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August Abbott, CAS
August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 7531
Experience:  Cert. Avian Specialist; Int. Assoc.Animal Behavior Consult; Pet Ind. Joint Advisory Council; author
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I have an 8 yr old American Singer Canary. On Sept 28th I

Customer Question

I have an 8 yr old American Singer Canary. On Sept 28th I brought him to get his nails trimmed at the Veterinarian. It took longer than usually for them to bring him back to me. They said they cut a nail too short and wanted to be sure that he could get on the perch. He has been spending most of his time in his food cup or on the floor of the cage. I brought him back to the Vet. He examined him and couldn't find any sign of any broken bones. I asked for an anti-inflammatory med. He is still unable to put his weight on the sore foot. We noticed one of his front digits has been tightly curled back since the start. He is eating and drinking fine. His stools are white. I'm keeping him warm. I took the bottom grill out of the cage in case it hurts him to stand on it. I also put food and water on bottom of cage in cup coasters. That way he doesn't have to hold on to the edge of his own food cups. I still fill his bath with water just in case he is able to bath himself without losing his grip on the edge of it. He has such a gorgeous song. Probably not singing now because he doesn't feel good. Plus, he's been molting. What else can I do? I feel so bad for him. Thanks for your help.
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Is the bird bleeding a lot?
Customer: No he is not. The Vet stopped it before they let me take him home.
JA: What is the bird's name and age?
Customer: Zorro. He is 8 yrs old
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Zorro?
Customer: NO
Submitted: 3 days ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 3 days ago.

I'm August Abbott, cert. avian specialist; owner of N.CA Parrot Rescue. Give me just a few minutes to review your question & respond. I'm with you

Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 3 days ago.

Zorro may have been so stressed from this event that symptoms of another issue have exacerbated. In other words, this may have nothing to do with the nail trim or injury. 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.

When we see these symptoms of inability to stand (or difficulty), perching problems, loss of balance or holding their leg/foot clenched we have to not just look at the foot, but the bird overall.

Let’s go over a few of the more common causes behind foot/leg symptoms:

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. Since you do not see this we can put our suspicions of tumors lower on the list.

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. You're not seeing these things so move this possibility down the list as well.

Diabetes may be behind foot and leg problems in birds, especially smaller birds like yours and also 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, but often more common in budgies. I'd rule this one out for now too.

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).


Give Zorro another couple of days and encourage perching by using a rope perch which is easier on the legs and feet for birds. It's like giving them a 'mattress' to stand on even though it seems pretty hard to us.

With a rope perch that's a little wider so his feet don't have to curl around it, but can stand flat on it, you're mimicking the cage floor while lifting him up to where he should be.

If he doesn't bounce back in the next couple of days it's time to bring him back to your vet and at least discuss the possibilities outlined here and how to approach more investigation into what is happening

Please let me know how you and Zorro make out ok?

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