pressure onto one or two pads more than the others. This in turn can cause sores and often they split/open and are open to infection, not to mention making mobility even harder. Where this is the case often ongoing treatment is the only answer, unless the mobility problem can be righted. Guinea pigs that have had previous injuries and slowly develop mobility problems/different ways of moving, also fall into this category.

The success of treatment varies according to the cause of the Bumble foot and often as to how far it has been allowed to progress. Firstly a vet visit is necessary for Antibiotic treatment, often Baytril is given and sometimes for as long as 4 weeks. A probiotic needs to be given as well. Some vets have tried flushing the wound topically with Baytril to get the antibiotic straight to the site of infection; others have injected Baytril straight into the infected pad. An anti inflammatory such as Rimadyl may also be useful in some cases. Each case should be judged on its merits.

Gorgeous Guineas were concerned at the lack of successful treatments available for guinea pigs and created an ointment to try and address the situation. The original ointment worked for lots of guinea pigs, where pressure points were the cause of the problem Perfect Paws helped to ease the situation. Several recipes were trialled on guinea pigs before this one was arrived at and the most effective ingredients used. This has resulted in two ointments being available, the original Perfect Paws and the Bumble foot Ointment which was developed with the help of lots of willing volunteers many of whom did not respond to the Perfect Paws as hoped, due to the nature of the problem. Contact info@gorgeousguineas.com for more details.

Betadine is also useful diluted for foot washes. We like to use this in conjunction with the Bumble foot Ointment where there is a pressure point problem. Do consult your vet first though even if only to determine if the problem can be treated or is a pressure point one that may be on going. Betadine is Povidone-iodine, an antiseptic microbicide that can be used for wound cleaning and disinfecting, available from your vet. ©www.planetguinea.co.uk 2008