Bumblefoot (infection)

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Bumblefoot in a guinea pig

Bumblefoot (ulcerative pododermatitis) is a bacterial infection and inflammatory reaction on the feet of birds, rodents, and rabbits.[1] Ulcerative pododermatitis is referred to as "sore hocks" when it affects a rabbit and "bumblefoot" when it affects a bird.[1] The terms "sore hocks" and "bumblefoot" are used interchangeably when describing ulcerative pododermatitis in rodents.[1] The infection can usually be attributed to poor husbandry practices,[1][2] therefore is much more likely to occur in captive animals than in those in the wild. It is caused by bacteria, namely strains of Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas and Escherichia coli (E. coli), with S. aureus being the most common cause of the infection.[1]

Bumblefoot on birds of prey[edit]

Bumblefoot is, perhaps, the largest cause of referral of birds of prey to a veterinary surgeon[citation needed]. Bumblefoot on birds of prey can be put into three broad types of the infection.

In the first type, a small reddened area, or sometimes a small shiny patch, can be seen on the foot. This is mostly caused by inappropriate perching (or perching for too long), or less likely, by badly fitted furniture, such as jesses that are too small. To treat this type, one must change the fault in the husbandry, fly the bird regularly, and apply hemorrhoid cream to the affected area.

The second type is more serious, where some penetration has occurred. While treatment for the first type will help, the bird likely will require antibiotics, as well.

The third type involves the bird having severe distortion of the contours of the foot and/or the toes, resulting from the bumblefoot causing considerable damage in the foot.

Bumblefoot in poultry and waterfowl[edit]

Bumblefoot is a common infection for domesticated poultry and waterfowl such as chickens and ducks. Due to constant walking on hard, rough, or sharp surfaces, birds can develop small wounds on the bottom of their feet.[2] These wounds are very susceptible to infection by opportunistic bacterial pathogens, chiefly Staphylococcus aureus.[2] Treatment often requires opening the wound to drain the pus, soaking it in epsom salts, and antibiotic treatment and local application of the antiseptic pyodine as local dressing.

Bumblefoot in penguins[edit]

In 2016, thermography was used to identify and evaluate bumblefoot lesions in 67 captive penguins from three species.[3]


Bumblefoot is so named because of the characteristic "bumbles" or lesions, as well as swelling of the foot pad, symptomatic of an infection. Topical antiseptics in addition to oral or injected antibiotics may be used to combat the infection, which if left untreated may be fatal.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Peter G. Fisher (19 September 2013). Select Topics in Dermatology. Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 715–. ISBN 978-0-323-18876-0. 
  2. ^ a b c Pitesky, DVM, Maurice (2 August 2016). "The Dirt on Bumblefoot". acreagelife.com. Heartland Communications Group Inc. Retrieved 20 March 2017. 
  3. ^ Ann E. Duncan, Lauri L. Torgerson-White, Stephanie M. Allard, and Tom Schneider, 2016. An Evaluation of Infrared Thermography for Detection of Bumblefoot (Pododermatitis) in Penguins. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 47 (2), 474-485
  4. ^ McArthur, Jan (July–August 1998). "Ulcerative Pododermatitis...". rmca.org. Retrieved 29 July 2006. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ford, Emma. Falconry; Art and Practice. Cassell & Co 1992. Page 39/40.