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What are Foot Problems?

Just like humans, birds suffer from a range of leg and foot conditions. Some of these problems are potentially serious in nature, such as nerve damage or a tumor, while other conditions may clear up with something as simple as a perch change or toenail clipping. Some concerns related to the legs and feet of birds are easily identifiable, while others – such as lameness – may be caused by stroke, nerve compression or toxicosis – among other possibilities. Having a consultation with an avian veterinarian provides a unique and invaluable opportunity to understand the legs and feet of your bird, and what best sustains their health. For example, a condition that is particular to birds is bumblefoot, an inflammatory condition of the soles of the feet. In some cases, birds suffering from a disorder like bumblefoot can develop serious, and possibly life-threatening, bacterial infections. If the owner of a pet bird does not pay careful enough attention to physical changes to the skin or structure of the feet, the bird may have to endure chronic pain or eventually experience something as serious as lameness. 

There is a range of unique conditions that may affect the feet, and physical stance, of a pet bird. Foot problems may be attributable to something serious, like nerve compression or trauma, or due to something simple, like a blister. Paying careful attention to how the bird stands on and interacts with its perches is highly recommended. When a bird has an injury or a condition affecting the legs or soles of the feet, the discomfort will often show in a constant shifting from foot to foot. Irritation from the surface of the perch may become a potentially genuine problem if small cuts in the soles of the feet allow for the entrance of bacteria or a fungus. Because they typically curl around the perch, one commonly overlooked problem in pet birds is overgrown toenails. Limping may be attributable to too-long nails, particularly if you notice the first joint of the toe is rising from the surface, or the nail is bent on its side. If your bird is resistant to toenail-clipping, a grooming perch is an excellent solution. The bird can use this perch at will, enabling proper nail length. Providing perches of different widths, diameters and surfaces enables the bird to stand and shift comfortably. If awkward or uneven, the bird can develop a painful arthritic condition that may worsen over time. Keep perches clean and sturdy. Sandpaper perch covers should always be avoided.

Nutritional status also contributes negatively or positively to every aspect of your bird’s health, including the feet. The most common nutritional deficiency in birds is a lack of Vitamin A, which affects the condition of the skin. Without sufficient Vitamin A, legs and feet may become rough and scaly, and lead to discomfort and possible infection. 

As always, if you are concerned about physical changes in your pet bird, or suspect that it is experiencing pain or discomfort, please schedule an appointment with an avian veterinarian.

Foot problems in birds can be attributed to a range of health conditions, nutritional deficiencies, or problems in the bird’s caging or living environment.

Symptoms of Foot Problems in Birds

  • Curling of the toes
  • Shifting from foot to foot
  • Splayed legs
  • Weakness
  • Discomfort/pain
  • Paralysis
  • Swollen and “hot” feet
  • Chewing, stomping 
  • Gout

Types

Foot problems may be ascribed to everything from trauma to overgrown nails, or something more complex like vitamin deficiencies, bacterial infections and heavy metal toxicities. Short-term problems or injuries must be addressed so long-term, more serious problems like arthritis do not develop.

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Causes of Foot Problems in Birds

Foot problems in birds can be attributed to a range of health conditions such as inflammatory disorders like bumblefoot or even blisters, nutritional deficiencies like a lack of Vitamin A, and problems in the bird’s caging or environment, including dirty or uneven perches.

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Diagnosis of Foot Problems in Birds

In the case of painful feet, weakness or physical changes in your bird’s feet, it’s recommended that you seek out an avian veterinary specialist who is aware of a bird’s physiology and anatomy. 

An excellent tip is, if possible, to take your bird’s cage to the avian vet for evaluation. This will give the vet the opportunity to check the bird’s stance and any interaction with the perches. The vet will be able to suggest modifications geared specifically toward your bird. The veterinarian may suggest testing for conditions that can contribute to foot problems such as nutritional imbalances, infection, or disease.

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Treatment of Foot Problems in Birds

Any treatment will depend upon the problem with the feet. A bacterial infection, for example, can be treated with antibiotics, and pain and inflammation can be treated with nonsteroidal medication and/or pain medication. Sores and roughness can be soothed with ointment or humectants.

Painful and scaly feet can also be alleviated with ongoing warm water soaks. If the feet have any type of scaling or sores, soaks may loosen rough matter and soften the skin.

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Recovery of Foot Problems in Birds

There is nothing more important to a bird’s quality of life than the comfort of its legs and feet, its posture, and how it perches within the cage environment. Standing for extended periods of time on a wooden surface or a perch covered with a rough material like burlap or sandpaper may lead to sores and cracks on the soles of the feet, enabling open paths for bacterial or fungal infection.  A consultation with a veterinarian who specializes in the treatment of birds is an invaluable opportunity to change the quality of life of your bird.

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Foot Problems Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Cockatiel

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Growth On Foot

I just noticed this bulge on my birds foot just now. And I’m worried it might be a cyst that needs to be removed or built up puss in the foot. My questions are what do I do? And how do I fix it?

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There are not really any things that you can do at home to help that kind of problem, and the best thing to do for him would be to take him to see a veterinarian. They will be able to examine him, see what might be causing this problem on his foot, and let you know what treatment will help. I hope that everything goes well for your bird and he feels better soon.

Sept. 30, 2020

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Conure

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Not sure

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Painful Foot. Cannot Stand On It

My bird has a very painful foot. Swollen toes

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 21, 2020

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lutino

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One Month

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

my cockatail's beak turned blue and he is unable to walk and not wanting to eat. and every morning there is blood in his mouth

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 21, 2020

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Budgie

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Foot Infections

I have one budgie less than 1 year old , he has some white thing on his feet , pictures for treatment and cost

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is feeling better. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 22, 2020

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Conure

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5 months

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Broken Leg Foot Floppy

Our conure (bird) broke its leg. It has been to the vet, xrayed and splinted. It has been 8 days and his foot is floppy. He can’t move his toes. Is this normal until the leg break heals?

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Without seeing the splint, unfortunately, I'm not sure if it is normal for his toes to not be moving. It would be best, if you are worried, to call your veterinarian, let them know what you are noticing, and see if that is something they expected with the splint or if there may be a problem. They will be able to tell you more since they place the splint and know more about it. I hope that your bird heals well!

Aug. 3, 2020

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Dizzy

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cockatiel

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Small Cut
Yellow Skin
Swollen Joints
Hot Foot

he has been waddleing for a while but this morning it became worse and he hide his leg in his feathers. his leg is yellow i thought from poop and there is a small red spot that looks like cut. it is swollen before one joint and deflated in a way after said joint.

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Bleu

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Budgie

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Curled Toes, Feather Loss

My 2 year old budgie was doing absolutely fine but suddenly started feather plucking and is now almost completely bare except the head. Today I noticed it's toes are also curled but is otherwise active, eating and chirping. What could be the problem and how to help him?

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Cottonball

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Budgerigar

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Falling
Balance Issues
Unable To Grasp
Splayed Toes
Possible Trauma

Hi, my little budgie has been having issues with her left foot lately. She is unable to grab on to anything with it and has trouble balancing on perches which has led to her falling quite a bit. Her toes on that foot are splayed out completely and she cannot curl them. I am able to bend the toes by touching them so they are not completely stiff. It doesn’t seem to bother her when I do that but she is still unable to move them on her own. I am not sure if it might be from trauma. A couple weeks ago while cleaning her cage, she flew down to the floor and I heard her flapping around quite a bit. When I looked closer, her toes had gotten caught in the threading of my rug. I was able to slip her toes out and she seemed fine afterwards but I am afraid that maybe she broke something when she was trying to detach herself. The vet in my area can see exotic pets but he is not considered an avian expert and focuses his practice more on dogs/cats. If anyone has any idea of what might be going on or what I can do to help her, I would greatly appreciate it!

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Baby

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Budgerigar

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Not Using Leg
Discoloured Toe
Black Toe
Flinches In Pain
Possible Constriction

Hello! Today, my boyfriend walked downstairs to notice that his bird won't use one of its legs and its toe is black / discoloured. He's explained to me that his bird overall looks fine but is very tense due to it holding up its leg. His other foot is looking healthy and fine, but whenever he uses the foot with the black toe, he flinches in pain and holds it back up again. He sent me pictures of the cage that they're in, and there's a good chance that the bird's toe was constricted while holding onto one part of the top of the cage where there is a roof like structure made of wire. We don't have enough money to go to an avian vet, sadly.. Is there anything that we can do to help him?

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Haku

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Kakarikis

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3 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Slight Limp
Little To No Grip
Lifting Of The Foot

Basically, my bird has shown no signs of ill health up untill this point, and over the past few days he's started to lift his left foot when he isnt moving. (not tucking it up into his feathers, just slightly raising it off the floor) When i touch it, he doesnt seem to pull away as if in pain, but he also doesnt grab onto my finger, like he does with the other foot. I have also noticed that when he walks (he can fly but doesnt do it a lot) he hase a very slight limp. I dont know if i should be worried about this or if it's something that will just pass.

How can we help your pet?