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This condition, also known as “bumblefoot”, is pretty common among older birds and can range from mild redness (a sign of inflammation) to more serious bony changes in the foot of the avian. Pododermatitis is found predominantly in birds of prey, waterfowl and other marine birds which are in captivity or some sort of rehabilitative care. This condition is frequently found in birds of the Psittacine family as well as heavy-bodied birds like the Amazon and Hyacinth macaws.
Pododermatitis can include a number of changes to the avian foot such as lesions, redness, ulcerations, and abscesses. This condition is fairly common among older birds.
Pododermatitis is also sometimes called “plantar pododermatitis” as it describes the location of the injury to the foot of the avian. Some of the symptoms you will most likely see if this condition exists in your bird:
Hard, pus-filled abscess located on the pad of the foot - will likely be coated with a black scab
These symptoms can also sometimes be seen on the toes and hocks as well as the pads of the feet.
There are four basic types of pododermatitis in birds:
Type 1 - Serious chronic infection with disseminated cellulitis (inflammation of connective tissue) in the metatarsal pads of one or more digits (pads near the toes)
Type 3 - Presents an independent lesion with thickened skin, localized swelling and redness
There are multiple causes of pododermatitis or bumblefoot. Below is a list of some which have been linked to development of the condition:
Occurs when birds are housed with inappropriate perching - this is the most common cause
Any combination of these factors can put your bird at risk for systemic infections which can lead to tissue and ultimately bone damage.
Diagnosis is going to be based on the combination of description of your history of the malady to your veterinary professional, his findings from a physical examination and laboratory culture reports from blood and tissue samples he will likely deem appropriate. During his physical examination of your bird, he will be looking for calluses or nodules of hyperplastic epidermis (abnormal skin tissue) along the plantar surface of the feet of your bird.
These are the earliest signs of the condition and are frequently not noticed until the condition worsens, progressing to ulceration, infection and ultimately leading to deeper infections in surrounding tissues which includes tendons and bones. Additionally, he will likely require radiographic (x-ray) imaging to add to his findings from the above mentioned diagnostic components. As he collects all of this information, your veterinary professional will be examining and assessing your bird for any illnesses or injuries to which the bird may have been predisposed.
Based on the findings by your veterinary professional, he will likely recommend:
It is important to note that many cases of pododermatitis in birds are mild and, when appropriate treatment is provided in a timely manner, the condition will resolve. However, it is also very important to note that, in some cases, the disease doesn’t respond to any of the treatment modalities and the afflicted bird will not flourish. The rate of morbidity is about 50 percent for those birds whose wounds are considered advanced as the opportunity for infection is significantly greater. The prognosis for healing and resolving the condition is better when the lesion is soft and pliable than when the lesion becomes hard as a rock.
After the appropriate treatment is recommended and initiated, it may be necessary, especially in the case of open wounds or ulcerations, that you may be required to administer supportive care at home while the healing takes place. You should expect to separate the treated bird and allow it a rest in deep bedding, with recommended dressing changes and nutritional changes. Be prepared for the healing process to take weeks or months of care and close monitoring.
In terms of prevention, closely monitor the body of your pet bird with attention paid to any areas of injury, pay particular attention to perching issues especially as they apply to materials used and the height of the perch, environmental hygiene issues involving manual litter removal and keeping the coop clean, providing deep bedding for your avian pets.
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