Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How I Cured Bumblefoot Without Surgery

Let me preface this by saying that I bring my own peculiar personality quirks to this article and they are these:

1.  I am very fond of my chickens, even if I do expect them to be productive egg-layers. 
2.  I tend to be a pragmatist—that is I tend to go with what works and am willing to try things with this criteria—might it work?  What does it cost?  What are the side effects?
3.  I am blood-and-guts averse. 
4.  I have raised goats for something approaching forty years. 
5.  What follows is  reporting, not prescribing.
So, when I had a chicken with bumblefoot, and all the literature I could find said surgery is the only solution….well, given the above, I started looking around for a better solution for my chicken. 

Bumblefoot is a foot infection that can cripple and kill.  Everything suggested that the  bacteria responsible is Staph aureus.  Nasty little bugger.  It is the culprit in MRSA hospital infections, those resistant infections for which almost no antibiotic works.  I had personal experience with one after a hip replacement.  Doctors had me on various antibiotics for months and months with no improvement.  I was pretty sure unrelenting antibiotics that were not working were not a good thing for me, neither short nor long term. 

On a parallel track…Milking goats (and cows) occasionally get mastitis, an infection inside their udders.  If the infection presents with internal lumps, it is caused by Staph aureus—same bacteria--and there is a medication specific for that problem in milk cows and goats.    The medication is ‘Today’ or ‘Tomorrow’ brand mastitis infusion—one for milking animals and one for non-milking (dry) animals.  When I finally gave up on human medicine for my own medical problem, I used one of these mastitis treatments topically on my own MRSA infection and it was gone in a matter of days. 

Facts at my farm:  I am not a chicken surgeon and the prospect for a huge veterinarian’s bill doesn’t cut it. 

In the spirit of experimentation and necessity being the mother of invention, I began squirting some of this medication all over the foot of my affected chicken.  It comes in a large syringe type applicator in an oil base (that clings well) and is easy to just bathe the chicken’s foot when she is on the roost—both night and morning.  That precluded extra handling and especially at night, she was standing in it all night long.   

I wish now that I had kept records of how long I applied the Today.  But I applied it night and morning until I could see a lot of improvement.  I think it was for about two weeks.  In hind sight, that was not long enough.  In a while (sorry, don’t remember what that ‘while’ was) bumblefoot returned.   I began the treatment the second time and continued it long after her foot appeared well.  The second time cured it permanently.  Her foot had a little residual deformity but she was well, happily foraging and productive. 

The mastitis treatment, Today (or Tomorrow) is used on food animals.  The milk withdrawal time after four treatments is 96 hours (four days).  Using an antibiotic off label is totally experimental but I had nothing to lose.  I did not use her eggs for a couple months after this treatment.   

If I ever have to do this treatment again, I would make one simple change.  The medication is not cheap and could have been extended considerably I think.  I would dump it into a small jar and apply with a brush next time.  She was not excited about having something squirted on her foot and quite a bit was wasted by the squirting method.  Other than that, I’ll be forever glad I didn’t have to try the surgery route.


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