Bumblefoot In Birds – 9 Tips to protect your pet

Does your pet bird have an issue with its foot?  This could be what is called Bumblefoot. The medical term for bumblefoot in birds is ulcerative pododermatitis or a foot infection.  There are many things that can cause your bird to have Bumblefoot, and there are things that you can do to help prevent your bird from having bumblefoot. 

If you think that there is anything wrong with your birds’ foot, it would be best for your bird to see your vet right away as some issues can lead to much bigger issues or even the loss of a toe or leg.

What is Bumblefoot (Ulcerative Pododermatitis)?

Bumblefoot is an infection on the bottom of your bird’s feet.  This occurs when the bird is standing on hard surfaces for too long or has an injury to their foot, causing an infection. Usually, your bird is overweight. It will cause more pressure on the underside of their feet. This pressure will cause the tissue to die and slough off. 

These wounds are an excellent place for bacteria to grow and ulcerations to happen (image source).

Bumble Foot on African Grey

What causes bumblefoot?

There are many different causes of bumblefoot, such as:

  • Hard, uneven, or rough floor or cages
  • Incorrectly designed or perches covered with the wrong material (small diameter perch or one that has been covered with wood or burlap). Look for natural wood and rope perches
  • Overweight
  • Damp and unclean bedding
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Overgrown toenails
  • A cage that has not been properly cleaned and has accumulated feces
  • Overall unsanitary environment
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of activity
  • Previous leg or foot injury
  • Fighting between other birds in the same cage
  • Leg or conformation abnormality

If you think that your bird has bumblefoot, trying to correct the issues that you may notice that are causing bumblefoot will help them heal. If your bird is displaying any signs of bumblefoot, it would be best for them to see your vet right away. Many of these issues can cause permeant damage to not only your bird’s legs but also other organs in their body. With early detection and treatment, your bird can quickly recover.

What are the signs seen in a bird with Bumblefoot?

Bumblefoot on Parakeet

There are many signs that you may see in a bird with bumblefoot. These are some signs that you may notice in your bird suggesting that your bird has bumblefoot (source image)

  • Mild symptoms of bumblefoot are when the bottom of your bird’s feet become red and swollen
  • Moderate signs of bumblefoot include pus, ulceration, and scabs on the underside of your bird’s feet.
  • Severe signs include bone and tendon involvement which leads to an abnormal stance.

Your bird may also not be eating or showing other signs of illness due to the pain and infection in their feet.  If you notice any of these issues with your bird, it would be best for your bird to see your vet right away.  With early invention and treatment, your bird’s feet will quickly be able to heal, and they will be able to return to normal.

How does your Vet Diagnose Bumblefoot?

Birds with bumblefoot will need to see a vet for diagnosis and proper treatment.  Your vet will make sure that there is nothing more severe in your bird’s feet.  They will examine your bird’s feet.  These are some of the diagnostic tests that they may recommend.

  • Radiographs (X Rays):  This will make sure that there is not an infection in the bone that may cause your bird to have further issues.  It will also see if there is any damage to the joints and ligaments.
  • Bacterial Culture: In severe cases, your vet may want to take a sample of the feet to see what type of bacteria is growing and what antibiotic is sensitive to these bacteria. 
  • Bloodwork:  Your vet may also recommend that your bird has bloodwork done to make sure that all other organs are functioning correctly.  This can also make sure that the infection has not spread to the rest of their body. 

How do you treat bumblefoot in birds?

The treatment of Bumblefoot all depends on the severity of the disease and what is causing your bird to have issues with their feet. These are some common things that you can do to help treat Bumblefoot in birds.  

Keep your bird’s feet clean

You should at least keep your bird’s feet and cage as clean as possible.  You will need to change their living environment to make perches and other surfaces soft and not damaging to your bird’s feet. 

Clean your bird’s cage

If your bird has bumblefoot, the infection on the bottom of their feet can get on things in their cage and cause your bird to have issues healing as they are constantly reinfecting the wounds on their feet. Make sure that you are thoroughly clean and disinfect everything in their cage.  Once everything is clean, make sure it is dry before putting it back into their cage.  If it is something that cannot be cleaned, it would be best to get a new one once their feet have healed.

Give your Bird antibiotics

If you notice that your bird’s feet are having issues, it is best to see your vet.  They will start your bird on oral antibiotics and antibiotic ointment to put on your bird’s feet.  They may also give you a cleaner to use to keep your bird’s feet clean.

Bandage your Birds feet

If your bird’s feet are severely injured, your vet may want to place bandages on your bird’s feet to help them heal and keep bacteria from entering these wounds.

Surgery for your Bird

In severe cases, your bird may need surgery to remove any infected tissues on your bird’s feet or treat any abscesses that may be there.  This will help save your bird’s feet and, ultimately, your bird’s life.  In severe cases, your bird will be on antibiotics to help clear the infection and pain medication or anti-inflammatory medication to help with any pain that your bird may have. 

Isolate your bird

If your bird has bumblefoot, it is best to keep them isolated from any other birds.  While this infection cannot be directly transmitted to your other birds, it can cause your sick bird to become stressed with other birds around. 

How long does bumblefoot take to heal?

It takes about 10 to 14 days for your bumblefoot to heal in your bird for mild to moderate cases.  In more severe cases, it can take weeks to months for your bird’s feet to return to 100% normal. 

Severe cases require cleaning and treating many times a day as well as bandage applications.  In severe cases, you will have to give oral and topical medications to your bird while it is healing. 

What happens if you don’t treat bumblefoot?

Many times, your bird will rarely improve without the proper treatment.  Mild cases can clear up with just changing the few things that may be wrong in their cage.  These can also clear up with just a few days of a topical medication.  This is why it is advised to start treatment as soon as you notice that there is something wrong with your bird’s feet.
If you do not treat bumblefoot, this infection can spread to other places in your bird’s body, infect surrounding tissues and even the bones in their foot.  Once this infection has spread thru your bird’s body, it is usually fatal. 

How to prevent my bird from getting bumblefoot?

There are many things that you can do to help prevent your bird from getting bumblefoot.  These are some of the most common things that you can do to prevent your bird from developing bumblefoot (image source).

Bumblefoot on Parrot
  • Make sure that their cage is clean.  The proper hygiene will help keep any scratch that they may develop an infection from unsafe conditions.
  • Make sure that their perch is the correct size.  You will need to make sure that your bird’s perch is not too big or too small for their feet.  A good rule of thumb to follow is that your bird’s feet should wrap 2/3rd to 3/4th around the perch.
  • Examine your bird’s feet a few often: Every time that you take your bird out of their cage, you should look at their feet.  A quick glance at their feet every day or two will help you detect any issues before they develop into major health problems.
  • See your vet when something is off: If something ever just does not seem right in your bird, take them to your vet right away.  Early detection and treatment will help your bird quickly return to normal.
  • Do not overfeed your bird:  Overfeeding your bird not only leads to health issues but also this extra weight puts extra pressure on the bottom of your bird’s feet.  Keep your bird at a lean and healthy body weight will help decrease the extra pressure on your bird’s feet.
  • Feed your bird a good diet:  Make sure that you are feeding your bird a good diet.  Nutrition is key to helping keep your bird healthy and happy.  If they are only eating junk food and they get sick, it will be harder for them to recover from this infection.
  • Remove objects that can cause harm:  Check your bird’s cage for any object that could injury them.  If you notice that something in their cage is broken or could cause a wound on the bottom of their feet, remove this from their cage and replace it with something new that will not hurt them. 
  • Keep nail trimmed:  Your bird will need to have their nails trimmed if they keep growing long.  Keeping your bird’s nails trimmed short will help them be able to grip their perch without any issues.  You can easily learn how to do this at home, or your vet can trim your bird’s nails for you. 
  • Do not keep birds that do not like each other together: If you have more than one bird, make sure that they like each other before leaving them in a cage alone together.

Many times, bumblefoot is easily prevented.  Following these few steps, you can keep your bird from developing bumblefoot or at least catching an issue early so that you can get your bird started on the proper treatment.

Final Thoughts

Bumblefoot in birds can cause severe injury to your bird’s feet.  If your bird seems like it is painful for them to stand on their feet or if they have any sores on their feet, it would be best for your vet to examine their feet for possible bumblefoot.  Early treatment can help your bird quickly recover. 

With proper care and diet, as well as following these preventative measures, you can easily prevent bumblefoot from happening.  Working with your vet to ensure that your bird’s environment and diet are correct will help your bird live a long and healthy life without any issues.

by Sara Ochoa

Sara is our trusted guide through the animal care world. As a veterinarian, she ensures that our articles and recommendations are accurate. She is a licensed veterinarian graduating from St. George University. Sara specializes in small and exotic animal care and has a passion for surgery. She has dreamed of being a veterinarian since she was a little girl, and lives her passion everyday.

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