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What are Lameness?

Lameness may also be a by-product of disease, such as kidney disease that causes lameness. With kidney disease, the nerve that goes to their legs passes through their kidneys and may be affected. Kidney disease is not uncommon in budgies. Chickens can suffer leg problems due to their rapid growth and weight. Tendon inflammation can become more common in older birds, while arthritis can cause lameness. A pet bird with overgrown nails may become lame. A lack of Vitamin D can also cause problems leading to this condition. Depending on the severity and cause, recovery is guarded.

Lameness can originate from different things such as sprains, infectious cuts on the foot, dislocation of the hips, muscle damage and your bird’s dietary deficiencies.

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Symptoms of Lameness in Birds

  • Trembling legs
  • Sudden or gradual limp causing problems as he moves around 
  • An abscess may be visible
  • Swelling caused by sprains or injuries 
  • Legs can feel hot combined with swelling 
  • Bent or twisted legs at the hock joint
  • Reluctance to move

Causes of Lameness in Birds

  • Problems with walking caused through dietary imbalances can respond rapidly to adjusting the diet and providing vitamin supplements and quality feed 
  • Viral, bacterial or infectious causes need medication to clear them up, and possible adjustments and treatments of your bird’s environment 
  • Cuts, injuries, cracks in the skin or foot all need cleaning, medicating and dressing, with adjustments to the environment to prevent reoccurrence  
  • Disease such as kidney damages requires more intensive treatments, hospitalisation, and supportive care 
  • Staphylococcus bacteria can cause a swollen abscess underneath the foot making walking difficult (this condition is called bumblefoot) 
  • Tumors within your bird’s body can put pressure on internal organs and interfere with the blood supply to the feet 
  • Arthritis  (often in your older bird or it may occur from improper perches)
  • Gout, which can occur in older birds that are fed mostly seeds or pellets 
  • Overgrown toenails can cause lameness in confined birds
  • Hard cold damp ground in some cases 
  • Broken or injured legs or feet 
  • Cuts or splinters in the foot 
  • Dietary conditions

Diagnosis of Lameness in Birds

Lameness can be caused by cuts on the legs or feet, swelling, abscess or diet deficiency. Your avian specialist will be able to find out what is causing this condition so action can be taken to cure your bird. Specific treatments to overcome the cause will be advised, and may include modifying the diet or the commencement of possible supportive therapies for your bird. Sometimes, the condition is unable to be cured, but your bird can still enjoy an improved quality of life if managed and supported correctly.

If kidney disease is suspected, a full diagnosis must be done including blood tests, x-rays and even ultrasonography, although the use of these are limited in birds. With a laparoscopy, your specialist can observe the kidneys directly. A biopsy of the kidney may be needed to access the kidney at a cellular level. Bloodwork, and often clinical signs,  can point to a vitamin deficiency. An examination of your bird by an experienced professional may reveal a cause that you were not aware of, such as a minute cut or crack in the claw.

Treatment of Lameness in Birds

There are many treatments that can be utilised to heal your bird.s foot or legs, depending on your veterinarian’s diagnosis. The treatments may include modifying your bird’s diet to a lower protein diet, offering nutritional supplements, or possibly hospitalisation to enable supportive therapy to be applied such as fluids and vitamins. The use of an antibiotic or antiviral medication may be needed, if the cause of the condition is viral or due to an infection.

Keeping your pet in a separate cage as he recovers will speed up the recovery process. Keep your bird in a small enclosure within view of the rest of your birds to reassure it. This separation is often necessary as other birds may bully the injured bird causing extra damages.  Following the veterinarians prescribed treatment, adjusting the diet if necessary and feeding a quality feed provides your bird has the best chance of recovery.

Recovery of Lameness in Birds

Recovery requires patience and good management. Provide plenty of fresh water and food within easy reach of your bird. He may prefer a quiet environment as he recovers from the lameness. Ensure that the temperature is adequately warm, without being uncomfortable. Your veterinarian can advise on the best type of perch for your bird.