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What is Bumblefoot?

Bumblefoot is an oddly playful-sounding name given to a serious condition that strikes the feet, joints and bones of captive birds worldwide. Often referred to as pododermatitis, bumblefoot is an inflammatory condition of the soles of the feet that, if treated quickly and aggressively, can be resolved without causing long-term or significant damage to a bird. In some cases, however, birds beset by advanced and untreated bumblefoot can become so systemically infected that their lives are unsustainable. Bacterial infections that begin in the pads of the foot can ultimately lead to a bird’s death. Many surviving birds endure chronic abscesses and the amputation of a leg.

There are many factors that contribute to the development of bumblefoot, a condition that can easily be avoided with proper husbandry. One factor involves improper perches or surfaces in the bird’s living environment or enclosure. If a bird, for example, stands for extended periods of time on a cement floor, a wooden surface or a perch covered with a rough material like burlap, small cracks or worn-away areas form on the soles of the feet. Over a period of time, the bottom of the feet become mottled with the small, red spots or sores that characterize bumblefoot.

If the bird owner notices the formation of these sores, initiates veterinary treatment, and makes positive changes to the bird’s living environment, the prognosis for healing is good. However, without veterinary attention and environmental improvements, the sores typically turn into painful abscesses, which enable opportunistic pathogens (usually Staphylococcus aureus) to breach the surface of the thinning skin. In due time, the infection encroaches upon joints in the feet and bones in the legs, and surrounding tissues become necrotic. Ulcers may form on the feet, and the bird may become progressively lame.

Birds most at-risk for bumblefoot include obese birds, aging and disabled birds, due to the excess pressure placed on the feet, as well as limited mobility. Birds with any kind of immune weakness must be watched and cared for.

Bumblefoot is an inflammatory condition of the soles of the feet that, if treated quickly and aggressively, can be resolved without causing long-term or significant damage to a bird.

Symptoms of Bumblefoot in Birds

  • Scabs on feet – dark, circular
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Thickening of skin
  • Lameness
  • Reluctance to walk
  • Ulcers on soles of feet
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Causes of Bumblefoot in Birds

There are a variety of causes or predisposing factors behind the development of bumblefoot. Some of these include:

  • Hard/uneven/rough floor surfaces
  • Improperly designed or covered perches (small diameter, wooden or burlap covers)
  • Damp, unsanitary bedding
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Accumulation of feces
  • Overall unsanitary environment
  • Poor diet
  • Overgrown toenails
  • Overweight
  • Lack of activity
  • Previous leg or foot injury
  • Fighting among flock members
  • Leg or conformation abnormality
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Diagnosis of Bumblefoot in Birds

The primary diagnostic tool is an examination of both feet. Bumblefoot may present with redness, swelling, small red sores, or dark colored scabs on the pads of the foot/feet. Depending upon severity and length of time with the condition, there may be lesions, cracks, or discoloration.

Additionally, x-rays will reveal signs of infection, as well as any areas on the joints or bones where there’s been erosion or other damage.

Bacterial samples will be taken and evaluated at a microbiology lab in order to isolate the offending organism. An antibiotic sensitivity test may help determine the best course of antibiotic treatment to rid the bird of this terrible condition, or to manage it in the case of a chronic issue. A blood sample will be taken to check for other possible health conditions.

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Treatment of Bumblefoot in Birds

The severity (classified grade of severity), type and path of infection will direct treatment. No matter what, the owner should keep the bird’s feet sanitized, and tailor the living environment to both promote healing and to eliminate destructive perches and surfaces. Oral antibiotics and antibiotic ointment will control the infection. Bandaging may be recommended in order to reduce the opportunity for pathogens to enter the wounds. In more severe cases, surgery (including debridement of abscesses) will help to save the feet, and life, of the bird. Antibiotics will be essential in resolving infection, and the bird can be kept comfortable with pain and anti-inflammatory medication.

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Recovery of Bumblefoot in Birds

With fast and complete medical care, birds have a good chance of overcoming bumblefoot. While the immediate symptoms may be resolved, other lifestyle and environmental changes will give the bird the best chance for a bumblefoot-free future. 

The quality and number of perches will influence your bird’s health. It’s best to supply perches of different sizes (such as diameter), positions (such as corner perches), and materials, including softer rope, braided cotton or different types of synthetic material. Perches must be kind on the bird’s feet. If you are unsure of the best material, please ask your vet or another aviary professional. Be sure to maintain clean perches so bacteria do not enter the feet.

Maintain proper nutrition, including Vitamin A.  Since obesity is a risk factor for many health conditions, your vet can recommend an appropriate dietary and exercise regimen. 

Some birds with serious cases of bumblefoot require long-term antibiotic treatment, particularly if the infection extended into the joints and bones. Your bird will signify pain by lifting one foot up at a time. Look at the soles of the feet each time you clean the cage. If there is bleeding or excess weeping/drainage, flush with sterile saline solution and keep it bandaged and dry until you can see the vet. 

Like all pet owners, the best thing you can offer your companion is a clean, sanitary environment, nutritious food, and clean water. 

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Bumblefoot Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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canary

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16 days

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

One Of The Ties On The Left Leg Curls Forward—Instead Of Staying Behind So That There Are Three Toes In Front & One Toe Behind—Opposite Knee Joint Is Swollen

is there anything that I can do for the baby bird

July 18, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. The baby bird may have an infection or injury, and that may be difficult to heal if it is already damaged. If you are able to have the bird seen by a veterinarian, they may be able to administer medications to help. Otherwise, if you are able to provide him with a safe home environment, he may need extra care if he is not able to grip a perch. I hope that all goes well for him!

July 18, 2020

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Sunny

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Spotted yello

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lameness And So Much Pain In Legs

I have a normal breed budgie and I has pain its legs I thing its the first stage of bumble foot disease I don't have a vet in my area so I need help immediately

May 21, 2018

Sunny's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It is important to ensure that foot is thoroughly cleaned and any dirt or debris is removed; the foot should be soaked in a povidone iodine solution, dried and covered. However, some cases of bumblefoot require the affected tissue to be debrided surgically or any lesions to be drained. Without examining Sunny it is very difficult to give you any specific advise. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 22, 2018

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Baby

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Budgie

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Pain
Stiffness

My budgie has bumblefoot and his toe is heading forward. If I move to the right position, it hurts her? Does it mean the bone is compromised or infected! Or perhaps there is a broken bone? She can’t walk , wether she is perching or standing up that toe is heading forward and is a bit raised. 1. Does she need x - rays? 2- do you think the bone might be compromised or infected due to bumblefoot? 3- what could mean that by pushing his toe to the right position the budgie shouts and cries (of means it hurst I know ) but is it paralyzed or is showing sign of lameness? 4- should I try to massage her toe as it it stiffed? Or is not recommend it as I could broke a tendon as if I move her toe she shouts? 5- is there something I can do to make her feel better? 6- I wish I could send photographs but there isn’t a way to send attachments here

May 9, 2018

Baby's Owner


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2 Recommendations

If the foot is becoming more deformed, a visit to your Veterinarian would be recommended to reexamine the foot and for them to determine whether or not x-rays should be taken (although they would be useful). Secondary infection is always a concern in cases of bumblefoot and severe infections may extend up into the bone or joints. As with anything swollen, it is painful and applying pressure or manipulating the toe you will induce pain; just like if you have a swollen finger and you move it. I wouldn’t recommend massaging it since it would be painful and most likely wouldn’t aid in any recovery. We don’t have the ability to receive photographs since many times the images may be poor quality, bad lighting, bad angles etc… But you should return to your Veterinarian for another examination as I mentioned in my first response, physical palpation of the foot is required and your Veterinarian may also decide to change treatment based on his findings. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 9, 2018

Thank you very much! Your advice has been so helpful ! I’m continuing with the treatment I mentioned before and They are getting better step by step in slow motion. I have already talk with my vet About the x ray and she said it would be helpful . Thank you. I will keep updsting this thread

May 27, 2018

Baby's Owner

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Baby

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Budgie

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling
Pain
Swelling Lameness

I wonder if the toe that right now is heading forward to the left side side horizontally instead of being backwards, would it recover its normal position once the wound of the pododermatitis (bumblefoot) has closed and healed? The bumblefoot is being treated and the wound is a bit smaller but the area surrounding the wound is swelling and has make his foot bigger and now this toe is heading forward. Please help me and let me know if 1- it will go back to normal after the pododermatitis has healed? How many probabilities does she of recovering the normal position backward of her toe on her right feet? 2- Is it okey to keep using iodopovidone or is too rough for his foot skin? Please help me I would recommend you but please answer my main questions

May 9, 2018

Baby's Owner


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1 Recommendations

In severe cases of bumblefoot, there may be some permanent disfigurement of the foot, but without examining the foot myself I cannot say how severe it is; however, I cannot give you complete assurance that the toe will return to normal without an examination. Betadine (povidone-iodine) should be fine and safe to use especially since you’re noticing improvement, but as I mentioned I cannot give you any assurance on whether the toe will return to normal or not. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 9, 2018

I understand. I asked the vet and she can’t give me an assurance about it either :( we shall see .. I will take the x Ray this week if possible

May 27, 2018

Baby's Owner

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Baby

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Budgie

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Pain
Wound
Swelling ,

Hi my budgie has bumblefoot. can see a wound in the center of his foot and it has a crust (I don't know if that is what's called necrotic tissue). It's dark brown. It's been getting smaller but is swelling in the surroundings of the wound. And one of his toe instead of lying backwards it's lying forward. I have tried moving her foot but it hurtaba my female budgie. She is receiving a treatment by desinfecting with chlorhexidine and iodopovidone. And also using one drop directly on the toe of ciprofloxacin. I don't know what else to do. The healing process is too slow. On February all her toes were perfect I don't know when did her foot start heading forward and l wonder if this is a permanent damage or will she recover fully after healing fully of her bumblefoot. The vet told me not to get X-ray yet She told me to let her finish the treatment. I. Sad and hopeless please help me. The vet l trust has moved abroad and the other vet are new for me

May 8, 2018

Baby's Owner


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0 Recommendations

At this point I would recommend continuing the current course of treatment since there is improvement in the size of the lesion, but if there is further swelling causing deformity of the foot I would suggest returning to your Veterinarian (regardless of your feelings) for another examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 9, 2018

I wonder if the toe that right now is heading forward to the right side horizontally instead of being backwards, would it recover its normal position once the wound of the pododermatitis (bumblefoot) has closed and healed?

May 9, 2018

Baby's Owner

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Kevin

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goose

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2 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Discomfort
Scab
Not Walking
Screaming When Walking

I have a goose that it’s about a month or two old he stopped wanting to walk about a week ago and now has dark reds Scabbed spots on both of his feet But refuses to walk on his right foot which seems to be less hurt and has less scabs. I don’t really know what to do please help

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Hawk

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Red Tailed Hawk

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Foot Infections

I am a relatively new falconer but have over ten years experience volunteering with rehab birds of prey. Their husbandry is very familiar to me. I have a red tailed hawk that I am concerned might be developing bumblefoot, but I am not sure. We had a traumatic experience with getting the creance line getting tangled in a chain linked fence with *just* enough slack allowing the bird to barely touch the sidewalk enough to stand on his talons/tip toes. Of course, he tried to get a grip but scratched the crap out of his feet and essentially "filed" his talons a little bit. I couldn't intervene quickly because I had to run the length of the fence to the other side to pick him up and free the line. He bled quite a bit. When I got back, I hooded him and cleansed his feet, put neosporin on, and put dermabond over the cuts as my vet directed me to do. I've continued putting dermabond on those cuts weekly after cleansing with sterile saline, but the pads are starting to turn dark colored all over. There is no redness, they are not hot to the touch, no swelling, and the bird doesn't seem to mind me touching his feet, even without a falconry gauntlet to inspect those wounds. They seem to be scabbed over, but the dark color really concerns me. My vet is out of the office for a couple of weeks, and I am anxious that this might be the "eschar" I've seen around forums? He seems to not be bothered by them...yet. Thanks for your advice!!

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