Ask the Swan Specialist

Re: Concerns about warts on swan foot
By:The Regal Swan
Date: 14 August 2015
In Response To: Concerns about warts on swan foot (Katy)

Hi Katy:

We are very sorry for your loss.

Do you have an aerator on the lake? Rainwater can cause algae blooms which deplete oxygen in the water resulting in non-aerobic (non-oxygen) bacteria producing deadly toxins such as botulism to occur. An aerator can not only keep the water open in icy weather, but can maintain good oxygen levels throughout the year.

If the female swan looked paralyzed and not able to lift its head, this is the typical sign of botulism and some other toxins. With heavy rains, any insecticides, or other poisons can be washed into the lake and the swans have access to them. Without a necropsy, there is no way of knowing what caused the demise of the female swan. She could have simply died from an infection or injury.

We have been researching the pink feather syndrome for years and are still working on DNA sequencing to determine the bacteria(um) responsible. We do know that the pink feather syndrome is not lethal in and of itself. If the swan had lead poisoning or other condition including infections which prohibited her from drying her feathers or keeping warm, then the bacteria may play a role for the lack of water repellency and tidiness of the feathers, but not fatal.

The "warts" you are alluding to is a condition caused by a bacterial infection and is known as Bumblefoot. It is a staph infection and is readily contagious so you need to insure that you either use gloves or wash your hands very carefully after treating the feet, especially if they are open seeping/bleeding wounds.

Your photo does not appear to have oozing feet, so it is a minor case of Bumblefoot. Bumblefoot is caused by abrasive surfaces, gravel, rocks, stones, concrete, etc. If your can remove such abrasive surfaces and use soil, grass, straw or other soft surfaces, the Bumblefoot should be kept at a minimal level. We see this condition even in ducks, swans, geese and other waterfowl in the wild, so there is no way of completely keeping the condition from occurring in the wild, but maintaining non-abrasive surfaces in a captive setting can prevent and or limit the growths.

Should the wounds start seeping, bleeding, get too difficult to walk-on, then surgery may be necessary. Even though it looks like a minimal case, you still need to get to an experienced waterfowl/bird veterinarian that can prescribe a topical antibiotic. You need to stay away from ointments and use a spray or liquid. Ointments are oily and can get on the feathers and prevent the natural oils from the swan's uropygial (preen) gland from keeping the feathers tidy and water repellent. We hope this information helps. The Regal Swan

Messages In This Thread

Concerns about warts on swan foot -- Katy -- 14 August 2015
Re: Concerns about warts on swan foot -- The Regal Swan -- 14 August 2015