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Arthritis is a condition commonly known in humans but can also affect birds as well as other species. If you suspect your bird may have arthritis, or any condition, it is best to seek advice from a vet but once you know this is the case, there are some simple steps to be taken to make life easier for him or her.
Diagnosing arthritis in birds can be similar to diagnosing it in humans: by the swelling of joints and disfigurement of toes or toes pointing in unnatural directions. They may not be able to grip the perch as they have always done or have problems moving around the cage. A bird may become clumsy, losing its balance and not being as agile as before. Sores may develop on their feet.
Another element is behavioural. Birds don’t understand pain so when their joints are hurting them they may lash out at those around them, be that other birds or humans. If your bird is acting out of character, then this is a sign that something is wrong.
Once diagnosing your bird with arthritis, the vet will advise about any medication or treatments needed. But aside from this, there are some natural remedies, which may help your bird.
Apple cider vinegar help maintain an optimum pH balance which stops the crystallisation in the joints which makes arthritis worse. Farmers would often give it to their older cows in the winter feed for the same reason. For humans it was advised to heat but this is a bad idea for birds as the vinegar gives off toxic fumes, which are a bit like carbon dioxide. The common recommended dose is ½ to 1 tablespoon per cup of water or 15ml in 240ml of water.
Humans often use aloe Vera gels to be massaged into painful joints but in birds, the actual leaves themselves are the best benefit. The leaves ooze a clear gel when cut and this is then fed in small amounts to the birds. *One tip is that a rare few birds can be allergic to it so before feeding, touch a little of the gel from the cut leaf on their foot and leave for 24 hours. If there is no reaction, you should be safe to feed it to them*
Grape seeds have been discovered to be useful in treating a whole range of health issues, as they are extremely powerful antioxidants, as much as 50% more effective than Vitamin E. It has been shown to hep arthritis as well as eye problems and allergies in humans and has been shown to help feather plucking in parrots.
Cayenne is a digestive aid that has vitamins A, C, B-complex, calcium, iron and phosphorus and has anti-inflammatory properties, which help arthritis. Parrots in particularly love the taste of it and can be persuaded to try by sprinkling on vegetables they like if they are hesitant.
One of the other main problems with arthritis for birds is infected pressure sores and swellings. A vet will prescribe anti-biotics if needed and there are some who have recommended the use of a tiny amount of aspirin, but this is not something that should be done without professional guidance.
Open sores are usually treated with an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal cream such as Hibitane. This is a product used for cats and dogs as well as birds, but don’t use a human product on them, as it will be too strong for their system.
As any human with arthritis will tell you, cold affects the pain in their joints. Therefore, if your bird is diagnosed with the condition, heat is very important. It can be best to add a source of heat in one area of the cage so they can move away if too warm or closer if they are cold. A heat lamp is one such suggestion. There are also heated perches on the market that may be worth looking at but make sure they are just one of a number of perches available to the bird to avoid over-use leading to other problems.
There are some simple modifications you can make to your bird’s cage to make their lives easier after a diagnosis with arthritis. One such thing is to remove metal grates from the bottom of the cages as their new clumsiness can result in broken legs. Similarly, keep their nails trimmed so there is less chance of them causing themselves an injury.
Relocating perches to they are easier to get between and even adding perches next to each other if needed to help making their moving easier. In the same way, rearrange placement of toys and feeding/water bowls so that these can be easily accessed, perhaps on the floor so little or no grip is needed to access them.
One reason sores develop can be hard walking surfaces so one suggestion is to use some kind of cloth such as fleece, old carpeting or even jeans on the floor of the cage. Cover it with newspaper to make it easy to clean but this can help stop the sores.
Another suggestion from someone with an arthritic bird was to install a hamster wheel and lock it in place. This gives the bird somewhere to sit without needing to use feet to grip.
Remember when handling your bird, he or she may no longer be able to climb onto your finger or grip when there so cup them in your hand and approach them gently as if you startle them, they can cause themselves further injury.
We all get old and develop health problems that we have to live with. The same applies to birds and as long as they can still have a good quality of life, there is no reason that a few modifications can’t be made to their cage for them to enjoy a full life. However, never hesitate to check with a vet if you are in doubt about anything as every bird has its own specific needs and requirements.