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Why can't my elderly rooster walk?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by dustbath, Jun 19, 2011.

  1. dustbath

    dustbath Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a 12 year-old rooster who rather suddenly developed a severe problem with one or both legs. About 10 days ago, he seemed unsteady on his feet. This developed into a limp, favoring his right leg. This became worse rapidly: first he couldn't bend down and keep his balance, then he couldn't keep himself upright, and now he hobbles on his elbows most of the time. He also isn't eating or drinking much, possibly because he has trouble keeping in one position to access food.

    I've taken him to 3 vets. The first thought it was a general neurological problem. He gave his a thorough physical exam and couldn't find anything wrong with his leg or joints, or any sign that anything was painful. He referred me to a bird vet. He also gave him a shot of steroids. The next day he was considerably improved.

    She took a full set of xrays and said that there was no sign of injury, no tumors, and his organs all look normal on the xray. She also took blood and stool samples but I don't have the results yet. She said she was basically stumped but didn't think it was a general neurological problem. She said he has good control over his body and isn't physically disoriented.

    She prescribed 3 oral meds: an antibiotic (Tribrissan), a non-steroid anti-inflammatory (Metacam), and a probiotic. I'm not sure if any of them help or not. He's generally getting worse. Yesterday, the day after I started the anti-inflammatory, I thought he was a lot better. But by evening he seemed worse again. During the day today he seemed to improve somewhat.

    The third vet thought there might be pressure on his nerve causing him not to be able to use his right leg. He suggested a few weeks of steroids. He said if the symptoms recur after the steroids are removed, he probably has leukemia, causing enlarged lymph nodes that are pressing on the nerve, or something else that is basically untreatable. Otherwise, it could be an injury and relieving the pressure would solve the problem.

    Since you can't combine or overlap the Metacam and the steroid, I stuck with the Metacam, hoping that would work with fewer side effects. But he seems to be generally deteriorating.

    He really isn't eating much and is losing a lot of weight. His other behavior seems normal. He's crowing and paying attention to the other chickens.

    I have 6 other chickens, none of whom are showing anything like this. He is in with one hen who is 6 years old. The others (2 years old) are in a separate part of the coop. He and the hen free-range during the day. The others are in a run most of the time.

    Anyone have any ideas? I know he's old for a rooster but I'm very attached to him and he's always been generally healthy. He did break a wing last year. It healed, the bone wasn't dislocated, but he doesn't fly that well since.

    He also had a tussle with a fox about 6 weeks ago and got a couple of small wounds on that leg but it healed up and I don't think there's any relation.

    I'd appreciate any feedback or ideas.

    Thanks!
     
  2. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble

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    Jacksonville, Florida
    Quote:Wow! You're lucky to have a rooster that has lived that long. Good for you and I can understand your attachment. Did you or any of the vets check the bottom of his feet for bumblefoot? How about any kind of swelling with his feet or legs? Scaly leg mites? I'm sure you checked for these problems before you took him to the vets. These are the first things that came to mind, the "visible" problems. Do you suspect he might have jumped down from a high roost or some other high place and injured a tendon or muscle, a sprain? I dont know if those problems would show up on an x-ray. Perhaps the blood and poop tests will show something. I hope it all works out for you and your roo, let us know what happens and good luck.
     
  3. dustbath

    dustbath Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 26, 2008
    Washington County, NY
    I took him back to the vet yesterday because he seems worse and isn't extending his toes. He's also losing weight and seems dehydrated (panting a lot). She said his blood work and poop analysis are fine, no indications of leukemia or anything. She said that unlike when she saw him last week, she now sees changes in his "knee" joint and his leg seems tender, Last week he didn't react with pain when she manipulated his joints quite aggressively and there was nothing unusual about his right leg.

    She was stumped so she called a chicken expert in Canada. He suggested that it could actually be related to the fox attack. He said he's seen cases of animal attacks in which there are very small, almost invisible wounds, that can slowly fester internally causing these kinds of problems. She increased the dose of Metacam a lot (from 0.15 to 0.5 ml twice a day) and switched his antibiotic to Clavamox.

    All 3 vets checked for the problems you suggested but they don't seem to be the cause. He could definitely have jumped off the roost: it's about 2 and a half feet off the ground and with the wing he broke last year, he makes a pretty hard landing. So that could be a problem too but there's no dislocated ligament or anything that drastic.

    I'm really hoping he improves and that he doesn't have a deadly virus or anything.

    I'm thinking of pouring some water down his throat with the tube the vet gave me to administer his meds. Does anyone know of any reason I shouldn't do this?
     
  4. BrattishTaz

    BrattishTaz Roo Magnet

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    It sounds like you have a great vet! Vets here won't even see a chicken. I'm sure I can't offer any advice better than what you have already been given. You could try asking the vet if ginger would be an acceptable anti-inflammatory for chickens. I know it is recommended by many docs for humans and is supposed to work very well. It does not affect other meds. You can use powder or fresh...I'm thinking your boy may eat it on his own if you shred up the root. Do ask first to make sure there are no toxicity issues first.

    Good luck. [​IMG]
     
  5. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble

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    Quote:I suggest you lower the roosts down for him and your other chickens as well. It will help prevent worsening his injury jumping down from a high roost, also preventing it from happening to others as well. I lowered mine down from about the same height as yours to about 8-10 inches off the floor...what a difference, no more injuries since. The older they get, the harder it is for them to jump up to a roost and hop down...the old bones just cant handle it lol. There is no reason why you shouldnt tube feed him the meds as directed by the vet. It guarantees that he is getting the proper meds. You have to be careful and make sure you get the tube down the proper side of his throat/windpipe...I hope the vet showed you how to do that. If it goes down the wrong way, it'll go into his lungs and he can aspirate and die. I dont know how to do it, sorry. It's best to check with the vet. Good luck and thanks for the update.
     
  6. colebarnhart

    colebarnhart Chillin' With My Peeps

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news and only do so because you seem to be in denial, but "Father Time" is undefeated. I work in health care and do MRI's & CT's and have for 20 years and I'm still always amazed when I do a scan on a patient that is in their late 80's and complaining about having a pain somewhere and wondering why they can't do what they used to or feel they way they once felt when they were much younger and hoping the doctor can find out what is wrong with them and fix it. Sorry, but 12 years is a great run for a rooster and your "elderly" rooster can't walk because, well..... it's elderly.
     
  7. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble

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    Quote:You wouldnt wanna tell my hard-headed 85 year old Irish mother that! LOL!
     
  8. dustbath

    dustbath Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Most people do say that his problem is "old age." But it came on suddenly and is getting rapidly worse and the vets all seem to think there is something specific behind it.

    The vet did show me how to use the tube to feed him his meds. The "air duct" is actually at the front of his beak, about as far in as my (49 non year-old female) fingernail reaches. If you put the tube all the way to the back of his throat, and if it slides in easily, it's in the right place. She said it is almost impossible to put it down his airway by mistake and if I did, I would feel a lot of resistance. This was a big relief to me as I've always been afraid of accidentally drowning my birds by forcing anything into their beak.

    I've blocked off the roost entirely on the "old bird" side of the coop. He isn't up to it now anyway. I've been keeping lots of clean bedding on the floor instead. He can't support himself on his feet so can't roost now. I'll look into lowering the roost on the other side too. For space reasons, it's convenient having it higher but I don't want injuries.
     
  9. chkn

    chkn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 27, 2010
    It seems like you've had the best luck with the steroids. It sure does seem like a joint problem. I wonder if there's some kind of wrap you can do on the knees. I'd like to see a picture of your 12 year old boy. Good luck sweetie.
     
  10. dustbath

    dustbath Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG]

    I think I've attached a photo of him. He's visiting the hens here.

    He's still getting worse. Today he only staggers a few steps. He sits way forward on his breast and is having more trouble keeping his balance. I started tube-feeding him water when I give him his medicine, only 15 ml at a time, twice a day. I know this isn't what he needs but he is drinking some on his own and I'm afraid of overdoing it. I'm pretty much out of options and just hope another day on the new meds might help.

    The vet said definitely not to use steroids; if he has an infection, they would make it worse.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2011

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