There are many ways parrots’ feet and legs can be temporarily or permanently damaged, resulting in lameness or limping. Parrots limp when their feet, toes, legs, or joints cause discomfort.
Liping in parrots can be due to cuts, abscesses, overgrown claws, sprains, broken bones, and degenerative diseases (like arthritis). Also, parrots can develop joint, limb, and foot pain from using certain perches.
By identifying the cause of a parrot’s limping, you can address and treat the problem.
Parrot Can’t Walk Properly
If your parrot can’t walk properly, this will lead to other health issues. If unable to walk, put weight on a single foot, or appear to limp, the parrot will be unable to:
- Feed itself
- Navigate its cage
- Perch comfortably
- Pick up or play with items
This can leave your parrot in constant pain. As this continues, the parrot may be affected by arthritis, problems in its hips, and injuries to its healthy foot or leg.
The reason can be simple to fix, such as overgrown claws. However, it could be more severe, such as a broken bone or degenerative joint condition.
Parrots can injure themselves from a fall, knock, or catching a foot. They may also get into altercations with other pets or birds, leading to debilitating injuries.
A parrot’s legs can be susceptible to the following problems:
- Broken bones
- Dislocated joints
- Gashes and scratches
- Sores and open wounds
This can leave the parrot unable to walk, so it’ll refuse to put weight on both legs or limp. If allowed to continue, this can also lead to issues with the following:
If the limping is due to an injury, it should appear immediately.
Parrots may limp or have weak legs from bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Parrots are vulnerable to bumblefoot, a swollen abscess under the foot caused by staphylococcus bacteria.
Infections like psittacosis and avian mycobacteriosis don’t always need an injury to find an entry point. Once infected, your parrot may show these external symptoms:
- Visible wounds
- Swollen areas
- Feverishly hot skin
- Discolored and foul-smelling flesh
- Pus or discharge
The signs of internal infection vary, depending on the illness. However, symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Ruffled or unkempt feathers
- Weight loss
- Labored breathing
- Tail bobbing
- Eye, nose, and mouth discharge
Overgrown claws cause parrots to hold their feet awkwardly or shift from foot to foot.
Claws that aren’t properly trimmed affect a parrot’s ability to support its weight, putting 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.
The 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
Perches can harm a parrot’s feet if hung incorrectly, broken, or made of non-parrot-safe materials. 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 with walking and perching. Arthritis may develop if your parrot is only given one type of perch to stand on.
Arthritis develops slowly over time. The American Journal of Veterinary Research notes that subtle behavioral changes occur due to arthritic pain.
The 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.
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.
The symptoms of kidney disease include:
- Reduction in appetite
- Losing weight
- Excessive thirst
- Swollen joints
- Labored breathing
Kidney disease can only be diagnosed and treated by a vet.
An improper diet can be responsible for 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 misshapen legs.
Deficiencies in calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D (needed for calcium absorption) are most likely to lead to foot problems. Vitamin A is important for skin health, including the feet.
Calcium is critical for bone health. An egg-laying female with insufficient calcium will lay eggs with weaker shells. So, calcium is taken from the bones, resulting in weak and vulnerable legs.
A parrot may hold itself differently if growths appear on the feet, legs, pelvis, and hip area. Due to the discomfort, its posture will be affected. Both problems result in limping or the use of one leg.
Tumors that grow large enough to press on tissues or organs may harm a parrot. Pressing on veins and blood vessels restricts blood flow to the feet and legs.
It’s hard to know if a tumor has developed without a visible lump. However, the growth could lead to mild discomfort or compromised organ performance. A parrot with a tumor may hold itself differently.
Symptoms of Foot Problems in Parrots
Here are some signs that your parrot is nearing lameness:
- 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
Keep a record of how your parrot behaves and how the symptoms manifest for your vet.
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
- Fights with other birds
- Refuses your company
- Shows a lack of interest in food
- Ceases to preen itself
Broken Legs Symptoms in Parrots
Check for broken bones if your parrot has recently had a fall and is limping. Parrots can be fragile, and a broken bone can become 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 must perform checks and tests to diagnose your parrot’s foot issue.
Making an assessment and applying a treatment can lead to further problems. For example, treating a broken bone like 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 flock member.
Ensure that it has a comfortable perch and is in easy reach of water and food.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be hard to treat because prolonged deprivation of certain minerals and vitamins can result in permanent disabilities, especially for young and growing parrots.
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 the following:
- Oral medication
- Topical ointments
Bad infections may require that the parrot remains at the vet’s clinic.
Broken Bones, Dislocations, And Tumors
Beyond cuts and abscesses, health problems may require veterinary treatment, including supportive therapy and surgery. Broken bones and dislocated joints need to be set and bandaged.
Tumors require surgical attention, as they need a biopsy to determine if they’re cancerous or benign.
Overly Long Claws
If your parrot’s nails are overgrown, they must 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 puncture wounds or injuries due to the claws curling inward.
How To Prevent Parrot Lameness
You can sometimes prevent your parrot from redeveloping a limp or foot problem by doing the following:
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 exposure to harmful bacteria, mold, and fungi. Also, a clean cage is easier for your parrot to navigate safely.
Provide suitable perches for your parrot at three different levels to promote exercise. They should be made of parrot-safe materials, such as wood and rope.
Always replace any chewed or damaged perches immediately.
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
Your parrot will have stronger legs and feet by maintaining its muscle tone.
Many vets offer nail/talon trimming services. If your parrot’s claws are overgrown and sensitive, use these services to correct the problem.
If you intend to trim the nails, avoid cutting them too short. Avoid the nerve endings (the quick), as this will cause further discomfort and lasting damage.