Did you know that parrots can get cellulitis? I sure didn’t, until it occured with my boyfriends male eclectus, Pickle.
What is Cellulitis?
Cellulitis is a common skin infection that is caused by bacteria. It occurs frequently in humans, (and from research I did, dogs as well) and its symptoms include inflammation, swelling, red or discolored skin tone, and pain, tenderness, and more. Cellulitis can be caused by bacteria, and often occurs where the skin has been broken: cracks in the skin, cuts, blisters, burns, insect bites, surgical incisions, or at the sites of intravenous injections.
Cellulitis and Parrots
Pickle exhibited signs of cellulitis suddenly. Earlier in the day he was fine, and then when he was taken out of his cage about 5 hours later, his leg appeared extremely swollen and irritated, and his band was sitting up extremely high on his leg. His ankle was extremely enlarged, and because of the inflammation in his leg, his band was almost cutting into his skin. He was taken to the vet immediately, who was reluctant to remove the band because of the swelling in the leg. After the band was removed, Pickle was examined and the vet (not our regular vet, but an emergency vet because this occurred on a Sunday) pronounced that Pickle had cellulitis. He prescribed a 2% chlorhexidine solution, to be applied 3 times a day. Chrlohexidine is a topical aqueos cleaning solution, effective against gram negative and and gram positive bacterias. This solution is prescribed in 2 – 5% strength.
Upon checkup, our regular vet also prescribed Epsom salt soaks three times a day to help reduce the swelling and any pain related to the cellulitis. We mixed up a solution of about 2 tablespoons epsom salts and a couple of cups of warm water. Pickle was a good sport and stood calmly in the warm soaking solution for a couple minutes each time. The soaks seemed to sooth his skin irritation and help reduce the inflammation.
How Parrots Get Cellulitis
In Pickle’s case, it is believed that he contracted cellulitis due to a blood draw. As you may know, vets generally draw blood from either the foot/leg, or the jugular. Drawing blood from the foot and leg region is preferred and much less invasive and risky then drawing from the jugular. A week previously, Pickle had been fighting off a bad bacteria that caused an abscess in his mouth. When initially diagnosing and treating the abscess, the vet drew blood to perform a standard blood panel.
It is suspected that drawing blood from the leg, the stress Pickle underwent (he had to have surgery to extract the abscess), his band rubbing his leg where the blood was drawn from, caused the cellulitis. Pickle’s immune system was down due to stress and the high round of antibiotics he was administered to clear up the bacteria in the abscess; so it makes sense that his body was more susceptible to bacteria then normal. Since cellulitis is caused by common forms of bacteria, it is likely that his identification band had a small amount of naturally occurring bacteria on it, and upon contact with the injection site, his body couldn’t fight off the bacteria that found its way in.
After a week of intense treatments, his leg returned to normal. A layer of skin did flake off in the area where the cellulitis occurred, so his leg appeared pink and raw for an amount of time. However when the swelling went down, another layer of strong and normal colored grey skin grew back. To reduce any potential flaring up of pain and inflammation, after his surgery and after he was diagnosed with the cellulitis, Pickle was kept in a small cage to restrict his amount of movement. We cleaned his cage daily, and made sure to sanitize his perches to reduce any chance of further infection.
If you have any experience with parrots and cellulitis, I would love to hear your comments. My research did not turn up many online accounts of birds and cellulitis – most of the information was in regards to humans, dogs, and horses.