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What are Arthritis?

A degenerative inflammatory disease of the joints, this can be a primary condition in birds or be secondary to problems or injury of the joints or supporting tissues of the bird. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in pet birds. In many cases, multiple joints will be impacted, with the exception of when the disease occurs as the result of trauma. Arthritis will cause pain in the bird experiencing the condition. Other forms of arthritis include septic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.

Arthritis is a degenerative, inflammatory condition of the joints, which may be a primary illness or secondary to another condition a bird is suffering from.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Birds

Joints that are affected by arthritis may appear red, swollen and/or hot. The toes of your bird may look disfigured, or point in a direction that does not seem natural.

Types 

There are several types of arthritis that can be experienced by your bird.

  • Septic arthritis - This is when the inflammation that occurs is due to a bacterial infection

  • Osteoarthritis - An age-related condition that results in degeneration of joint tissue
  • Rheumatoid arthritis - Resulting from immune-related processes

  • Articular gout - Resulting from toxic waste products accumulating in your bird’s joints
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Causes of Arthritis in Birds

Osteoarthritis will usually happen in older birds as a result of degeneration in their joints. Pet birds will often spend a high percentage of the day on their feet, as well as sleep on one leg. Over time, this stress can lead to changes in the bird’s foot and leg joints. Birds that weigh more than they should, as well as those with an injured leg who have to put their full weight on the other leg, are at an increased risk of arthritis.

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Diagnosis of Arthritis in Birds

Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination of your bird to determine whether he is experiencing joint problems and what is causing them. Your veterinarian may notice that your bird’s toes are disfigured to some degree. Birds whose joints ache may snap at them and pretend to bite them, as they don’t understand pain. Other symptoms to keep in mind when considering arthritis, are that your bird may experience pressure sores and may not be able to easily grip their perch. In addition, they may also struggle to grip their perch and move around their cage. They may seem clumsy and you may notice that they lose their balance.

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Treatment of Arthritis in Birds

Treatment will depend on the type of arthritis your bird is experiencing. It is a good idea for your bird to have a complete blood count taken prior to the veterinarian prescribing medication. In some birds, antibiotics or antifungal medications will be recommended. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) are possible options, though it is important to note that these are usually not labeled for use in birds. Aspirin is a good choice, though the dose is important so it must be prescribed by a veterinarian. Providing your bird an appropriate diet will be helpful; it is important he maintain an appropriate weight as additional weight will add more stress to his joints. Also, eating well can help minimize systemic inflammation in your bird.

Other recommendations for birds suffering from arthritis include (discuss with your veterinarian prior to administering):

  • Apple cider vinegar can be given and  this will help to maintain the optimum pH balance so that minerals don’t crystalize in the joints of your bird; a small amount can be mixed into your bird’s water
  • Aloe Vera gel or a small portion of the leaf can be fed to your bird; it must be organically grown so as to not harm your bird with pesticides (some birds may have a negative reaction to Aloe Vera so it is important you test this treatment first by putting some on your finger and touching your bird’s foot; you can then wait 24 hours to see if there is a reaction)

Should your bird have any infected pressure sores, antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatories may be recommended. Hibitane cream, which is an antibacterial and antifungal, can be applied to open sores.

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Recovery of Arthritis in Birds

While arthritis cannot be cured, it can be managed. Most birds with arthritis are sensitive to cold temperatures; providing a heat source in one part of their cage will allow them to select the temperature that meets their needs at any given time. Heated perches are also an option as the joint pain will be helped by the warm perch.

Other things that you can do to help your bird include:

  • Take away metal grates that are on the bottom of the bird’s cage
  • Keep your bird’s nails trimmed so that they don’t get caught and cause your bird to injure himself
  • Provide flat perches for your bird (or place two right next to one another)
  • Rearrange your bird’s cage so that it better meets his needs and allows him to more easily move around
  • Hard surfaces where your bird walks in his cage should be made softer to avoid his getting sores; old clothing is useful for this and thick material is great for cushioning or you can also cover the floor of his cage with old carpet
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Arthritis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Zelda

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Parrot

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25 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Curled Toes

Our 25 yr old African Grey has one leg (other amputated when young due to injury). Remaining leg(ankle) now has arthritic changes and there is little control over her toes - can grip perches fairly well until today when she practically is supporting herself on the part of her claw that meets the feathered part of her leg - like her ankle just collapsed. Gets Meloxican daily for perceived pain ( due to arthritic changes on x-ray). Can she continue like this? Is it time to put her down?

June 9, 2018

Zelda's Owner

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2 Recommendations

Without examining Zelda it is difficult to weigh in with advice and I would strongly recommend that you visit an Avian Veterinarian, however you should think about and prepare yourself for possibly putting her to sleep; but I cannot make that call. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 10, 2018

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Gorgie

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Galar

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?

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Constantly Raised Leg,

Hi im looking after a friends galar, she has arthritis in her leg ( she holds it in the air constantly) ive had her to the vets $900 later & my bird is still in pain. Her leg was previously broken & healed itself. Can you advise me of anything i can give her to help with the pain & arthritis. Regards channine

Nov. 17, 2017

Gorgie's Owner


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1 Recommendations

There are various approaches to the treatment of arthritis but without examining Gorgie, I cannot prescribe any prescription medications; joint supplements (like glucosamine) also apply in birds but more often NSAIDs like meloxicam are used. If you haven’t already, you should visit an Avian Veterinarian for an examination to get appropriate treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.aav.org/search/custom.asp?id=1803 www.msdvetmanual.com/exotic-and-laboratory-animals/pet-birds/geriatric-diseases-of-pet-birds#v3305909

Nov. 17, 2017

To Georgie's owner, clip her wings so she cannot fly and hurt herself. Meloxicam tastes great to birds, so if you can get her to taste it, she will think it is a treat, and you can then just show her the syringe each time and you can give it to her while she is still in the cage. Putting material in the cage is not shuch a good idea, as the toenails can get caught in the fabric or they can ingest the fabric causing deadly problems.

Jan. 17, 2018

Rhea K.


The vet gave me an anti inflammatory but gorgie became nasty when i took her out of the cage. She was flying around hurting herself more so i stopped. I thought you might advise of something natural i can put in her water. Regards Channine

Nov. 17, 2017

Gorgie's Owner

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Gabby

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Amazon parrots

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24 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Stiffness

My bird has arthritis and x ray shows arthritis in every joint and she does not have gout. Has a high white count keeps going up and eats well and drinks well . I have x rays , they say it is rare and don't know what it is , these are 2 veterinarian. Then cant give me answers can look at her x rays and blood and help me figure this out . I m at a dead end . I am a veterinarian Rosemary Manziano DVM coltsvet@gmail.com thx

Nov. 1, 2017

Gabby's Owner

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0 Recommendations

I’ve spent a good twenty minutes mulling over this, I am not an Avian Specialist but a General Veterinarian; my mind is jumping all over the place, but I feel I would be unable to shed any light on this for you. If you haven’t consulted an Avian Specialist, I would recommend you do. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Nov. 1, 2017

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chico

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Yellow-Naped Amazon

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51 years

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Fair severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

I have a yellow nap he's 51 years. I took him to a bird vet he did x-ray's and blood work the blood work came back real good everything normal x-ray he said showed the beginning of arthritis in his left leg and a little heart problem. He put Chico on heart med's and arthritis med's. Heart med's c- isoxsuprine 20/ML arthritis med's meloxicam 1.5mg/ml. These two med's will cost close to $400. a mo. I don't have that kind of money I've already spent my savings is there something much cheaper I can give him? The vet said he had a stroke back in July when this all started.

Oct. 17, 2017

chico's Owner


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2 Recommendations

I understand your concerns regarding price of medicines, isoxsuprine is a vasodilator which allows the vessels to be wider to allow better blood flow; other medical management conditions may be available depending on the specific heart condition your Avian Veterinarian detected, pentoxifylline is sometimes used which increases the flexibility of erythrocytes which allows them to pass easily in the blood vessels. Avian medicine is a specialised subject and would recommend you consult again with your Avian Veterinarian about alternatives. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 18, 2017

Was helpful but I have already ask him for a cheaper med's he said there wasn't any. That's hard for me to believe they have so many different kinds for human's

Oct. 18, 2017

chico's Owner


I think you need a new vet. I get Isoxsuprine (peanut butter flavor) liquid that I put on a small piece of bread for my yellow nape. I get it from Stokes Pharmacy for $80 it last 3 months. Meloxicam isn't a mystery either. You're getting ripped off by your vet.

Oct. 29, 2017

Claudia M.

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Senor Stephen Biko

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Pied Cockatiel

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8 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Stiffness, Slow Movement

I was given a cockatiel that had once hit a ceiling fan and injured his wing. I've had the bird for four years, and he is finding it difficult to move around. (His partner bullies him, which makes things more difficult. The two have had to be separated, but want to be together!) What sort of foods can I give this poor bird to improve his health? Are there other things I can do as well?

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