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Lameness: Limping / Foot & Leg Problems

Index of Bird Diseases ... Symptoms and Potential Causes ... Bird Species and Diseases They are Most Susceptible to


Physical Therapy in Birds


Lameness is generally defined as the lack of, or partial use, of one or both legs.


Toe Curling

It's a sign of weakness or nerve damage. It could be caused by trauma, tumor, stroke, heavy metal toxicity – among other possibilities.

Improper perches could also cause this over time. Perches of various widths are recommended.

Causes for Limping:

Overgrown Nails: Limping can occur if the nails are so long that the tips of the nails cause the first joint of her toe to raise off the surface or if the nail lays over sideways. Having the nails trimmed or using a grooming perch will rectify this problem. If the grooming (or pedicure) perch is used for several hours a day, you should never have to worry about clipping your pet's nails again. This can be achieved by placing the perch in an area where your pet likes to hang out.

Vitamin D deficiency: A lot of the health problems associated with low calcium levels can be prevented by providing sufficient natural sunlight to our pets. Even those situated by a window will not benefit from the sun because the window blocks the UVA and UVB rays needed to synthesize vitamin D necessary for bone health. Birds use sunlight by preening their feathers. The substance on the feathers will undergo a chemical reaction from the sunlight producing Vitamin D3 which the bird ingests with further preening of the feathers. The indoor bird does not have the benefit of this reaction.

  • The most common health problems associated with vitamin D deficiency are: weakened immune systems / susceptibility to diseases, soft bones, bent keels, splayed legs, abnormal beak development, reproductive problems (egg binding, soft-shell eggs, dying chicks) as well as seizures and, to a lesser extend, Stargazing (twisted back)
  • In areas where access to natural sunlight is limited (such as in the northern hemisphere during the winter months), full-spectrum lamps can be used to provide UVA and UVB rays.
  • Natural food sources rich in Vitamin D
  • Potentially discuss supplementation with your vet. Supplementation needs to be carefully screen ed and supervised by a vet since an excess of vitamin D (in the form of a supplement) causes kidney damage and retards growth.

Heavy Metal Toxicity . Paralysis or weak legs may result. An x-ray may be recommended.

Gout: Especially a problem in older birds that are primarily fed seeds or pellets. Recommendation: The vet should check the uric acid levels

Arthritis (usually seen in older birds or birds that are provided improper perches)

Staph Infections

Foot Infection: An infection of the foot may cause limping. The foot is likely to be swollen and may feel hot. An antibiotic topical ointment may be an appropriate treatment.

Foot Chewing, Stomping and Mutilation: The elusive cause: Avian Herpes Virus

Broken / Injured Legs / Feet


Leg or Toe Dislocation

Nutritional Deficiency (unbalanced diet) - Please refer to Bird Nutrition

Tumors (usually a tumor of the kidney that is pressing on nerves and blood supplies to the legs)

Head or spinal injuries may also cause limping as they disrupt nerve messages to the legs



Possible cause: Vitamin A deficiency. Mostly seen in Amazon parrots.

Legs or Claws Falling Off

It has been observed that in some birds the toes or legs turn black and fall off.  The causes for that could be:

1. Diabetes:  Adversely affects circulation to the extremities: 

2. Tumors, which may put pressure on internal organs, which can also interfere with the blood supply to the feet.

3. Scaly Feet or Face: 

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Information contained on this website is provided as general reference only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought.


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