Bumblefoot in Ducks: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

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Last updated on May 31st, 2024 at 08:03 pm

Duck feet are tough, but even they can’t handle everything! Ever noticed your feathered friend limping? Bumblefoot is a common infection that starts with a minor cut and can quickly become a big problem. Learn how to prevent, spot, and soothe bumblefoot in your feathered friend.

This article is part of our Duck Health Conditions Series.

severe case of bumblefoot
severe case of bumblefoot

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What is Bumblefoot?

Bumblefoot is a foot infection known as Plantar Pododermatitis or Foot Pad Dermatitis and often starts as a small abscess or swelling in the footpad.

It usually arises from a minor puncture or cut, allowing bacteria like Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas to enter. These microbes multiply, causing inflammation, pain, and eventually pus accumulation.

Left untreated, bumblefoot can worsen, leading to:

  • Larger abscesses: Imagine the tiny bump growing into a painful, pus-filled lump, hindering your duck’s mobility and comfort.
  • Joint involvement: The infection can spread to the bones and joints, causing severe pain and lameness.
  • Secondary infections: Untreated bumblefoot weakens the immune system, making your duck vulnerable to other infections.
bumblefoot in ducks
Two spots of bumblefoot at a duck foot

By recognizing the early signs and taking swift action, you can help your feathered friend overcome this injury and get back to their happy waddling ways.

Duck Book

This is the BEST book about ducks I have ever had. I can highly recommend it to every duck owner, new or experienced. It is very comprehensive with pictures and illustrations. It covers all topics related to duck care (including bumblefoot) and keeping ducks. It even has multiple case studies.

Recognizing Bumblefoot

Bumblefoot, though it sounds cute, can be a painful and serious issue for your ducks. Fortunately, your feathered friend can quickly bounce back quickly with early detection and proper care. Here’s how to spot the telltale signs of bumblefoot in ducks:

Early Stages:

  • Redness and swelling: Look for localized redness and inflammation around the footpad, especially near cuts or punctures.
  • Tenderness and limping: Your duck may favor the non-affected foot, limping or holding it up when walking or standing.
  • Warmth to the touch: Feel the footpad for any abnormal warmth, a sign of infection.
  • Loss of appetite or decreased activity: These can be general signs of infection or pain.
  • Scab formation: A small black scab spot, not larger than a pinhead, may appear in the early stages.
swollen duck foot
Swollen duck foot

Advanced Stages:

  • Large black scab: As bumblefoot worsens, the scab expands while the surrounding tissue inflames, turning puffy and red.
  • Abscess formation: A small, hard bump may develop, growing into a pus-filled abscess over time.
  • Loss of scales: The skin on the footpad may become rough, scaly, and lose its natural texture.
  • Discharge of pus: Pus, often yellow or white, may ooze from the abscess or scabbed area.
open wound at duck foot with pus inside
open wound at duck foot with pus inside

Preventing Bumblefoot

Prevention is always better than cure, and keeping bumblefoot at bay is all about creating a safe and healthy environment for your ducks. Here are some key steps:

  • Pen maintenance: Regularly remove sharp objects like rocks, sticks, nails, and debris from your duck’s enclosure.
  • Proper bedding: Provide ample soft bedding, like straw or wood shavings, to cushion their feet and absorb moisture.
  • Cleanliness is key: Regularly clean and disinfect the pen and water sources to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Variety is the spice of life: To distribute pressure on your ducks’ feet, offer them access to areas with varied terrain, including grass, dirt, and shallow water.
  • Foot hygiene: Regularly trim your duck’s nails to prevent them from snagging on objects and creating entry points for bacteria.
Duck with a bandage to protect her wound after bumblefoot surgery.
Duck with a bandage to protect her wound after bumblefoot surgery.

How Do You Treat Bumblefoot?

If you suspect your bird has bumblefoot, immediate action is crucial. Treatment options for bumblefoot in ducks (and chicken) depend on the severity of the case.

In mild cases, treating bumblefoot should take no more than one to two weeks. In severe cases, it may take weeks to months. So don’t give up! It is normal for it to take longer.

Home Care Tips to Treat Bumblefoot

Duck soaking in betadine solution to treat bumblefoot
Duck soaking in betadine solution to treat bumblefoot
  • Isolation: Provide a quiet, stress-free environment for your duck to recover. Separate the affected ducks to prevent them from walking too much. Keep them in a small area with soft bedding. We love to keep them in a playpen.
  • Epsom Soaks: Soak your duck’s foot in warm Epsom salt water for 10-15 minutes, 2-3 times daily, to reduce inflammation and promote healing (make sure to use fragrance fee Epsom salt)
  • Betadiene Soaks: Alternatively, you can soak your duck’s feet in a Betadine solution. That helps to deinfect and kill bacteria. You can even combine Epson salt with Betadine for a combined treatment.
  • Veterycin: In mild cases, you can apply Vetericin to the wound several times daily after cleaning your duck’s feet. That will promote wound healing. The
  • Topical Antibiotics: Ointments like Neosporin can be applied to the wound to help heal and battle the infection. It should be used once or twice daily.
  • Silver Sulfadiazine Cream: This cream is antibacterial and antifungal and also helps to treat bumblefoot. It can be used instead of the antibiotic ointment, but is prescription only. Alternatively, you can use colloidal silver like Sovereign silver gel.
  • Manuka Honey: Manuka honey has been found to have various biological activities, including antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, and can be used as a natural remedy to improve wound healing.
  • Epsom Salt Pultrice: Apply Epsom salt poultice to the affected area to draw out the infection, soothe pain, and fight infection. This is especially helpful when you have severe or stubborn cases of bumblefoot. This is also helpful if your duck resists their daily foot oaks in Epsom baths. The poultice should be bandaged and can stay on the wound for 24 hours or longer.
  • Minor Surgery: If you feel comfortable, you can scrape off the black scab head with a tweezer or a sharp scalpel. That works best when the scab is soft after an extended Epsom bath soak. After removing the black scab, yellow, hard pus should become visible. That also needs to be removed. Don’t hesitate to contact a professional veterinarian when in doubt or if you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself. You do not want to harm your duck.
  • Nutritional support: Offer your duck a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals to boost their immune system.
  • Bandaging: This can help protect the affected area and promote healing. This will keep the dirt out of the wound and give padding. It is also recommended to bandage the foot after applying any ointment, cream, or poultice. This will allow the work ingredients to work their magic without being washed off. Vet wrap works best.
  • Duck Shoes: During the healing process, or when your ducks’ feet are prone to bumblefoot, you may want to consider getting duck booties. That will cushion their cheese feet for comfort and help prevent new injuries.

Veterinary Care 

In severe cases of bumblefoot, antibiotics, painkillers, and even surgery might be necessary.

  • Antibiotics: Oral or topical antibiotics can combat the bacterial infection.
  • Pain relievers: Medication can help manage your duck’s discomfort.
  • Debridement and cleaning: In severe cases, the veterinarian might need to clean the abscess and remove any foreign objects surgically.
Pus that got removed by the vet
Pus that got removed by the vet


Early intervention is key to a successful recovery. Don’t hesitate to seek veterinary advice if you notice any signs of bumblefoot in your duck. With proper care and attention, your feathered friend will be back to waddling and quacking happily in no time!

By following these tips, you can create a safe haven for your ducks and minimize the risk of bumblefoot. And remember, a little prevention goes a long way in keeping your feathered friends healthy and happy!

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Melanie (Duck Mom)
Melanie (Duck Mom)

Introducing Melanie, the passionate soul behind Ducks of Providence, your ultimate duck haven. With her flock of feathered friends by her side - Emma, Hertha, Schnatterinchen, Penny, Simon, Ronja, and Krümel - she leads readers on a quacking adventure like no other. Dive into the wonders of duck keeping with Melanie as your guide, from practical tips to heartwarming tales. Whether you're a seasoned pro or dipping your toes into the duck pond for the first time, Melanie is here to make your journey as delightful as a sunny day at the pond. Let's quack together and celebrate the joy of duck keeping!

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