DISEASE SUMMARY PAGE

Hock Lesions

Click image for full page view with caption Click image for full page view with caption

Summary Information
Diseases / List of Physical / Traumatic Diseases / Disease summary
Alternative Names
  • Tarsometatarsal ulcers
  • Hock swelling
  • Joint swelling
  • Hock trauma
  • Pressure sores
Disease Agents
  • Physical pressure causes the initial lesions. (P24.327.w26, P24.355.w14)
  • Once the skin is abraded bacterial infection may occur with invasion of the joints. (J7.19.w1, P4.1990.w1, P24.327.w26, P24.355.w14)
Infectious Agent(s)
Non-infectious Agent(s) --
Physical Agent(s)
General Description Summary:

Causes/predisposing factors:

  • Birds, including many seabirds, particularly those which normally spend little time on land, forced to sit on hard surfaces for long periods. (J7.19.w1, P24.327.w26, P24.355.w14, P3.1961-1970.w1, P4.1990.w1, P14.7.w16)
    • Alcids (auks) tend to put the majority of their body weight onto their hocks when forced to stay on land. Divers (Gaviidae - Loons (Family)), grebes (Podicipedidae - Grebes (Family)) and seaducks rest primarily on their keel, and the hocks are overflexed, compromising circulation and leading to swelling and infection. (P14.7.w16)
    • Once the skin becomes abraded, bacteria can invade the tissues, including the hock joint. (P24.327.w26)
  • Lack of exercise in pelagic birds being maintained off water (e.g. oiled birds prior to being cleaned). (P4.1990.w1)

Clinical signs:

  • Skin cracking and development of calluses. (J7.19.w1, J315.2S.w2, P3.1961-1970.w1)
  • Swollen hocks. (P4.1990.w1)
  • Ulceration. (P24.355.w14)
  • Hock lesions develop as scabs, then open wounds; the joints may become hot and swollen (infected). (J311.13.w1)
  • Infected, arthritic joints may develop. (P3.1961-1970.w1)

Note: Ulcers easily become secondarily infected by bacteria. (P24.355.w14)

Further Information Prevention is preferable; lesions are often difficult to treat and may be fatal or require the bird to be euthanased. (P24.355.w14)

Susceptible species:

  • Birds which normally spend very little time on land. (P4.1990.w1, P24.327.w26)
  • Alcids are particularly susceptible to the development of hock lesions, since they tend to put the majority of their body weight onto their hocks when forced to stay on land. (D214.2.w2, J311.13.w1, P14.7.w16)
  • Divers (Gaviidae - Loons (Family)), grebes (Podicipedidae - Grebes (Family)) and seaducks are also susceptible; they rest primarily on the keel, and the hocks are overflexed, compromising circulation and leading to swelling and infection. (P14.7.w16)

Prevention:

  • Provide thickly padded or net-bottomed transport containers and accommodation for susceptible species if they must be kept off water (e.g. oiled birds prior to cleaning).
  • Keep birds of these species on water if at all possible.
  • Use net-bottom caging for housing pelagic birds and other species which normally spend little time on land, if they cannot be kept on water (e.g. oiled birds prior to being cleaned). (P4.1990.w1, P24.335.w21, B23.38.w2, J29.8.w1 J311.11.w1)
  • For auks (murres), if a longer time in captivity is required, providing a rocky island in the pool, made from rocks stacked on plastic milk crates, provides a more natural substrate, on which the birds can cling, for example using their toes. (J311.13.w1)
  • Prioritise susceptible species for early washing, so they can be moved to pools as soon as possible. (D60.7.w7, D214.2.w2, P4.1990.w1)

Treatment:

  • NOTE: Treatment is difficult once bacterial infection of the joint is established, since antibiotics may penetrate into the affected joint only poorly. (P24.327.w26)
  • Part of treatment is to improve the substrate (P24.355.w14)
    • Provision of a rocky island (see above, prevention) has been found to assist in reversing hock lesions in auks (alcids). (J311.13.w1)
  • In individuals with mild swellings of the hocks, one option is as follows (P4.1990.w1):
    • Scrub the affected leg and foot with iodine solution;
    • Place the affected limb in a plastic bag, together with a gauze sponge soaked in DMSO, dexamethasone (1 mg per Lb body weight) and an appropriate antibiotic;
    • Wrap the limb and bag in a self-cohesive bandage (e.g. Vetwrap™), moulding the bandage to ensure that the leg is in a walking position;
    • Administer appropriate systemic antibiotics;
    • Change the topical medication every 48 hours (dexamethasone is not required after the first treatment);
    • Re-evaluate after six to eight days.

    (P4.1990.w1)

  • Lesions may be cleaned and flushed with antiseptic solution such as 1% iodine, then bandaged; hydroactive wound dressings such as may assist healing. (P24.355.w14)
  • Necrotic tissue must be debrided, infected joints flushed and antibiotics given on the basis of culture and sensitivity testing. (J29.8.w1)
  • If treatment of more serious lesions is attempted, surgical debridement of the joints is required, followed by provision of padded bandages (to protect the joints) and antibiotic treatment (Amikacin 18-20 mg/kg twice daily intramuscularly plus piperacillin 100-200 mg/kg twice daily intramuscularly, or enrofloxacin 15 mg/kg twice daily intramuscularly, or cefotaxime 100 mg/kg three or four times daily intramuscularly. (P24.327.w26) Ampicillin or streptomycin have also been used. (J7.19.w1)
    • The antibiotic used should be chosen on the basis of culture and sensitivity testing. (J7.19.w1)
Associated Techniques
Host taxa groups /species  

Return to top of page