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What are Paralysis?

Depending on your bird and his age or health status, there may be many causes that instigate this condition. It usually affects the legs either in one or both limbs, rendering your bird quite helpless. Some birds can recover in a few days, others take much longer, or they may succumb to the disease that caused it. It is important to get your avian veterinarian's advice on treatment for your paralysed bird. They will be able to rule out certain diseases or deficiencies and then make an analysis of the remaining facts and symptoms.

Paralysis can occur quickly in your bird, and it is hard to determine what causes it due to many diseases having paralysis as a symptom.

Symptoms of Paralysis in Birds

  • Inability to hold their neck up (potential of drowning because of this when the bird is near water) 
  • Your bird may be unable to control the third eyelid or neck muscles 
  • Paralysis can lead to predation with the bird unable to move to safety
  • Inability to use their legs and wings to move around 
  • Water and food deprivation can result in death 
  • Inability to perch properly

Types

 

Paralysis can affect birds either partially or fully; in some cases, one leg is affected while in others both legs lose feeling and function. This will result in the bird’s inability to stand. The condition can be of sudden onset or may be a progressive event whereby it advances slowly.

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Causes of Paralysis in Birds

  • Disease based paralysis – Several diseases have paralysis as a symptom including Marek’s disease in young chickens, and spastic leg paralysis in parrots including Rainbow Lorikeets, whereby your bird has difficulty clutching the branch because of clenched toes
  • Calcium deficiency or vitamin D deficiency
  • Tumors
  • Toxic causes of paralysis include exposure to nicotine tobacco products such as cigarette smoke 
  • Nerve damage caused by injury (the paralysis may resolve itself as the injury heals)
  • Viral diseases and infection 
  • Kidney problems can cause paralysis on one or both sides 
  • The parts of your bird’s body that may be affected include the neck (with the inability to hold the head up or eat) and the wings and the legs
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Diagnosis of Paralysis in Birds

As in the case with any bird health problem, it is advisable to seek your veterinarian’s advice as early diagnosis and treatment may save your pet's life. It is easier to treat a disease in its initial stages than to try and attack it once it has established itself. Your veterinarian or avian specialist will examine your bird and ask about its history. They will want to know the type of home your bird has (aviary or cage, indoor or outdoor), whether any other birds are showing signs of paralysis, and what type of diet your bird is on.

Sometimes it can just be limited access to natural sunlight causing a nutritional deficiency (vitamin D). Birds on the same diet, day in and day out, may also have malnutrition in some vital areas. Diagnosis is made by excluding other causes of the disease. Tests for viral or disease footprints will allow him to determine what is causing your birds suffering. Often radiography, hematology, fecal smears and other such tests will be done to determine the cause.

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Treatment of Paralysis in Birds

The treatment will vary depending on the cause of your bird’s condition, but even more so it will depend on the health or visible symptoms that are apparent. In a lot of cases, the exact cause is unknown, so treatment begins with treating obvious signs such as infections. Broad spectrum antibiotics can cure a bacterial cause. A change of diet and added supplements can help build up a weakened immune system or nutritional deficiency. Adding full spectrum lamps to provide healthy UVA and UVB rays during winter can help your bird. Corticosteroids and vitamin injections may be required, or fluid therapy during the first 24 -48 hours by injection may help. 

If your bird’s foot is clenched, the veterinarian may suggest exercising the foot by gently stretching it open to its normal shape, then moving the legs around as though it was bicycling. This may help the limb to restore the blood flow and get the leg moving again. There is no known ‘paralysis’ cure, it is a matter or excluding other causes and then making a treatment to suit the remaining facts. For some birds that are totally paralysed, you have to consider the quality of life and make the decision whether it may not be kinder to put the bird to sleep. If it is an aggressive disease, supportive care is the only solution.

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Recovery of Paralysis in Birds

Some birds can recover fully in a few days or weeks. Your bird may remain with a clenched foot due to the paralysis, and it can live a relatively normal life. Birds tend to accept things and get on with life, and to date, there are no studies on how long a bird with a clenched foot will live. Having a caring home, your bird will live longer than its wild cousins. Sometimes if the paralysis only affects one leg, massage and exercising the leg along with continuing the treatment your specialist advises is enough to allow some use to return to the limb. Diet and lifestyle (clean cage, fresh water, sunlight) play a large part in the health of your bird. Your bird needs variety in his diet to ensure he is fully nourished and has all the vitamins and minerals he needs.

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Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Yellow footed green pigeon

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<1 year

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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

Partial Paralysis In Legs

It isn't possible to visit a avian vet due to unavailability of the same. Anything we can do in terms of physiotherapy to help it regain movement

yesterday

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, without knowing why your birds legs are not working, it is difficult to say what might help as far as physiotherapy. If you do not have access to an avian veterinarian, it may help to talk to knowledgeable Veterinary technicians in your neighborhood, or bird rescue organizations, as they often are a wealth of information. I hope that all goes well for your bird.

yesterday

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Umbrella cockatoo

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2 yrs

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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

Not Moving Around Or Vocal And Not Eating Drinks Water

What would cause bird not to eat or move around

yesterday

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm sorry that your bird is not feeling well. There are many reasons that a bird may not feel good and may not move around or eat. Since birds do not tend to show sickness until they are quite ill, it would be best to have your bird seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. I hope that your bird is okay.

yesterday

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Affenpinscher

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Four Months

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Unknown severity

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3 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Eyes Open, Motionless, Neck Crooked

A toy hit my budgie on the head it was fine for awhile but when I went back to check on it it’s motionless. Could it be dead?

Aug. 19, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Hello I'm so sorry your bird was injured. Pick him up and check for breathing. Also, I recommend that you take him to a veterinarian right away. He may have head trauma. Good luck.

Aug. 19, 2020

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Affenpinscher

dog-age-icon

Four Months

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

Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Eyes Open, Motionless, Neck Crooked

A toy hit my budgie on the head it was fine for awhile but when I went back to check on it it’s motionless. Could it be dead?

Aug. 19, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello I'm so sorry your bird was injured. Pick him up and check for breathing. Also, I recommend that you take him to a veterinarian right away. He may have head trauma. Good luck.

Aug. 19, 2020

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Parakeet

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3 month

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Unknown severity

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3 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

Suddenly my new pet parakeet has paralysis and he cannot move his legs. I’ve been hand taming him all day and he fell off his cage several times when trying to climb it. Now he’s suddenly stopped being able to move his body.

Aug. 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It sounds like he needs to see a veterinarian, as that sounds quite serious. He may have a toxin ingestion or a parasite. I hope that he is okay.

Aug. 11, 2020

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Dialer

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Bird

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Inability To Grip

My 12 year old budgie has suddenly become ill and fluffed and unable to perch well. She seems unable to grip and her feet stick straight out. I took her to the emergency vet and without diagnostic tests they couldn't determine the cause. I have another appointment with a different vet soon because there has been no change in her behavior. She is resting and sleepy at the bottom of the cage and struggles to get around on her legs.

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None

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Red

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Immobility
Wound
Feather Loss
Wound Above Tail

Wild red bird can’t use either leg. I saw bird get into a fight with two blue birds in mid air. When I witnessed feathers faking from the sky the bird fell to the ground. A cat went and found him and when I recovered him from the cat you see missing feathers, a shallow wound from the cat holding him and he can not use either leg. He is very lively and can fly very very short distances. He moves around by flapping wings and hoping. Can not turn over when he flips. Any suggestions on how I can help him at home.

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n/a

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Mynah

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3 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Cant Get Up

a baby bird (fledging) fell from its nest (on our roof). we returned it but it fell again. i am taking care of it for 3 days now. It can flap its wings but it cant walk. i dont know what to do.

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Rio

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African lovebird

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8 Months

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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

Drooping Left Wing
Blackened Muscles
Reluctance To Drink Water
Not As Active As Before
Falls Immediately On Take Off

My bird hit his left rib side, underside of the left wing, on the fan a few days back. There was a minor cut and little bleeding. The cut seems healed by now. He has plucked out all the feathers in the area and i noticed that his muscles are blackened. He can’t fly now and his left wing is drooping. He’s still somewhat active, he eats enough, walks and perches. I think it might be a blood clot and that it will heal soon. Should i be worried about his drooping wing?

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Pumpkin

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Canary

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Paralysis

My daughters canary got attached by our cat. It lost tail feathers and had no puncture or wounds that we saw. It fell to the floor a couple if days after and injured its wing..thinking thats what happened because we didnt see damage to the wing from the cat. Next day seem a little lathargic and we gave him some electrolytes and he perched in from of tje window yesterday enjoying the sun..ate and drank. Last night fell off the perch..no far he was in a small cage. Today acting like its paralyzed. Cant stand ..head wobbling around. Gave more electrolytes and vitamin water with dropper and some colloidal silver.

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