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.

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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


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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

No name
Red whiskered bulbul
3-4 years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Weak looks like t


Previously my uncle gave a song bird, it looks so active, i would say 100% healthy. Non stop singing (except when sleeping) but it was kept in a small box to deliver it to me, journey about 3-4 hours(estimated) but when i receive it looks so scare and weak (trauma?? I dont know), been keeping it about 2-3months, thank god its getting better, but still is not that healthy has before. Change food (pellets) & drink water daily, fresh fruits given daily, clean cage daily. Anything else that i miss out? What medication should i give? Please please help me

Mr Farhan

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
977 Recommendations

Songbirds can be quite sensitive especially when transported or moved to a new area; sometimes the trauma of the transport may cause behavioural changes (like with many animals) but I would expect that this would have been resolved within the past two or three months. When birds are transported in group of unfamiliar birds, infections may be passed one to the other which would need to be treated; also a new environment may have allergans which are affecting the bird. Check the food to ensure that it is a full complete diet for a songbird and check if there are any supplements available from your local pet shop; I cannot prescribe any prescription medications as I haven’t examined the bird. A visit to a local bird fancier's club to speak with them about common problems in your area (humidity, dust and other problems can affect a songbird severely). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

the bird i want to help is a wild one and its paralyzed because someone stepped on it well trying to help it....how do i help the bird by my self

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2 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

My pet bird only 2 months old does not sit properly by legs.Bird is unable to fly. Perhaps got paralysed. Sits on hand but does not sit straight.
Pl. tell what i can do. If any doctor nearby Vikaspuri New Delhi110018

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
977 Recommendations
There are various causes for a parakeet to not sit properly; these may include nutritional problems, tendon issues, trauma among other issues. It would be best to speak with a Veterinarian in your area, below I’ve added a link to a Veterinary Hospital in Vikas Puri, New Delhi - 110 018 (not sure if they deal with parakeets). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.dranandspetsclinic.com

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