As an often overlooked danger for older birds and birds with disabilities (that cause them to favor one leg) the condition goes by an innocuous sounding name: Bumblefoot.
The more scientific name is pododermatitis.
Why is it so dangerous?
It can result in suffering, amputation or death and it is easy to miss the initial warning signs!
What is Bumblefoot?
Bumblefoot refers to any infection or inflammation affecting the foot.
It often starts as a minor irritation on the bottom of the foot but can progress to an extremely serious condition. While it can occur at any age it is particularly common for older birds.
Even knowing about the condition I almost missed it.
I was so distracted by Bingo’s other health issues that I never noticed the bottom of her feet until it almost reached a critical stage.
My recommendation is to check BOTH feet regularly since sometimes only one foot is affected.
Lack of Variety in Perches
Perching in one spot
Similar diameter and materials
Favoring just a single perch
Lack of Vitamin A
Puts additional weight on the feet
Stage 1: Pink calluses or red shiny spots appear on the foot
Repetitive rubbing causes the skin to thin and lose protective scales. Bacteria easily passes through the thin skin resulting in stage 2.
The good news is that if you notice the problem at this stage you should be able to halt the progression!
Stage 2: Sores & Lesions
Those red and shiny/smooth spots develop into pressure sores (pododermatitis) after bacteria (staphylococcus bacteria) passes through the skin.
Without treatment the sores will only become more inflamed and the infection will spread.
Seek veterinary help immediately since antibiotics are most likely required. I go over my solution for administering liquid antibiotics in this post.
Should the sores progress to deep lesions they can be extremely difficult to cure.
Stage 3: Penetration
The sores turn dark blue or black as penetration occurs. If not halted the infection may penetrate the bone (omsteomyelitis) and eventually get into the bloodstream. Even with systemic medications, such as antibiotics, the infection may be life-threatening.
Amputation of toes or the entire foot may be required to halt the infection.
Again, seek veterinary help immediately!
Bingo was very close to stage 2 (sores & lesions) when I noticed the problem. She had already fought off multiple infections so I knew her immunity had to be low.
I took immediate action but it was months before I could see any visible change.
1. Disinfected perches and cage bars constantly for several months (more than my normal cleaning schedule) to limit the bacteria she came into contact with.
2. Provided multiple new perching options, most of which were rejected by Bingo. Luckily she decided the platform perch was acceptable.
3. Wrapped her favorite perch in vet wrap to provide additional cushioning.
4. Provided additional foods high in Vitamin A.
Note about Vet Wrap:
I highly recommend First Voice Sensi-Wrap Bandages from Amazon (50 yards for less than $15). It is identical to ‘vet wrap’ except it is intended for people and is MUCH cheaper.
Before & After
Notice how much less red her foot is now?
I still have to keep an eye on her feet but her feet are vastly healthier than they were previously.
So take a minute to look at your bird’s feet – even if they are uncooperative like Bingo.
Bumblefoot is a huge danger that is significantly easier to treat the earlier it is caught!