Birds can get arthritis, too

Osteoarthritis, a painful inflammation of one or more joints, can occur in birds, but careful management by a veterinarian, along with some lifestyle changes, can help affected birds live comfortably, writes veterinarian Margaret Wissman. Diagnostic tests to ascertain the health status of the bird, including blood count, kidney and liver tests and other parameters, will help the veterinarian select the most appropriate medications, Dr. Wissman notes. Owners can make changes such as providing perches of several sizes and shapes and keeping a pet bird’s weight within the normal range to help avoid exacerbating the condition, she advises.
DESCRIPTION OF ARTHRITIS

Arthritis is a degenerative disease of the joints that can be a primary disease or secondary to defects or injury of the joints or supporting tissues. The most common form diagnosed in pet birds is osteoarthritis. Multiple joints are often affected, unless the disease is brought on by trauma. Pain accompanies this joint inflammatory disease.

SYMPTOMS OF ARTHRITIS

This is typically an acquired disease with age but it can be brought on by an injury or if a tumor, either malignant or non-malignant, involves a joint. Infections such as mycoplasmosis can also result in arthritis in pet birds. Affected joints may be red, swollen or hot.

IMMEDIATE CARE OF ARTHRITIS

You should have your bird evaluated by an avian veterinarian who will want to perform tests to ascertain the cause of the joint problems. You may want to purchase braided rope perches or soft synthetic perches, and make sure that you have perches of several different diameters so feet don’t cramp up from always being in the same position on a perch.

LONG-TERM CARE OF ARTHRITIS

Have your bird’s blood count, chemistry profile, kidney and liver checked out before getting a medication prescribed. In some cases, antibiotics or antifungal medications are indicated. There are choices of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) to give a bird for long-term arthritis relief; however, most of these medications are not labeled for use in birds. The old stand-by, aspirin, is actually a wonderful anti-inflammatory for birds; however, dosing is critical, so this must be prescribed by an avian veterinarian. Other NSAIDs can also prove useful in the long-term management of arthritis. Narcotics, such as codeine, and steroids are not commonly used for long-term treatment of birds because of potentially dangerous side effects. To keep your bird more comfortable when afflicted with arthritis, provide appropriate perches as well as flat corner perches. Do not let your bird get overweight, as it will bring added stress to already damaged joints. If your bird is already overweight, discuss a long-term diet and exercise plan for your bird with your avian veterinarian.

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