Bumblefoot Infection

Bumblefoot is a bacterial infection of the foot pad and cannot only damage a foot but also can lead to the bird’s death. It occurs mostly in captive cage or aviary birds and may be the result of improper housing or diet.

  •  Critical Preventive action

Feet of all Canaries should be checked by the breeder regularly every two weeks. Prevent and treat Foot infections by dipping the bleeding or infected feet in an iodine solution such as vanodine or betadine as needed. Clean and Disinfect Cages and perches; Provide vitamin A supplements and cut off diets high in fat and protein.

  •  Symptoms

Initially there may simply be a loss of the normal scale on the feet and the skin may be red and thin. As the conditions worsens ulcers may form on the pads of the feet, swollen joints in the feet or toes or pink calluses will be seen, with affected birds being unwilling to land, stand or grasp normally with one or both of their feet.

  •  Three Stages of Bumblefoot

1.       First Stage – Pink “calluses” appear. These abrasions to the lower surface of the foot feel hard and typically affect both feet. These “calluses” look like small pinkish or reddish areas or shiny patches that can show up on top as well as on the bottom of the feet. They are most often caused by inappropriate perches, such as hard plastic or dowelling perches or rough, sandpaper covered perches, or by perching on the same surfaces for too long.

2.       Second Stage – Sores / lesions: As the affected feet have lost their protective scales, bacteria on unclean perches or other surfaces the birds come in contact with result in an infection. The sores become redder and more inflamed. At this point, antibiotics are most likely needed, in addition to addressing the initial problem that caused the issue.

3.       Third Stage – If the first and second stages aren’t addressed, penetration of bacterial infection may occur. The sores turn dark blue or black. Severe distortion of the foot and/or toes and permanent damage to the foot or feet occurs. Birds experience pain and discomfort, and they will be seen lifting up their feet to help relieve their discomfort. Birds become severely lame, and surgery is usually the only chance for a completely recovery.

  •   Causes and Actions

1.        Perches / Surfaces: Unsuitable and unclean perches / standing and walking platforms – such as plastic perches, sharp-cornered perches, standard perches with uniform diameter – need to be exchanged to instead provide clean and VARIED perching surfaces. Natural perches with different circumferences and textures are preferred. Birds should be encouraged to perch in different places and varying surfaces.

2.         Hard or wire flooring should be covered with newspaper, soft towels or some other material to protect the feet, facilitate a more comfortable walking on the floor and speed the healing process.

Any surfaces a bird touches should be carefully sanitized and kept clean.

3.      Infections: Where some penetration has occurred, infections are likely to occur. If the infection is serious enough, antibiotics will be needed – such aserythromycin or penicillin, in addition to anti-inflammatories and antibiotics topically applied directly to the feet.

4.      Swelling: Some breeders report success in reducing the swelling by applying hemorrhoid cream to the affected foot. However, the underlying problems still need to be addressed.

5.      Nutrition: Poor quality diets result in malnutrition and obesity. Fatty diets and diets that are high in cholesterol or protein; or diets low in calcium are all associated with bumblefoot conditions.

6.      Vitamin A Deficiency: Some forms of bumble foot are caused by a vitamin A deficiency. Canaries mostly feeding on seeds, are particularly susceptible to it. Seeds are typically low in vitamin A. This vitamin promotes appetite, digestion, and also increases resistance to infection and to some parasites. The most obvious sign of a vitamin A deficiency is a feather stain above the cere (base of upper beak, or nostrils). The staining of the feathers above the nostrils reflects a discharge from the nostrils. A bird deficient in this vitamin may have pale, rough-looking feathers that lack luster. The cere may look rough instead of smooth, and you may see an accumulation of a yellow dry scale on the sides of the beak.

7.      Excess Protein: Stored, excess protein promotes the growth of internal bacteria which are excreted through the skin. In areas where there are feathers, those feathers will usually absorb the protein. In bare areas, such as the feet, these bacteria will present themselves as pink, red and then blue “calluses.” These most often show up on the bottom of the feet; however, may also appear on the top or on the tips of the toes, above or under the bird’s toenails.

It is important to reduce the protein in the bird’s diet to stop the progression of this condition.

  •  Treatment:

1.     In the first stage of the Bumblefoot: by dipping the infected feet in an iodine solution 3 to 4 times per day it will possibly heel the feet without using any antibiotic ointment.

2.     In the second and third stage of Bumblefoot: Before applying any topical antibiotics treatments, the lesion needs to be thoroughly cleaned. One recommendation involves soaking the affected foot in a shallow dish filled with warm water with Epsom Salt added to it. The Epsom Salt will draw out any toxins. Soaking the foot or feet will soften and remove any scab, which allows the lesion to drain any pus and debris. Finally, flush the cavity with hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound out and destroy any bacteria. Once the wound is clean, apply an antibiotic ointment (often Polysporin, CEH ointment, Echinacea and Hypericum]); and then carefully wrap the foot or feet with medical tape to keep the cavity clean and the ointment in place, and prevent the bird from chewing on it. The lesion needs to be cleaned and ointments reapplied twice a day until the feet appear healthy.

For complete healing antibiotics like erythromycin or penicillin can be provided to the bird orally, which should be provided by a Veterinarian.

If Bumblefoot is left untreated, the infection will eventually eat into the bone and travel to other parts of the body. This is a painful condition that can potentially be life threatening.


Yours in fancy,

Arben Bebeti