Common Foot Problems In Parrots And How To Prevent Them By Joan Napolitano  

Your parrot spends 100% of its time on its feet (unless of course, he's a Senegal - those little guys really like to relax on their backs!). Therefore, knowledge of foot care for the bird owner is of utmost importance.

Perches should be of different diameters and should vary in size. Do not limit your bird to one perch. Natural tree limbs such as Manzanita make the best perches because of a variety of diameters and textures - all in one branch. Manzanita is too hard for most birds to chew, so it lasts a long time. It can be slippery though, so you may have to score it with sandpaper to get the perch rough enough to provide a slip proof surface. Please clean thoroughly after sand-papering.

If you choose a natural wood as a perch, make sure it is from a non-poisonous tree and that it has not been sprayed with insecticides.

Provide a nice large swing for the bigger birds, they seem to enjoy swinging as much as the budgies! Remember to wipe down perches and swings at least once a week.

Claws or toenails can present problems. If a baby bird's nails are trimmed too short, they may fall off the perch and can become injured or overly stressed. This does not make for a happy baby, especially in young African Greys, who seem to be naturally clumsy. Adult birds whose nails are too long can leave painful scratches in their owner's arms and can also injure themselves. Overgrown nails in budgies and canaries can prevent proper perching or can get caught in toys presenting other dangers. Keep your pet's nails trimmed and safe.
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If you trim them yourself, have a bottle of Kwik-Stop handy, just in case you trim them too low and they bleed. Try not to do this, as it is painful. Usually just taking off the point of the tip is enough. Do not to use any product like Kwik-Stop on any open wounds. It contains ingredients that can damage soft tissue. If your bird has a bleeding pinfeather, for example, try cornstarch as a coagulant instead. If toenail bleeding is profuse, or does not stop within a 2-3 minutes, you may need to call your avian veterinarian. Additionally, some conures suffer from a vitamin deficiency (vitamin A) that affects the blood's clotting factor (Conure Bleeding Syndrome). Talk to your avian vet about this if your conure has experienced profuse bleeding from a simple nail clipping. If you prefer not to trim your bird's nails yourself, many pet shops provide this service for a nominal fee. Make sure, however, that they do not take the bird into another room or away from your view. This is unnecessary (if they perform the procedure correctly) and can further stress the bird. (Regarding wing clips: if you own an African grey, it is best to have your bird clipped by someone with lots of experience in clipping greys. A short wing clip on a grey can result in serious injury to the bird.).

Many parrot owners use cement perches to keep their birds nails trimmed. If you do, regularly check the bottom of your bird's feet for sores or pink spots (signs of irritation). Some cement perches may damage their feet. Inspect cement perches once a week and clean them monthly in a solution of bleach and water. Be sure to rinse well and dry completely before replacing the perch. In any event give your parrot a variety of perches to choose from because variety, as they say, is the spice of life!

NEVER use sand paper perch covers, because they are designed for the smaller birds. These are proven to damage the feet and are quite uncomfortable. How would you like to walk barefoot on sandpaper all day?
I'm not too crazy about the sand or grit covered cage bottom material either. There is much controversy over the feeding of "grit" to smaller psittacines such as budgies and tiels and grit is what is covering those cage bottom liners. In the wild, budgies often feed on the ground which means they may spend lots of time discovering what's on the bottom of their cages. Having a cage grate will keep them off the bottom of the cage. Using white paper toweling or black and white newspaper is a good choice and in the long run healthier. Change paper daily.

Many health problems can be readily observed by a thorough examination of your bird's feet. Peeling or scaly-looking feet could indicate long-standing nutritional problems,such as Vitamin A deficiency. Dry-looking feet could be caused by malnutrition or dehydration. Have your avian veterinarian check your bird's feet during his next checkup.

Many older birds will have cracked feet - a good indication of age in a bird who's age is questionable!
Sometimes a healthy bird will suddenly and aggressively chew on his feet. Although this syndrome is rare, it does require immediate veterinary attention. These birds may need to be temporarily collared to prevent further mutilation and to prevent this type of behavior from becoming habitual.

If you are afraid your bird is in a room that is too chilly, check his feet. If they are cool or cold to the touch, turn up that thermostat! If your bird escapes during the cold weather months, upon its return, its feet should be thoroughly and immediately checked for frost bite. (Keep wings trimmed and this should not occur!)

Some other serious foot ailments found in birds:
Gout -
Symptoms include restlessness, toes extended and swollen, and small round white spots adjacent to one or more toe joints. Cause is not yet known but disease has been linked to excesses of protein and Vitamin D or calcium, to a deficiency of Vitamin A, or to liver problems. Consult your avian veterinarian.

Cnemidokoptes mites (or scaly leg, scaly face) - Symptoms: Raised white crusty lumps on feet, "tassels" of skin on feet and legs. Good hygiene
practices will keep mites in check. Cage should be thoroughly cleaned, and
all wooden toys, and perches discarded to prevent re-infestation. Consult your avian veterinarian for treatment.

Bumblefoot - Symptoms: Lameness, swelling of foot, lesions that discharge a white substance. Infection usually results from a previous injury or by using sandpaper perches. Poor nutrition and poor sanitation can contribute. This is transmissible to other birds if they come in contact with infected bird's discharge. If left untreated, it can be very serious resulting in loss of toes, foot or even life as disease progresses.

Arthritis - Symptoms: Lameness, obvious inflammation of the joints, and
loss of function of joint. Make food cups and perches easy to reach. Pad
perches if necessary. Consult your avian veterinarian for the latest treatment.

NSHP - A disorder of the parathyroid glands caused by inadequate calcium. The symptoms that involve the feet are: Swollen and inflamed feet and toes are clenched or twisted over one another. See your avian veterinarian for treatment.
Checking out those little tootsies can save you and your parrot lots of serious problems. Pay attention to your pet's feet.


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