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Scaly Face - Issue Description

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Issue Name

Scaly Face

Other Names
Knemidocoptiasis, Scaly Legs, Tassel Foot, Scaly Foot

Issue Description

A bird ailment that is common among caged birds and also affects many other bird species. It is caused by mites in the genus Knemidocoptes which burrow into the bird's flesh. The tunnels made by the mites within the skin cause dermatitis and scaly lesions. Scaly face is caused by the same mite responsible for scaly foot and other related mites cause depluming. The condition is transmitted from one bird to another by direct prolonged contact.


Knemidocoptiasis causes lesions of the skin with dermatitis and thickening of the skin. Commonly known as scaly face, scaly legs, or tassel foot, knemidocoptiasis affects primarily the face and legs of birds around the world worldwide and can be fatal.


Scaly foot, otherwise known as knemidocoptiasis, is caused by burrowing mites in the genus Knemidocoptes. The condition can be compared with sarcoptic mange in mammals, but does not seem to cause the same level of itching. The birds chiefly affected are galliformes (chickens and turkeys), passerines (finches, canaries, sparrows, robins, wrens), and psittacine birds (parrots, macaws, parakeets, budgerigars). The condition sometimes additionally affects piciformes (woodpeckers, toucans) and anseriformes ducks, geese, swans), raptors and other birds. The two species of mite most often implicated are K. jamaicensis and K. intermedius. Other related species of mite affect feather follicles and cause depluming. The mites are mostly transmitted by prolonged direct contact, particularly from parent bird to unfledged nestling.


In domestic birds the disease may be treated by application of an oily substance such as petroleum jelly, vegetable oil, or a commercial chest rub, thus preventing the mites breathing. Alternatively an insecticide may be used to kill the mites – or the two methods may be combined. The loose crusty scales may also be removed by soaking the afflicted bird's legs in soapy water mixed with diluted ammonia, and the encrusted areas scrubbed gently with a soft brush. Complete removal may take multiple treatments. Dropped scales may remain infectious for up to a month, and so pen, perches, and nesting areas may also be treated, or birds may be moved to different housing for several weeks. Treatment is performed under strict veterinarian supervision.

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