Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bumble Foot in Parrots

Pat Phillips, a long time parrot advocate, trainer and student of behavior analysis was kind enough to provide a guest blog post. Her post covers a very important topic related to parrot health. I hope you will find this post educational and helpful to you and the parrots in your lives. Thanks Pat for sharing!

Bumble Foot in Parrots
By Guest Blogger Pat Phillips

When was the last time that you looked at your parrots’ feet…really looked at them, both top and bottom? What would it take for you to become aware of a foot problem? A limp? Lack of movement? A toe slightly out of place?

In June 2013, when Babe, an Umbrella Cockatoo, joined our family, Bumble foot became a major issue in our lives. The day after her arrival Babe had x-rays done on both feet. The diagnosis: Stage 3 bordering on Stage 4 Bumble foot in her left foot; Stage 2 Bumble foot in her right foot. Babe was immediately put on a three week course of antibiotics to halt the spread of this insidious disease.

I’m not a newbie to parrots. I’m now in my third decade of caring for and learning from and about these beautiful, intelligent creatures. At one time my husband and I had a flock of seventeen, all of whom came to us from less than desirable circumstances. For many of those years I took my birds to a highly skillful and knowledgeable avian veterinarian, who taught me as she treated my birds. So, probably, like you, I’d heard about Bumble foot. I even knew, from pictures in books and on the internet what the first indication of Bumble foot is. What I’ve never done, and now strongly advise you to do, is make a point of looking at my birds’ feet…every day. You no doubt look carefully at your birds’ droppings when you change cage papers. It’s become a part of your cage cleaning ritual. Do the same with feet. When your bird is hanging on the bars of the cage, make a point of looking at the bottoms of their feet. When your bird is walking on the table or floor for example, a quick look will tell you if all toes are pointed in the correct direction. If you don‘t look you won’t see that little, smooth, red spot(s) on the bottom of one or both feet. If you don’t look, you won’t see a slightly swollen joint, or a back-facing toe migrating to the side or the front.

What is Bumble foot? The past three months represent a fairly steep learning curve for me. And I still have several important questions to be answered. When Babe joined us in June, her left foot was badly deformed with three toes facing forward and one back and tucked under; she actually walks on that back toe.

Her right foot retained a normal appearance.  Her previous caregiver does not believe that parrots get Bumble foot and had diagnosed Babe’s problem as arthritis. (All species of birds can suffer from Bumble foot although it’s not often seen in the wild.) So, six weeks later when Babe received proper treatment, her left foot was irreparable and we could only hope we had halted the progression of the disease in her right foot. Today, Babe’s right foot is slowly and gradually going the way of her left. And I’m fearful of her next vet visit.

I seem to have veered off topic a bit. I intended to tell you what I understand Bumble foot to be. Bumble foot is an inflammation of the feet that starts out as a wearing thin of the skin on the bottom of the feet. It presents as a small, smooth, red spot(s). It’s caused by walking or standing for extended periods, on a hard, irregular surface like an uneven cement floor and cement or sandpaper perches. Older, obese or disabled birds with limited mobility can also get Bumble foot from standard wooden perches. If not caught and treated with antibiotics at this early stage, lesions form from which the infection penetrates to the joints of the foot and bones in the leg. The necrosis of the tendons in the feet deforms them. The next treatment step is surgery. Surgery entails removing as much as possible of the closed abscesses or plugs of pus and dead tissue and inserting antibiotics to kill the rest. For me, the most disturbing part of this intervention is that most birds that have endured this surgery go on to require amputation. I’ve got your attention now, don’t I?

To recap: During my research on Bumble foot on the computer, I’ve found that some experts describe the progression of the disease through 8 stages. Others use four stages. To my mind, the important information is:

1)    The beginning of Bumble foot is quickly and easily recognized in regular, routine examination of your bird’s feet.

2)    During the early stages of Bumble foot, it can be dealt with effectively with antibiotics.

3)    You and your bird do not want to get this far. The prognosis is not positive.

Patricia A. Phillips
September 2013

Posted with permission by Good Bird Inc
Click here for help for parrot behavior problems.