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These mites are invisible to the naked eye, but they cause a crusty white growth on your bird’s feet and legs causing severe itching and restlessness. These mites also attack the facial area especially around the beak and eyes and can concentrate around the vent.
Left untreated, complications compromising your pet’s health can occur which can eventually result in death. If your bird gets infested with these mites, any other birds housed with it will need treatment as well.
Tassel foot, or scaly leg disease, is caused by the scaly leg mite (knemidocoptes mutans) that burrow into the limbs and toes of your bird.
At first, you may not be aware that your bird is suffering from this infestation. Then you may notice the legs and feet look a bit red and perhaps swollen, while your bird is acting differently and is a bit agitated. Then you will start to see the typical white lesions or crustiness starting to build up on your bird in the affected area. A trip to your avian veterinarian specialist is advisable to be able to treat this condition before it creates serious health related issues. Heavy crusting can cause your bird's claws to become deformed and overgrown. It can also result in lameness, and the inability to perch.
Your avian specialist will take scrapings of the affected parts of your bird’s body, and he will also check other areas such as the beak, wing tips and vent to ensure the mites have not spread further. Under a microscope, the mites are visible and easily confirmed as the cause of your bird’s discomfort. This diagnosis rules out other similar causes such as insect bites and infection. While your specialist is performing his physical examination, he will ask about the typical daily diet for your bird and may make suggestions for supplements to assist your bird’s health, such as Vitamin A which promotes increased resistance to infection and provides some protection against some parasites.
Tassel foot in your bird can be treated in several ways. Ivermectin is an insecticide which is widely used by veterinarians and is only available through their clinics. Other options available described below, may be utilised but it is best to have the approval of your veterinarian before moving forward. Avomectin and Moxidectin are products that may be available through reputable pet and bird stores without a prescription. Another option is a product called Scatt, which is proving to be very effective. It has a residual effect with one dose being effective for up to three weeks. Products such as Scalex Mite and Lice Spray for Birds are available at your local store and is effective in removing the scales of crustiness that build up. Don’t try to pick off the scales unless they are treated and have softened, or you could cause bleeding sores on your bird.
After consultation with and on the advice of your veterinarian, you may attempt to treat your bird by rubbing olive oil, baby oil, or paraffin oil on the feet and legs to suffocate the mites and soften the crusts for removal. Be careful how much oil you put on, or your bird’s feathers can become coated, and it is hard to remove. Moderation is the key. A holistic approach is to treat your bird with grapefruit seed extract (GSE). Using five to ten drops in one tablespoon of distilled water, you can dab this onto the affected area. You can also use one drop of GSE to every eight ounces of drinking water to treat from the inside out. But never use it full strength on your bird, and carefully avoid the eyes.
It may take a few weeks to get the mite infestation under control, but follow your avian specialist’s directions to complete the treatment. If you have more than one bird, they will all need treating to ensure the scaly mite is eradicated. Although the mites live on your bird, they can also burrow into the cracks in the timber inside a cage such as wooden perches and remain latent for several months before coming out to reinfect your bird again.
Thorough cleaning with a nontoxic cleaning material, and replacing any wooden structures will ensure that your birds home is safe and free from mites. If your bird is given antibiotics to prevent or heal any secondary bacterial infections, make sure you continue the treatment until the very end to ensure its effectiveness.
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