The Curse of Bumblefoot

Wow, we’ve had quite a summer. In late June, we noticed that Sybil was limping — and it turned out she had some really horrid sores on the bottom of her foot. It’s a staph infection, technically known as ulcerative pododermatitis, but commonly called “bumblefoot.” Chickens, ducks, guinea pigs and rabbits can get it — though for bunnies it’s called “sore hocks.” It can start a number of ways, most commonly a minor injury, or in ducks when the skin on the foot is too dry and starts to crack, letting the staph bacteria into the injury.  It quickly spread to several other ducks.

Treatment is pretty yucky, most people let the vet do it, but we got to be pretty good at it.  First, the foot has to be soaked in warm water and epsom salts.  The infected area has to be opened up and inside there will be a chunk of calcified bacteria –almost like a little stone.  That has to be removed, and then both oral and topical antibiotics applied, and the foot bandaged.  The logistics of bandaging a webbed foot are really complicated!  But we mastered it — vet wrap is wonderful stuff!  Probiotics in the water help build the immune system — and counteract the diarrhea that the oral antibiotics cause.

Of course, the problem is that ducks are always wading around in mud and their own poo.  So the most affected ducks who needed  bandages had to be isolated in a kennel with wood chips.  As flock creatures, they were getting really tired of being alone a good part of the day while the other slopped around in the mud.

The good news is that as October begins, we’re finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel!  Sybil still has a limp, some scar tissue, and a swollen ankle.  She’s on an oral antiinflammatory which is helping — but the sores are now completely closed and healed up.  Harriet, the other duck that was most affected, is healing up and soon the scabs on her sores will come off completely.

This is where we always want to warn people who flirt with buying a couple of ducks.  This can be an incredible amount of work!  For three months, we’ve spent about an hour every night soaking, medicating, and wrapping webbed feet!

Harriet sports her stylish neoprene duck bootie, which helps keep the wounds protected and keeps the medication on.

Posted by John Jackman