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S. August Abbott, CAS
S. August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 9078
Experience:  Work w/Avian Vet; published bird care nutrition& behavior articles; consults, research
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Our cocktail is 17 years old, he had a fall 3weeks ago, he

Customer Question

Hello, our cocktail is 17 years old, he had a fall 3weeks ago, he was ok 2 weeks later but he’s had another fall, it’s is foot, he can’t seem to stand on it, it’s looks like a claw sometimes he can stand on it he cleans it, but i can’t see anything else, he’s eating but not a lot, thank you.
JA: I'll do all I can to help. What sort of animal are we talking about?
Customer: A cockatiel.
JA: What is the cockatiel's name?
Customer: Sweep.
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Sweep?
Customer: He had a fall 3 weeks ago, he was getting much better, but he’s had this fall, i have him for 17 years. Don’t know to do.
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  Nicola-mod replied 3 months ago.

I've been working hard to find a Professional to assist you with your question, but sometimes finding the right Professional can take a little longer than expected.

I wonder whether you're ok with continuing to wait for an answer. If you are, please let me know and I will continue my search. If not, feel free to let me know and I will cancel this question for you.

Thank you!
Expert:  S. August Abbott, CAS replied 3 months ago.

Hello, I am August Abbott, certified avian specialist and owner of - a sanctuary for previously abused, neglected and permanently broken/handicapped birds.


I am very sorry you've had to wait, but this is the first I've seen of this question. Sometimes there's a site glitch (nothing to do with me) about notifications. I get as frustrated as you surely have.


Hang on while I type up your answer


Expert:  S. August Abbott, CAS replied 3 months ago.

As unusual as it may sound, when a bird loses control of their feet, grasping ability or balance, it is very likely the result of an internal problem.
Many owners will be convinced their bird has somehow broken their foot or leg when they see these symptoms of inability to stand (or difficulty), perching problems, loss of balance or holding their leg/foot clenched.
Let’s go over a few of the more common:
Sometimes a tumor on the kidney will not appear on the outside of the body, but other symptoms such as limping, the loss of use of a leg (or both) and/or imbalance might occur. This happens when the tumor presses on certain nerves.

Renal Adenocarcinoma may invade the ischiatic nerves and constrict them, causing (disuse) atrophy of one or both legs.

Tumors can also be in a male’s testes or female’s ovaries and there are not always obvious changes until later on when the growth is more dominant inside.

Other indications that there may be tumor activity would be a change in cere color, weight loss, changes in droppings (often becoming pasty, soiling around the vent) and just subtle, overall changes that owners may sense more than actually see or be able to describe.

Fatty liver disease is something that is often seen in a bird on a seed only or predominantly seed diet. No matter how much the manufacturer insists they are fortified and healthy, they are misleading all of us.

Skeletal problems, deficiencies and even toxicities can cause a loss of balance and restlessness in some birds, as well as the more common symptoms such as breathing difficulties, open mouthed breathing and so on.

Diabetes may be behind foot and leg problems in birds, especially budgies/parakeets. Even more so if they’ve been eating a high fat (mostly seed) diet.

As with humans, diabetes in a bird can cause gangrene in toes, feet or even leg.

Thyroid disease (Goiter) is another problem sometimes found in birds, often more common in budgies.

A surprise to many owners is that a crop problem can be behind the symptoms too. Anything that contributes to an electrolyte imbalance/nutritional

As with all things that might go wrong with our feathered friends, early intervention gives us a better chance at keeping them around a bit longer.

Blood chemistries and X-rays should be expected (and encouraged).


When you notice hard, corn-type nodules on your bird’s feet and their discomfort, foot shifting, loss of balance; perhaps even bleeding from these growths, you are likely dealing with a condition called ‘Bumble Foot’.

Vitamin A deficiencies which may occur when the bird is on a high fat (mostly seed) diet.

Vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A) may lead to respiratory problems in birds which present as a blunting of the little projections (papilla) around the opening of the roof of the mouth. Also, granulomas in the mouth (little abscesses) are often seen. A bird existing on an all seed diet has a higher instance of vitamin A deficiency and many times, treatment of the problems outlined here involves simply improving the diet. Of course, getting the bird to cooperate may be another problem altogether.

In some cases, depending on the professional opinion of the veterinarian examining the extent of this deficiency, injectable and/or oral vitamin A may be advised.


While Board Certified Avian Vets are the ideal choice in most cases, it’s not necessary. I’ve met BCAV’s that I personally feel shouldn’t be allowed in the same room as a bird, and I know ‘regular’ vets that specialize in avian care to the point of being published with the American Veterinary Medical Association repeatedly and highly sought after for information, input and personal research.

These days, with birds growing fast in popularity as in home companions, many DVM’s are quite experienced and able to see and treat many birds. If you have a pet store that sells birds or know of any bird breeders – ask them who they use for their bird care.

If you have a Pet Smart in town you may have a vet for your bird. Most Pet Smart’s now have a veterinary clinic inside and many of them will see birds (open 7 days a week too).

Leg fractures happen sometimes with the most minor of events, like a hard fall from a perch, cage top or crash into a wall or window. Sometimes it’s the result of another animal, human or any number of accidents that can happen.
What’s most important is to have your bird evaluated to decide where the break or fracture is and how bad.
The ‘shin bone’ (tibiotarsal) is the most often fracture seen. Generally speaking, a special tape can be employed to splint the leg for approximately a month to set and heal certain types of these fractures successfully.
When the fracture is of the femur (thigh bone), surgery is necessary.
First and most important in my opinion is that he's very probably in pain. Birds are expert 'maskers' - meaning that even moments away from dying they will use every last bit of strength to act like everything is fine. We, as intelligent humans with compassion, need to make an assumption (a sort of "if this... then that"). If we see signs of injury - then it must hurt.

Even if your vet determines he's not in pain, you'll feel better knowing you loved him enough to check.
Second reason to bring him in: Infection. If there's a fracture or break at any little tiny bone, there's the possibility of infection at the site (inside, where you can't see).
When we have an infection there's always the potential of that infection going blood borne. Upon that happening it can cause what owners think is a sudden death.
Prescribed antibiotics (a vet will likely give an injection) help assure this doesn't happen.


Finally - offer him some human baby food in the form of natural, nothing added, sweet potato. Usually a bit of this touched to the underside tip of the beak gets him to taste it and most birds love it! He can't eat too much of this. If this improves things relatively quickly, you can be pretty sure this is a nutritional issue.

If that's the case - let me know (well let me know either way) - and I'll post a feeding guide for you.


Sound like a plan?