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Foot Care for Your Bird

Proper foot care for your bird is important. Most bird foot problems are caused by injury or illness, and most are avoidable. Because the feet of birds are not covered in feathers, and because many birds perch on their human companions, observing bird foot problems and taking proper foot care is usually fairly easy. An important part of foot care for your bird is nail trimming. In the wild, birds come into contact with a variety of rough surfaces that keep their nails worn down naturally. Most birds in captivity, though, need to have their nails trimmed regularly. While trimming once a month is sufficient for many birds, some will require bi-weekly trimming. Trimming a bird’s nails requires two people with whom the bird is very familiar: one to hold the bird carefully and securely and the other to perform the trimming. Depending on the size of the bird, human nail clippers may be the best tool. For larger species, dog nail clippers often work well. Some vets use electric rotary nail trimmers; some birds may be fine with this but others may be frightened by the noise. When trimming your bird’s nails, always take off a small amount at a time; more can be trimmed later if needed. Have a styptic pencil or styptic powder on hand to stop the bleeding if you accidentally cut too far. Spotting injured feet early is a key part of good foot care for your bird. Bird foot problems caused by injury most often include those as a result of getting trapped in cage bars or on toys. Cage bars that are very ornate can include uneven spacing and small holes that can be dangerous to birds. Such cages are best used as decoration and not housing. Cage bars should never have a wider spacing at the top than at the bottom. Such spacing can cause a bird’s leg or foot to become trapped. Toys that have small openings that could trap a bird’s foot, or portion of the foot, are unsafe and should never be used. Rope that is used as a perch or as part of a toy should be checked regularly for signs of fraying. Rope perches should not be used with birds with very sharp nails, as the nails could get caught in the fibers of the rope. Foot care for your bird also includes identifying and preventing foot problems caused by illness or health issues, including skin diseases, infections, and parasites. Amazon foot necrosis, a fairly common bird foot problem, may be caused by the presence of allergens such as food ingredients, tobacco smoke, or cosmetics (these last two relate to human companions, not the birds themselves!). Another common infectious bird foot problem is known as bumblefoot, which afflicts many types of birds. Common symptoms are swelling on the bottom of the foot, often accompanied by a small crust on the skin. Some common causes of this condition are inactivity, obesity, and dirty perches. The best treatment is simple prevention: keep your bird at a healthy weight and be sure her cage and perches are clean. If you notice a change in the appearance of your birds’ feet, contact your vet. Part of foot care for your bird is simply ensuring that your bird stays active and maintains a healthy weight. Since caged birds spend a good deal of time on their feet, avian obesity contributes to foot problems. Clean cages, and selecting appropriate perches and keeping them hygienic, will also help to ensure good foot care for your bird.

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