Appendix A:  Bumblefoot in Raptors, Poultry, and Waterfowl

Article by:  Jeannine Miesle, M.A., M.Ed 

Main Article about Bumblefoot  

Appendix A:  Bumblefoot in Raptors, Poultry, and Waterfowl

In captive raptors, bumblefoot is a common medical condition, even though it is never seen in the wild. Some raptor species appear to be more susceptible to this condition than others; falcons present with this frequently, but it is rarely seen in hawks. It is a result of poor nutrition, obesity, inadequate perches, lack of exercise, poor blood circulation to the foot, and cardiovascular changes at the end of the hunting season. 18

Penetrating wounds or bruising of the feet may be predisposing factors in raptors and waterfowl. Grades I to III lesions may not be discovered in raptors; most are not seen until they have more severe lesions, often Grade IV or V. 4

Raptors are prone to bruising and abrasions on the plantar surface of the feet from jumping from a perch onto a hard surface, hanging from cage wire by their feet, or being forced to stand on hard perches or cement. Any soft tissue or orthopedic injury involving one leg or foot may cause excessive weight-bearing and secondary pododermatitis on the contralateral foot (the foot on the other side.) 5

Overgrown talons cause improper weight distribution on the plantar surface of the foot, especially in falcons, or self-inflicted puncture wounds of the metatarsal pad. Other traumatic injuries to the foot which can lead to bumblefoot include bite wounds from prey, punctures from thorns or quills, and trap injuries. 5

Figure 30. “Severe bumblefoot (Grade VI ) in a grey heron (Ardea cinerea). Severe tendon damage of the first digit was also present and euthanasia was warranted in this caseFigure 30. “Severe bumblefoot (Grade VI ) in a grey heron (Ardea cinerea). Severe tendon damage of the first digit was also present and euthanasia was warranted in this case” (image credit Glen Cousquer; used with permission). http://www.worldwidewounds.com/2003/august/Cousquer/Avian-Wound-Assessment.html)

A bird’s inactivity in an enclosure, limiting its ability to fly, is a contributing factor. In a study by P.T. Redig (Ford: Raptor Medicine Master Class), raptors that were housed outdoors and were able to exercise did not develop bumblefoot, regardless of their perching surfaces. The group that was maintained indoors on the same diet developed bumblefoot irrespective of the perching material. 5 For large birds and raptors housed in wire enclosures, the walls of the enclosure should be designed with vertical bars or solid barriers to minimize the tendency for hanging from the wire. Selection of proper perch size, shape, and covering for a particular species of bird is very important. Perches wrapped with hemp rope or covered with Astroturf work well for most raptors. Falcons do best on flat shelf or block perches covered with short Astroturf or cocoa mats. Strict sanitation of the facilities and feet is important to minimize bacterial infections. Liquid bandage products work well for minor skin cracks or torn talon sheaths in raptors. 5

Figure 31. Red-tailed hawk at “Wild Care” in Eastham, MA. One talon had to be removed due to serious infection in the feet. He is on ball bandages. The caregivers are optimistic about his ability to be returned to the wild”

Figure 31. Red-tailed hawk at “Wild Care” in Eastham, MA. One talon had to be removed due to serious infection in the feet. He is on ball bandages. The caregivers are optimistic about his ability to be returned to the wild” (image courtesy Cape Cod Capecast). http://blogs.capecodonline.com/cape-cod-capecast/2012/02/28/battling-bumblefoot-ineastham/bumblefootweb/ In most cases, treatment involves the surgical removal of scabs and adjacent necrotic and purulent (pus-filled) tissue, followed by suturing to achieve healing by first intention (the wound is held together by a blood clot or sutures). Sometimes antibiotic-impregnated beads are placed within the wound cavity to improve the rate of healing. If the opening is larger, sutures are used along with hydrocolloid dressings to promote healing. 18

Figure 32. Grade VII “Bumblefoot infection has spread across both of this bird’s feet. The areas affected look blackened”

Figure 32. Grade VII “Bumblefoot infection has spread across both of this bird’s feet. The areas affected look blackened” (image courtesy The Veterinary Expert; used with permission). http://www.theveterinaryexpert.com/backyard-poultry/bumblefoot-in-poultry/

Figure 33. Grade VI “A discrete bumblefoot lesion, showing typical positioning at the weightbearing position on the base of the foot.”

Figure 33. Grade VI “A discrete bumblefoot lesion, showing typical positioning at the weightbearing position on the base of the foot.” (Discrete refers to a lesion that is localized as opposed to diffuse in which there are multiple lesions present.) (image courtesy The Veterinary Expert; used with permission). http://www.theveterinaryexpert.com/backyard-poultry/bumblefoot-inpoultry/

 

Figure 34. “Chickens cope incredibly well with legs bandaged! This bird has had surgery for bumblefoot. The bandages cover the surgical site as well as allowing pressure relief to the feet whilst the area in question heals” (image courtesy The Veterinary Expert; used with permission). http://www.theveterinaryexpert.com/backyard-poultry/bumblefoot-in-poultry/

Captive waterfowl are also at increased risk for developing this condition because of their heavy-bodied nature and the amount of time they spend standing around rough, hard surfaces around pools or pens. Waterfowl may suffer penetrating wounds and bruises on the feet which lead to pododermatitis. 15

Figure 35. A silver gull with a tibiotarsus fracture on its right leg (Larus michahellis) on his solid left foot, burdened with more weight than normal, resulting in pododermatitis

Figure 35. A silver gull with a tibiotarsus fracture on its right leg (Larus michahellis) on his solid left foot, burdened with more weight than normal, resulting in pododermatitis (image courtesy Kübra Gerbaga Özsemir). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kuebra_Gerbaga_Oezsemir/publication/329551287_Diagnosi s_and_Treatment_of_Pododermatitis_in_Birds/links/5fa1b573458515b7cfb64f6c/Diagnosis-andTreatment-of-Pododermatitis-in-Birds.pdf

Pododermatitis is common in poultry. VAP’s are more commonly used in mammalian patients, but are sometimes used to treat avian patients requiring long-term intravenous therapy or serial blood collection. Vascular Access Ports offer the advantages of ease of access, reduced trauma and handling of the patient, and the accurate delivery of large volume of tissue-irritating drugs. Although this technique is used for mammals, it is still considered a novel treatment for avian species. 7

Figure 36. Grade VI bumblefoot foot in a buzzard (Buteo buteo). This bird had been shot and had developed severe arthritis of the tibiotarsal joint of the contralateral limb. The bird was emaciated and had a heavy worm burden. Excessive weight bearing on the healthy leg, coupled with malnutrition, is likely to have resulted in the lesions depicted

Figure 36. Grade VI bumblefoot foot in a buzzard (Buteo buteo). This bird had been shot and had developed severe arthritis of the tibiotarsal joint of the contralateral limb. The bird was emaciated and had a heavy worm burden. Excessive weight bearing on the healthy leg, coupled with malnutrition, is likely to have resulted in the lesions depicted (image courtesy World Wide Wounds). http://www.worldwidewounds.com/2003/august/Cousquer/Avian-Wound-Assessment.html 

Figure 37. Grade VI pododermatitis in a chicken

Figure 37. Grade VI pododermatitis in a chicken (image courtesy Monica Talbett; used with permission).

Figure 38. Grade VI pododermatitis. The chicken’s foot before surgery

Figure 38. Grade VI pododermatitis. The chicken’s foot before surgery (image courtesy The Chicken Chick). http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/07/bumblefoot-causes-treatment-warning.html

Figure 39. The chicken’s foot four months after surgery

Figure 39. The chicken’s foot four months after surgery (image courtesy The Chicken Chick). http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/07/bumblefoot-causes-treatment-warning.html

 

 

 

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Jeannine

Jeannine Miesle, M.A., M.Ed, Allied Member, Association of Avian Veterinarians is an important contributor to Beauty of Birds. Jeannine has done considerable writing, proofreading and editing for journals and newsletters over the years. She had taught English and music in the schools and presently is an organist at Bethany Church in West Chester, Ohio. She also administrates a Facebook group, The Science of Avian Health (https://www.facebook.com/groups/872079712863055). Jeannine takes in rescued cockatiels and presently has twelve birds. When they come to her they remain as part of her flock.