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Osteomyelitis is an infection in the bone. Infections can reach the bone by traveling through the bloodstream or spreading from nearby tissue. The infection is most often caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Bone infections can happen suddenly or develop over a long period of time. If they’re not properly treated, bone infections can leave a bone permanently damaged, resulting in a need to amputate the affected bone(s).
Chickens can develop osteomyelitis in their feet and legs if they have an existing injury or wound, such as bumblefoot. Bacteria can enter at a surgical site, such as during a bone fracture repair. Anytime a bone breaks, it increases the risk for bacteria to invade and lead to osteomyelitis.
Osteomyelitis is diagnosed through radiographs (xrays). Most cases of osteomyelitis are treatable in chickens, as long as it is recognized quickly by the owner, and treatment is aggressive, and in accordance with a veterinarian's specific instructions. Otherwise, surgical amputation of the affected limb may be necessary by your veterinarian.