parrot can't walk properly

Why Is My Parrot Limping? (Lame Foot, Curled Feet + Weak Legs)

There are many ways a parrot’s feet and legs can be adversely affected to the point of weakness, lameness, or limping. Some can be easily resolved, while others have a more serious explanation.

Parrots limp when their feet, toes, or legs are hurt. Injuries can range from a small cut or splinter to an infected abscess to a sprain or broken bone. Parrots can also develop joint and limb pain from uneven perches. A poor diet can result in weak limbs, lower immune systems, and bones more prone to breaking.

There are many causes of limping in parrots. However, most parrots display similar symptoms, including curled feet, weak limbs, awkward perching, and shifting from foot to foot. Provide quality perches, a healthy diet, and a clean cage that’s large enough for your parrot. This will keep its legs, toes, and feet in good condition.

Parrot Can’t Walk Properly

If your parrot can’t walk properly, this will lead to other issues. Although wild parrots rely on flying and walking, pet parrots use their feet for everything. If unable to walk, put weight on a single foot, or appear to limp, it will be:

  • Unable to feed itself
  • Struggle to navigate its cage
  • Unable to perch comfortably
  • Unable able to pick up or play with items

This can leave your parrot in constant pain. As the situation continues, the parrot may eventually be affected by arthritis, problems with its hips, and injuries to its healthy leg.

You need to find out the cause of limping and resolve it. The reason can be simple to fix, such as overgrown claws. However, it could be something more severe, such as a broken bone or infection.

Injury

Parrots can injure themselves from a fall or by catching a foot on their cage. They may also get into altercations with other pets or birds, leading to injury. Sadly, a parrot’s legs are somewhat brittle, so they can get:

  • Broken bones
  • Sprained muscles
  • Dislocated joints
  • Gashes, scratches, and open wounds

This can lead to the parrot being unable to walk, refusing to put weight on both legs, or limping. Over time, it can also lead to issues in the:

  • Toes
  • Ankles
  • Feet
  • Hips

If the limping is the result of an injury, it should appear right away. You might find that the parrot squawks loudly when it falls or screams when its foot is caught.

parrot with weak legs

Infections

Parrots may limp or have weak legs from bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Parrots are vulnerable to bumblefoot. This is a swollen abscess under the foot caused by staphylococcus bacteria.

Infections like psittacosis and avian mycobacteriosis don’t always need an injury to be an entry point. Once infected, your parrot may exhibit these external symptoms:

  • Visible wounds
  • Swollen areas on the body
  • Feverishly hot skin
  • Discolored and foul-smelling flesh
  • Pus or discharge

The signs of internal infection vary, depending on the illness. However, symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ruffled or unkempt feathers
  • Weight loss
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Labored breathing
  • Tail bobbing
  • Diarrhea
  • Eye, nose, and mouth discharge

Overgrown Claws

Overgrown claws cause parrots to hold their feet awkwardly or shift from foot to foot. Claws that aren’t properly trimmed affect your parrot’s ability to support its weight. This creates pressure on the toes, feet, and ankles.

This can become painful and will eventually cause limping. The toes and nails may also become malformed. The parrot’s stance will even be harmed, forcing it to perch at an angle or be unable to perch at all. Clear signs of overgrown claws in parrots include:

  • Long claws that begin to curl under the foot
  • An inability to lay their feet flat
  • Limping or an unwillingness to perch on certain surfaces

Improper Perches

If hung incorrectly, broken, or made of non-parrot-safe materials, perches can harm a parrot’s feet. Mainly, they cause parrots to sit at odd or uneven angles, which escalate into feet, hip, and leg problems.

Such conditions can lead to permanent issues walking and perching. Arthritis may develop if your parrot is only given one type of perch to stand on. After all, its feet will be routinely placed in one position and unable to stretch.

Since arthritis develops slowly over time, it can go unnoticed. The American Journal of Veterinary Research notes that behavioral changes due to arthritic pain are subtle. Symptoms of arthritis in parrots include:

  • Hesitance to move
  • A stiff, limping walk
  • Reduced movement of the legs and feet
  • Swelling in the joints (ankles and toes)
  • Overly warm skin at the joints

Sometimes elderly parrots will develop arthritis, even when offered a broad range of perches.

Kidney Disease

The nerve that goes to the parrot’s legs passes through its kidneys. If it’s compressed or pinched, a parrot may lose its ability to stand, balance, or walk. Symptoms of kidney disease include:

  • Lameness
  • Reduction in appetite
  • Weakness
  • Losing weight
  • Excessive thirst
  • Swollen joints
  • Labored breathing

Kidney disease can only be diagnosed and treated by a vet.

Dietary Problems

An improper diet is responsible for many health issues in parrots, including lameness and weakness of the legs. There are certain foods that parrots shouldn’t eat. Without proper nutrition, the parrot will:

  • Have a weak immune system
  • Be more prone to injury
  • Take longer to recover from illnesses

This can open the door to various causes of lameness. Aside from that, a parrot deprived of nutrition as a chick, such as calcium, may have permanently malformed legs.

Deficiencies in calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D (which aids calcium absorption) are most likely to lead to foot problems. Vitamin A is important for skin health, including that of the feet.

Calcium is critical for bone health. An egg-laying female with insufficient calcium will lay eggs with weaker shells. To compensate, calcium is drawn from elsewhere on her body, which can result in weak legs. Adding cuttlebone to the parrot’s diet will increase its calcium intake.

Tumors

If growths appear on the feet, legs, pelvis, and hip area, a parrot may hold itself differently. Due to the discomfort, its posture will be affected. Both problems result in limping or the parrot only using one leg.

Tumors that grow large enough to press on tissues or organs may harm the parrot. Pressing on veins and blood vessels restricts blood flow to the feet and legs.

It’s hard to know if your parrot has a tumor unless it develops a visible lump. However, the growth itself could result in mild discomfort or compromised organ performance. A parrot with such a tumor may hold itself differently.

Symptoms of Foot Problems In Parrots

As troublesome as foot problems are in parrots, they do have early warning signs. Here are some signs that your parrot is nearing lameness. Look out for:

  • Curling of the toes
  • Swollen feet
  • Lumps or abscesses on feet or toes
  • Splayed legs
  • Weakness
  • Shifting from foot to foot
  • Inability to move or perch properly
  • Visible wounds
  • Shaking or trembling legs
  • Limping
  • Fever

Keep a record of how your parrot behaves and how the symptoms manifest. Provide the vet with these details.

Behavioral Signs Of Lameness

A parrot that’s going lame may experience a personality change. You may find that the parrot:

  • Won’t perch on your hand
  • Shows unwillingness to fly
  • Bites
  • Fights with other birds
  • Refuses your company
  • Shows a lack of interest in food
  • Ceases to preen itself

Broken Legs Symptoms In Parrots

If your parrot has recently had a fall and is limping, check for broken bones. Parrots can be fragile, and a broken bone can escalate into a life-threatening problem. Check for:

  • Misaligned legs, feet, and toes
  • Bulging skin, as though something is pressing on it from the inside
  • Bones poking out from the leg
  • Leg, foot, or toe swelling
  • Not putting weight on the foot
  • Biting or fleeing when you reach for or touch the area
  • Inability to walk or use the leg

Treating A Parrot with A Lame Foot

A vet will need to perform checks and tests to diagnose your parrot’s foot issue. While it may be tempting to make your own assessment and apply your own treatment, this can lead to further problems. For example, treating a broken bone as if it were a sprain can result in malformation, damaged tissue, infection, and pain.

If your parrot normally lives in a shared cage, you’ll need to keep it confined to a single cage for the duration of the treatment to prevent it from hurting itself further. This also prevents other birds from picking on a weaker member of the flock. Ensure that it has a comfortable perch and is in easy reach of water and food.

Dietary Issues

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be hard to treat. That’s because prolonged deprivation of certain minerals and vitamins can result in permanent disabilities, especially for young and growing parrots.

Infections

Injuries must be cleaned and wrapped to avoid infection. Infected wounds must be flushed with sterile solutions and treated with medication. The type of medication will depend on the infection, but options include:

  • Oral medication
  • Topical ointments
  • Antifungals
  • Antibiotics

Bad infections may require that the parrot remains at the vet’s clinic. Here, it can receive supportive therapy and close monitoring. The clinic will have the equipment necessary for ensuring that the bird remains hydrated and stable.

Broken Bones, Dislocations, And Tumors

Beyond simple cuts and abscesses, health problems may require veterinary treatment, including supportive therapy and surgery. Broken bones and dislocated joints will need to be set and bandaged.

Tumors will need surgical attention. These growths need a biopsy to determine if they’re cancerous or benign. If they’re curable, further treatment will be necessary.

Overly Long Claws

If your parrot’s nails are overgrown, they’ll need to be trimmed. In severe cases, your parrot may need therapy for its joints and toes to return them to their natural shape. The vet may treat any puncture wounds or injuries as a result of the claws curling inward. Once done, schedule routine trimmings.

How To Prevent Parrot Lameness

You can prevent your parrot from redeveloping limps or foot problems. Of course, some conditions naturally come with age. Arthritis and stiff joints will affect even the healthiest of parrots once they reach their twilight years.

parrot foot problems

Cage Maintenance

Tidy up droppings, shed feathers, and food scraps. As stated in Animal, the cleanliness of your parrot’s environment is linked to the health of its feet.

By routinely cleaning your parrot cage, you’ll be able to limit any exposure to harmful bacteria, mold, and fungus. Also, a clean cage is easier for your parrot to navigate safely.

Perches

Provide suitable perches for your parrot. Place them at three different levels to promote movement and exercise. They should be made of parrot-safe materials, such as wood and rope. Always replace chewed or damaged perches.

Cage Size

Ensure that your parrot’s cage is large enough for its size, so it can:

  • Exercise and play
  • Use its feet on different materials
  • Stay away from soiled areas of the cage
  • Avoid injuring itself as it flaps, climbs, or moves around

By maintaining its muscle tone, your parrot will have stronger legs and feet.

Claw Maintenance

Get into the practice of regularly trimming your parrot’s claws. This will prevent the feet from curling inward and injuring the parrot’s toes. You can trim the nails as needed, but once a month is a common schedule. This will keep the parrot familiar and comfortable with the process.

Many vets offer nail/talon trimming services. If your parrot’s claws are overgrown and sensitive, make use of these services. If you intend to trim the nails yourself, avoid cutting the nails too short. Avoid hitting the nerve ending inside the claw, as this can cause further discomfort and lasting damage.

Parrots should never limp. If you find your parrot walking uncomfortably, don’t allow it to continue as the problem won’t go away on its own. Book a consultation with an avian vet. They’ll diagnose and treat the problem, as well as identifying what’s wrong with your parrot’s diet, cage setup, or general care.