Paralysis in Birds

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Paralysis in Birds - Signs, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Paralysis in Birds - Signs, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Paralysis?

Depending on your bird and his age or health status, there may be many causes for 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 paralyzed 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 can be difficult to determine what causes it, as many diseases have paralysis as a sign.

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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

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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Worried about the cost of Paralysis treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

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 in birds 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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Paralysis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Yellow footed green pigeon

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<1 year

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34 found helpful

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34 found helpful

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

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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34 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.

Sept. 29, 2020

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Umbrella cockatoo

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2 yrs

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8 found helpful

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8 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Not Moving Around Or Vocal And Not Eating Drinks Water

What would cause bird not to eat or move around

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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8 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.

Sept. 29, 2020

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