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August Abbott, CAS
August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 7575
Experience:  Cert. Avian Specialist; Int. Assoc.Animal Behavior Consult; Pet Ind. Joint Advisory Council; author
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hi my bird is having uncontrollable spasms in his left foot

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hi my bird is having uncontrollable spasms in his left foot . . . every 1-2 minutes he taps it rapidly and he evidently cannot control it. Is this something that needs to be given attentino to or it is a normal spasm like humans. He just started this evening. Sometime the tapping is in his right foot but it mainly happens in his left. When his left leg was tucked under himself it would still shake. Thanks. He's an 11 year old cockatoo
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When I hear about the symptoms of ‘toe tapping’, I immediately think of an Eclectus, probably one of the most common toe tappers in the parrot world. It does, however, occur in any and all other parrots as well.

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By itself, this symptom may be nothing. With all the research done over all the years, when an organic or physical reason isn’t found, often there isn't an explanation.

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Toe tapping is often accompanied by wing flipping – where the bird holds the wings down slightly to the sides and quickly gives them a snap or flutter.

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Again, if these are the only symptoms and they are not constant, they are probably not indications of serious disease. The first step you need to take though is a hands on examination by your vet. If you don’t have a vet, now is the time to get one. It’s much more desirable to have a vet in place when it’s not an emergency than trying to find one when it is. Believe me, these emergencies will occur in the middle of the night, on a weekend or holiday and it’s nice to have someone who knows your bird and who might open their office for you.

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Now, let’s consider some of the organic and physical causes of this syndrome:

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If your bird is on (or has been on) a predominantly seed diet, there may have been an overdosing of certain additives that manufacturers add to their products, as well as a deficiency of vitamins and nutrients necessary for a healthy bird. No matter what the claim on the packaging is, seed blends are 'junk food' for birds.

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Birds in the wild don’t eat strictly seeds, and those that do eat a lot of this high fat food get a huge amount of exercise with nearly constant flying in their search for more and a variety.

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Calcium deficiency is another typical cause of toe tapping. Be sure to have fresh cuttlefish bone and mineral block in the cage at all times. To refresh it use a sharp knife to scrape the surface, especially any dark or stained areas.

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Calcium foods include broccoli, dark greens like chard, spinach, beet tops, Brussels sprouts and even some natural (no additives) yogurt now and then.


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Check this out for a huge number of options in feeding, including how to get a bird off seeds and on to pellet based food, just in case your bird is a seed eater Click here


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Other possible causes for toe tapping in some birds is a mating behavior (trying to attract a mate, get attention); sometimes a bird will do this when frightened or expressing their territory (a bird that is recently sexually mature might do this more than others); in much less common cases, there may be a tumor or neurological condition present – which is another excellent reason why a full physical is a good idea.

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The botXXXXX XXXXXne here though is that from your description, not just the toe tapping, but the spasms - your little companion is more likely suffering a nutritionally related episode.

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Other frequently found sources of this symptom would be a tumor somewhere inside the bird pressing on nerves causing what you're seeing or several different diseases.

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Probably the first thing your vet will do is an X-ray and bloodwork to check calcium levels and perhaps a heavy metal profile as well.

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In the meantime, check the food options out and you might find a quick result.

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Don't put off the vet visit though, even if the bird seems fine. All it means is that the bird has gotten a 'second wind' and is strong enough to hide the symptoms. By the time you see them again (and nearly 100% chance that you will) it will be a problem further along and much more difficult to treat.

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Good luck

August Abbott, CAS and other Bird Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
they are on a seed based diet . . . but we give them fresh fruits and vegetables . . . strawberries, carrots, etc everyday. I have invested in calcuim but I'm not the primary care giver because I am at college for most of the year. Do you think this would subside if I stated giving them calcuim through their water. I have suspected they have some nutrition problems, due to reading things. You would recommend a totally pellet based diet with fruit and vegetable additive . . . what about the all around vitatmins available on the market . . . is this a good investment. . . I also give them profeathers to help with their feather growth during molting season. We live about 10 hours from the nearest professional avian vet . . . so would a normal vet be good enough to look identify that problem? Thanks
-- I strongly advise against adding any sort of 'supplement' to a bird's water. You wouldn't believe the danger there is in this.
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Here's the thing: From the seed makers' ridiculous, untrue claims about how nutritionally complete or vitamin supplemented they are, to the rest of the pet stores nonsense when it comes to 'treatments' or worst of the worst, 'medications' --- there are no real laws in place to protect our pets.

Even when lawsuits are brought against them for countless deaths (thousands of them), most lawyers require payment up front and it's not cheap. That stops a lot of owners right there.

Those who follow through are heartbroken to find out that even if they 'win' - the amount they are awarded is "the reasonable cost of replacement" of their beloved companion.

We're working hard on changing this awful assumption that pets are "property" rather than valuable, irreplaceable lives and companions, but it hasn't happened yet.

So ALL of those things you might think to try from pet stores, forget it. Not only do they not work, but they can be lethal. And by the time you've spent all that money trying all the different things, you could have seen a vet and had it fixed in no time.

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Where I am a vet visit for your bird is $40.
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And you don't need to drive 10 hours to an 'avian vet'. If you have a pet store that is selling birds or the junk they profess will help your bird, you've got a bird experienced vet right there in town.
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In fact, if you have a Pet Smart or Pet Co, I guarentee it. Pet Smart has a clinic inside called Banfield and they see birds. Pet Co has a list of vets (just call and ask) that will see birds.

All you need is a vet who sees predominantly birds as part of their practice. The avian vet specialty isn't necessary

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Yes, pellet diets are considered the best base and then all the fresh (healthy) foods he wants.

Again, no supplements. No sprays, no additives to the water, no powder in the food, no pet store stuff.

A bird eating a good diet will not need any of this and even if the bird is not eating a healthy diet, those things do not, never have and never will work.

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Finally, while you might be able to get an improvement by getting more vitamin A and calcium rich foods into him, if this is actually a disease process beginning, a tumor or something else -- delaying diagnosis could cost the bird his life.

And believe me, you will never be able to live with yourself and the guilt. I've seen this happen more than I ever want to see. I strive to prevent it wherever I can.

--- Check this out for the best foods and 'tricks' to get the bird to try them Click

It sounds like this 'too is pretty special to you. I'd like to expect him to see you through college, parenthood, grand parenthood and quite possibly into your retirement
August Abbott, CAS and other Bird Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks so much for your advice! :) We live in the middle of nowhere but we have a Pet Smart about 2 hours away. I will take them to the vet as soon as possible. The only pet store in the area closed down and to my knowledge they didn't have birds and I don't know of any pet stores in the area. Where do you recommend ordering pellets from? Thanks for the website with the information. How fast can I get them off a seed diet to a pellet based diet? For right now just give him foods rich in Calcium and Vitamin A and see if that helps? Thanks again for everything!
-- There are lots of places online with pellets for sale, but the different kinds are what will become your new 'quest'. I prefer the all natural, no additives types like Harrison's or Zupreem, even Exact is making a 'natural' pellet now.

--- And there are lots of tricks to make this more palatable, like adding a dab of all natural applesauce (choose organic, all natural, no sugar added), or a bit of natural apple juice, grape juice, carrot juice (carrot juice just plain if he'll drink it would be great too).

Remember, on the label it should just have the fruit or vegetable + enough water for processing. That's it. Simple is better both for our birds and ourselves.

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Get a jar of all natural, organic baby food sweet potatoes and try offering him some off of a spoon.

Just recently I got two budgies that had been seed only birds for 12 years to eat fresh food for the first time in their lives. Their owner was adamant that these birds wouldn't touch natural foods, no matter what.

It took 5 days. Now they are eating fresh peas, whole wheat couscous (available in the pasta/rice aisles of most stores), carrots, sweet potatoes and big kale leaves every day.

I don't think you're going to have much of a problem. You sound pretty determined, patient and no doubt will be persistent.

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And I'll be here to support you when you need it.

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you Thank you so much. I will be sure to come back here to ask you for more advice/support in the future! Thanks so much for your time. I will be making changes to his diet starting tomorrow, he's my baby. :-)

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