Spastic Leg Paralysis of Parrots

Spastic Leg Paralysis of Parrots is a disease that usually affects single birds amongst many in an aviary. It has also been called “Barraband paralysis” because Barraband (Superb) Parrots Polytelis swainsonii appear particularly prone to develop this condition. Similar conditions have been seen in a wider range of parrot species however, including Rainbow Lorikeets Trichoglossus haematodus and Cockatiels Nymphicus hollandicus  (Cockatiel paralysis syndrome).

Spastic Leg Paralysis shows up as a sudden onset of paralysis of both legs. The degree of paralysis can vary from mild weakness with difficulty grasping the branch, to the whole limb being extended stiffly behind the bird, often with clenched toes. The birds’ general health is usually not affected and it will continue to eat well and behave in an otherwise normal way. The affected bird usually has difficulty maintaining its balance on the perch, has an unsteady (ataxic) gait and (in more severe cases) will move around the aviary floor on its hocks or by using its beak only.

While the exact cause of Spastic Leg Paralysis is unclear, many affected birds show spinal cord damage or stroke-like damage to the brain, but not all affected birds show these changes. It is now thought that a deficiency in calcium and/or vitamins A, B1,2&6, D and E may be involved, especially as a dry seed diet is notoriously lacking in these ingredients.

Treatment for affected birds includes supportive care, ensuring birds can reach food and water easily, and vitamin supplements. The latter may have to be given by injection so the aid of an avian veterinarian is often required. While some birds can recover spontaneously, the problem can recur later. Obviously, the long term diet of both the affected bird and any aviary mates needs to be modified to include more fruit, green vegetables such as spinach and other vitamin and mineral supplements. Giving nothing but “Berocca” to drink for seven days has often achieved good results.

References

Macwhirter, P., Everybird, Inkata Press, Melbourne, 1987.

Olsen, G. and Orosz, S., Manual of Avian Medicine, Mosby, Inc, Missouri, 2000.