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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 and aging and disabled birds, due to the excess pressure placed on the feet, as well as their 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
  • Signs of being generally unwell
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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
  • Being 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.

Swab 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 may 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. Cleaning and 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 (i.e.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 extends into the joints and bones. Your bird will exhibit signs of 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 bird owners, one of the best things you can offer your companion is a clean, sanitary environment, nutritious food, and clean water. 

Bumblefoot can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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Bumblefoot Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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canary

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16 days

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

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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0 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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2 found helpful

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

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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2 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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