Bumblefoot

Bumblefoot is a staphylococcal infection of the foot.    Generally thought to be caused by infection to a puncture injury to the soft pad on the bottom of the foot.  Young birds and mature birds from heavy breeds are particularly vulnerable to the injuries which tend to precede bumblefoot.  The staphylococcal bacteria that causes the infection is present everywhere poultry is housed, however the incidence of infection is relatively rare (1-2% of most populations), perhaps due to the fact that the bacteria generally must enter the system through a break in the skin.   

IDENTIFICATION: 

Who:  All fowl, but particularly:

  • Chickens - especially young birds and heavy breeds
  • Game birds
  • Turkeys
  • Waterfowl

Where:  Common worldwide.  The bacteria is present virtually any place where birds are housed. 

When:  Any age, but young birds are particularly vulnerable to the staph bacteria.  

Why:  Infection of a foot wound by the staphylococcus aureus bacteria.   

How: 

  • The bacteria, which is nearly ubiquitous, enters the foot through an injury to the soft pad on the bottom of the foot. 
  • Bumblefoot is considered chronic, as it can be difficult to treat. 
  • Hatching eggs can be contaminated.

What:

            Common Symptoms:

  • Localized, hard abscess on the pad of the foot
  • Lameness
  • Limping
  • Sitting on hocks
  •  Swollen foot pad(s)

            Other Symptoms:

  • Entire leg infected (very serious cases)
  • Lesions on toes, hocks and foot pads

TREATMENT:

Treatment:   

            Initial infections (pad is still soft):

  • Treat with antibiotics;  Erythromycin, novobiocin and penicillin.   The Penn State Poultry Health Handbook, 4th Edn., has recommendations for adding antibiotics to feed and/or water.   Other sources recommend injecting .5cc of penicillin directly into the swollen area.  
  • Separate the bird from the flock for the duration of  the treatment
  • Provide the bird with a safe environment with no roosting bars to prevent re-injury during the healing process.

            Advanced infections (pad is hard and scabby): 

  • Soak the foot in Epsom salts to soften the scab.  
  • Remove the scab and drain or remove pus from the lesion (use gloves and wash afterwards).
  • Flush with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Bandage with antibiotic ointment without pain killer (some are fatal to birds). 
  • Replace bandage frequently until the wound has healed. 
  • Separate the bird from the flock for the duration of  the treatment. 
  • Provide the bird with a safe environment with no roosting bars to prevent re-injury during the healing process.
  • Carefully avoid exposure to the pus.  
  • Eliminate contaminated items by incineration or deep burial. 

Bumblefoot surgery:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdigBHE-GsQ  (content warning) 

PREVENTION:

Vaccine:  No

Coop Care: 

  • Avoid sharp edges and splinters that could cause injury to the birds. 
  • Avoid high roosting bars, especially for heavier breeds.    
  • Birds who have been infected should not be bred, as their offspring may be more prone to getting the infection. 
  • Keep litter and coop clean to minimize the bacterial population.    

DIGGING DEEPER:

Also Known As: 

  • Plantar pododermatitis

Affects:  Foot pad, toes, leg shank (extreme cases)

Clinical Diagnosis:  Visual observation of swelling and infection.  

Diseases with similar symptoms:  Non-infected foot injuries.    

Duration of symptoms:  varies

Incubation:  1 to 3 days. 

Morbidity:  Low (<10%)

Mortality:   Up to 50% if untreated.

Transmission to people:   Humans cannot contract the avian strains of the staphylococcal bacteria.  Gloves and hand-washing should be employed however, as the avian bacteria can cause irritation and minor infection to human skin. 

Sources: 

http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/poultry/staphylococcosis/overview_of_staphylococcosis_in_poultry.html?qt=Bumblefoot&alt=sh

http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/PubTitle.asp?varTitle=handbook%2C

http://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/resource000779_rep800.pdf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdigBHE-GsQ

Return to Home Page

A righteous man cares about his animal's health...

Proverbs 12:10a