It’s not always easy to determine what causes limping and lameness in parrots. There are many ways a parrot’s feet and legs can be affected to the point of weakness, lameness, or limping. Some can be easily resolved, while others are more serious in nature.
Parrots can begin limping 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 liable to breaking. Disease and tumor growths are yet another group of problems that can cause lameness in parrots.
There are many causes of limping in parrots. However, most birds display similar symptoms, including curled feet, weak limbs, awkward perching, and shifting from foot to foot. Be sure to offer quality perches, a healthy diet, and a clean cage that’s large enough for your parrot. This will help keep its legs, toes, and feet in good condition.
Parrot Can’t Walk Properly
If your parrot can’t walk properly, this will escalate into many other issues. Although wild parrots rely on flying and walking, pet parrots use their feet for everything. If they’re unable to walk, put weight on a single foot, or appear to limp, then 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 bird in constant pain. As the situation continues, the parrot may eventually experience arthritis, problems with its hips, and injuries to its unaffected leg.
That makes it important to find the cause of this limping and resolve it. The reason can be simple to fix, such as with overgrown talons. However, it may also be severe and crippling, such as with broken bones or infections.
Parrots can injure themselves from a fall or from catching their foot in their cage. They may also get into squabbles with other pets or birds, leading to injury. Sadly, a parrot’s legs are somewhat brittle, so it’s not difficult to:
- Break bones
- Spain muscles
- Dislocate joints
- Scratch and scrape flesh
- Suffer from gashes and open wounds
This can result in 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:
If the limping is the result of an injury, it should appear right away. You might notice the parrot squawk as it falls or scream when its foot is caught. It may also be ruffled after a fight with another bird. No matter the case, swelling and inflammation should appear quickly.
Parrots may limp or have weak legs from bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. For example, they are uniquely vulnerable to bumblefoot. This is a swollen abscess under the foot caused by staphylococcus bacteria. It’s not only painful, but can also develop into a much larger health issue over time.
Infections like psittacosis and avian mycobacteriosis don’t always need an injury to act as an entry point. Once infected, your parrot may show symptoms both externally, such as:
- Visible wounds
- Swollen areas on your parrot’s body
- Feverishly hot skin
- Discolored and foul-smelling flesh
- Pus or discharge
The signs of internal infection can vary from illness to illness. However, most result in symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Ruffled or unkempt feathers
- Weight loss
- Labored breathing
- Tail bobbing
- Eye, nose, and mouth discharge
Are the parrot’s nails long? Overgrown talons cause parrots to hold their feet awkwardly, or shift from foot to foot. Talons that are not properly trimmed will interfere with your parrot’s ability to support its own weight. This creates pressure on the toes, feet, and ankles.
This can become very painful and will eventually cause limping. The toes and nails may also become malformed if left in this state over time. The parrot’s stance will even be harmed, forcing it to perch at an angle or be unable to perch at all. Symptoms of overgrown talons in parrots include:
- Long talons that begin to curl under the foot
- An inability to lay their talons flat
- Limping or an unwillingness to perch on certain surfaces
In that vein, perches themselves can be a danger to your parrot. If they’re hung incorrectly, are broken, or are made of non-parrot-safe materials, they can harm the bird’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 even develop if your parrot is only given one type of perch to sit on. After all, its feet will be routinely stuck in one position and unable to stretch.
Since arthritis develops slowly over time, it can go unnoticed. The American Journal of Veterinary Research even 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. Be sure to watch out for this condition, so you can offer treatment early.
Even kidney disease may result in lameness for parrots. This is because the nerve that goes to the parrot’s legs also passes through its kidneys. If it’s compressed or pinched, then the parrot may lose its ability to stand, balance, or walk. Symptoms of kidney disease include:
- Reduction in appetite
- Losing weight
- Excessive thirst
- Swollen joints
- Labored breathing
This disease can only be diagnosed and treated by a vet. That makes it very important to consult with a professional if your parrot starts limping, especially if it shows no sign of injury or infection.
An improper diet is responsible for many health issues in parrots, including lameness and weakness of the legs. Without proper nutrition, the parrot will:
- Suffer from a weak immune system
- Be more liable to injury
- Take longer to recover from illnesses
This can open the door for many other 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 are those most liable to result in foot problems. Vitamin A is important for skin health, including that of the feet. Vitamin D is critical for health, including calcium absorption.
Calcium itself is critical for bone health. Even more importantly, an egg-laying female without enough calcium will lay eggs with weaker shells. To compensate for this, calcium is drawn from her body, which can result in weak legs. Symptoms may include:
- Poor feather health
- Overall weakness
- Rough and scaly skin on the feet and legs
- Frequent sores and cracks on the feet
- A weak immune system
Although rare, tumors may be responsible for lameness in parrots. If growths appear on the feet, legs, or in the pelvis and hip area, a parrot may hold itself differently. Because of the discomfort, its posture will be damaged. In tandem, 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 in several ways. Most of all, by pressing on veins and vessels, this restricts blood flow to the feet and legs. This could result in numbness that causes the parrot to:
- Walk awkwardly
- Avoid standing on both 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 and begin to decline in health. If you suspect that your parrot has a tumor, take it to a vet.
Symptoms of Foot Problems In Parrots
As dangerous as foot problems are in parrots, they do have early warning signs. If you can’t narrow down your parrot’s exact issue from the list above, this section might help. Here are generalized 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
- Shifting from foot to foot
- Inability to move or perch properly
- Visible wounds
- Shaking or trembling legs
Be sure to make a record of how your parrot behaves and any symptoms that manifest. Providing a vet with these details can lead to a more accurate diagnosis. That’s especially true if there are no visible injuries. The faster your parrot gets medical care, the more likely it is to recover fully.
Behavioral Signs Of Lameness
A parrot that’s going lame may have a change in personality. After all, it’s in a great deal of pain, or at the least, it’s experiencing discomfort. This could make your otherwise loving pet irritable and resistant to handling. You may notice the parrot:
- Refusing to perch on your hand
- Showing an unwillingness to fly
- Starting fights with other birds
- Refusing your company
- Showing a lack of interest in food
- Being unwilling to groom itself
While all of these signs are worrisome, be vigilant if your parrot refuses food. It is a sign that your parrot needs to see a vet immediately.
Broken Legs Symptoms In Parrots
If your parrot has recently taken a fall and is limping, be sure to check for broken bones. Parrots can be fragile, and a broken bone can escalate into a lethal problem. Watch out if:
- The parrot’s legs, feet, or toes are misaligned
- The parrot’s skin appears to bulge, as though something is pressing on it from the inside
- There is a bone obviously poking out from the leg
- The parrot’s leg, foot, or toe swells
- The parrot not putting weight on the foot
- The parrot tries to bite or flee when you reach for or touch the area
- The parrot is unable to walk or use the leg
Treating A Parrot with A Lame Foot
The majority of feet problems and lameness in parrots can be treated. In general, you should keep your parrot confined to a single cage for the duration of its treatment.
This may seem cruel, but it prevents the animal from hurting itself further. It 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.
Always Seek A Vet
It’s recommended to contact a vet if your parrot limps or has signs of lameness. An expert will need to diagnose your parrot’s exact issue. While it may be tempting to apply your own treatment through trial and error, this can be dangerous.
You may choose a treatment plan that addresses the wrong problem. For example, treating a broken bone like a sprain may result in damaged tissue, infection, and extreme pain. Failing to identify a tumor, and instead believing it to be a kidney problem, will allow the condition to escalate. Any of these situations may be fatal.
Instead, an expert can pin down the root cause. With that accurate knowledge, they can treat your parrot according to its limp:
Injury and Infection
Injuries will need to be cleaned and possibly wrapped to avoid infection. Infected wounds will also be flushed with sterile solutions and treated with the necessary medication. The type of medication will depend on the infection, and could range across:
- Oral medication
- Topical ointments
Larger-scale infections may require your parrot to remain at the vet clinic for a short time. Here, it can receive supportive therapy and close monitoring. The clinic will have the equipment necessary for ensuring the bird remains hydrated and stable.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be hard to treat. That’s because prolonged deprivation of certain minerals and vitamins can result in permanent disabilities. That’s especially true in young and growing parrots.
Other Health Problems
Health problems that are beyond simple cuts and abscesses may require professional treatment. This includes supportive therapy and surgery. Broken bones and dislocated joints will need to be set and bandaged.
Tumors will need surgical attention. These growths must receive a biopsy to determine if they are cancerous or benign. If they are curable, further treatment may be necessary. If they are malignant, then it becomes a discussion about quality of life.
If your parrot’s talons are overgrown, then a vet will trim them. At this point, they will also see if the feet are damaged or deformed as a result of the overgrowth. In some cases, your parrot may need therapy to help its joints and toes stretch back out to their natural shape. The vet may treat any puncture wounds or injuries as a result of the talons curling inward.
Afterward, your vet may help you schedule routine trimmings. This could require multiple small trims in the early months, so the parrot does not bleed or experience pain from the cutting. The area will likely be sensitive and inflamed, requiring specialist tools and experience.
How To Prevent Parrot Lameness
Luckily, you can keep your parrot from developing, or redeveloping, limps or foot problems. Of course, some conditions naturally come with age. Arthritis and stiff joints, for example, will develop in even the healthiest of birds once they reach their twilight years. With that said, these measures can ensure your parrot has stronger feet throughout its life.
As stated in Animal, the cleanliness of your parrot’s environment is tied to the health of its feet. By routinely cleaning your parrot cage, you’ll limit its exposure to bacteria and mold. These contagents may otherwise infect the parrot and cause illnesses that lead to foot issues.
Likewise, a clean cage is easier for your parrot to navigate. It will be less likely to injure itself or become irritable, starting fights that lead to harm. Be sure to tidy up droppings, shed feathers, and food scraps.
You can also offer the bird a variety of suitable perches. Place them at different levels, and ensure that some are flat. They should only be made of parrot-safe materials, such as:
- Always replace wooden perches if they get chewed to splinters.
If your parrot already has foot damage, wrap a towel or blanket around half of the perch. This offers the parrot a soft surface to rest as it heals.
Be sure that your parrot’s cage is large enough for its size, so it is able to:
- Exercise and play
- Use its feet on different materials
- Get 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 be able to have stronger legs and feet. This will help it fend off damage, illness, and avoid limps.
Changing to quality food can help prevent lameness. Of course, your vet will recommend supplements or certain foods to ensure the parrot is getting all it needs. You can also take measures by:
- Offering fresh fruits and veggies, which give parrots more natural fiber and vitamins
- Giving your parrot certain kinds of meat to round out its protein and mineral intake
- Avoiding a seed-only diet, which can both harm and bore your parrot
- Allow your parrot to get vitamins from sunbathing, in periods of 20-30 minutes at least once a day.
Get into the practice of regularly trimming your parrot’s talons. This will prevent the feet from curling inward and deforming the parrot’s toes. You can trim the nails as needed, but once a month is a common schedule. It also keeps the parrot familiar and comfortable with the process.
You should only attempt this yourself if you’ve completely bonded with your parrot. It can be a stressful process, and trust is crucial for a smooth, anxiety-less trim.
Many vets offer trimming services. If your parrot’s talons are overgrown, and therefore sensitive, then it’s best to make use of these services.
If you wish to trim the nails yourself, be careful to not cut the nails too short. Avoid hitting the nerve ending inside the talon, as this can be painful and damaging.
Parrots should never limp. If you notice this condition developing, take action right away. By identifying the symptoms, you can take this information to a vet and allow them to treat your parrot effectively.