Margaret A. Wissman, DVM
Posted: January 21, 2013, 5:00 p.m. PST
Because birds and parrots are constantly on their feet a number of foot conditions can arise, including sores, tendonitis, arthritis, injuries from falls, infected claws, infection and bumblefoot. Lesions may also form on the feet and legs of an Amazon parrot that involve seasonal irritation and self-mutilation (known as Amazon foot necrosis).
By Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio/Courtesy Maria Brown
Amazon parrots may develop Amazon foot necrosis.
Improper perch size, diameter, shape and placement likely contribute to many of these conditions. A perch that is too big could result in pressure sores on the bottom of the foot. Birds can fall off their perches while sleeping if they are of improper size. Blisters can sometimes form from tar and nicotine from cigarettes found on a smoker’s hands and fingers that is then transferred to the bird, irritating its feet. Allergens may be the cause of sores or blisters that occur seasonally, especially in Amazon parrots. Bacterial or mycoplasmal infections can affect the bones and joints of the foot. Puncture wounds can result in infection involving the deeper tissues of the foot.
A full avian veterinarian checkup is called for and biopsies, cultures, cytology, radiographs (x-rays), blood test and others may be necessary to diagnose any problems to hopefully avoid recurring foot conditions if the initial problems involved sores, blisters or lesions. Antibiotics will usually be prescribed due to primary and/or secondary infections. Your avian veterinarian may also recommend topical medications to sooth the affected area.
Birds should have a variety of perch sizes, but ideally, they need a perch where their feet wrap around 75 percent. Even within a species, birds’ foot size varies, making it important to not decide on perch sizes based solely on the species. Provide your bird three perches — one for sleeping that is perfectly fit for maximum comfort (where the bird’s feet wrap around 75 percent), and two others of differing materials and sizes.
Always wash lotions, creams, soaps or residue from smoking from your hands before handling your bird.
If your bird is overweight, discuss an exercise and nutrition plan to encourage weight loss, which will minimize pressure to the feet and joints.
Disclaimer: BirdChannel.com’s Bird Health Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.