Waterfowl Ailments and Treatments
Compared to other forms of poultry, waterfowl are relatively free of health
problems. When they do have a problem, however, it is frequently serious and
often fatal if not treated promptly. Below is a rundown of common ailments
and recommended treatments. Since antibiotics are constantly being replaced
by more effective kinds, it is wise to ask your poultry supply vendor if there
is a more effective treatment available after one has diagnosed the ailment.
Remember that it is usually better to act quickly even if one is not positive
about the nature of the problem. Do not be afraid to describe the symptoms
to the poultry supply vendor and ask for his recommendations. Of course, your
best resource would certainly be your local vet. A vet who is an avian specialist
would be even more preferred.
Caused by toxins in decaying animal or vegetable matter. Botulism can also
be contracted when the birds feed on fly maggots which have fed on such material.
Symptoms: body weakness, inability to walk and a progressive paralysis. Birds
are frequently seen lying with their necks stretched out in front of them.
Symptoms usually show up within a few hours after ingestion of the material.
Usually fatal within 24 hours if not promptly treated. Pour one tablespoon
of Epsom salts in a ½ cup of water and get as much down the bird's throat
as possible (a plastic syringe with needle removed is a good tool). Botulism
is most often a problem when dead birds are not disposed of quickly and properly.
Chronic Respiratory Disease (CRD)-
A slow spreading bacterial infection which affects the lungs and bronchial
tubes. It is difficult to treat because it is often difficult to get effective
medication to the site of the infection. Symptoms: watery eyes, difficulty
breathing, loss of weight, loss of normal feathers on breast and/or underside
(leaving nothing but down in those areas). Infected birds never seem to put
on weight no matter how well they are fed. Symptoms will come and go to an
extent. Warm weather seems to stimulate "recovery" which is usually only temporary.
Young bantam ducks are especially susceptible. Treatment for a minimum of
5-7 days with a state-of-the-art antibiotic such as Baytril is the best response.
I have used an injectable antibiotic successfully but normally, I recommend
destruction of infected birds due to the low cure rate and danger of infection
to other flock members. See more on Baytril at the conclusion of this article.
Fogging at least twice per day for 10 days with Oxine will help treat infected
birds and keep the infection from spreading.
A family of intestinal tract ailments always characterized by diarrhea. Best
treatment is Neomycin powder for 5 days followed by probiotic treatment for
seven days. Baytril is also effective. Treatment must begin quickly if the
birds are to be saved. Enteritis can be contracted through fouled water sources.
Eliminate puddles and fouled pools and mud and you eliminate Enteritis. This
is a big killer of wild waterfowl.
This is a disease which most people assume only troubles chickens but young
waterfowl under stressful conditions can also be affected. Symptoms: ruffled
feathers, droopy posture and lack of appetite are the most common. Treat with
Amprol in the water for 3 days. Do not use Ren-o-sal or other arsenic based
Waterfowl are very susceptible to infestations of worms. They can host Round,
Capillary and Gapeworms as well as nine different types of Tapeworms. Symptoms:
failure to thrive and gain weight, birds limping, birds opening their mouths
as if they cannot get enough air (Gapeworms). The best way to avoid the problem
is to worm the entire flock twice a year with Levamisole in their water and
then repeat the treatment again in ten days. The common earthworm is an intermediate
host for Gapeworms and should not be something intentionally fed to waterfowl.
Another effective treatment that also destroys any external parasites is Ivomec
(it is an injectable swine wormer) given orally- three drops down the throat.
Treatment with Ivomec should be repeated in three days. Ivomec will not be
effective against Tape Worms. Use a product called Dronit for Tape Worms.
Waterfowl with bathing water available are generally not troubled by heavy
infestations of lice or mites but lice in particular can be found on them
and they (lice) can damage the feathering on show birds. An infestation is
much more likely if the waterfowl are kept on the same premises with chickens.
Adams Flea Off or Ultra Shield sprays are a convenient and effective way to treat for lice or
mites but must be used regularly to be effective. In fact, there are a number
of sprays and powders, which will be effective with regular use; it boils
down to one's personal preference.
Fungal Infections in the Lungs-
Bantam ducks seem to be vulnerable to this disease particularly during their
first several months of life. This problem may be the cause of some unexpected
and unexplained deaths in young birds. Typical symptoms may be labored and
noisy breathing but little more. Sudden death can follow. Proper and prompt
treatment can save birds. Fogging infected birds in a carrier with Oxine mixed
at 6 ½ ounces per gallon of water can kill the fungi in the trachea and lungs
if the problem is caught early enough. Use a nebulizer to fog the birds in
an enclosed area for two to five minutes per treatment. Birds inhaling the
Oxine will often shake their heads. The treatment should take place twice
per day for 14 days. If the bird does not show improvement within 5 days or
shows signs of a secondary infection treat with Baytril as indicated below
and accompany that treatment with doses of a probiotic. If a nebulizer is
not available, one can use a spray bottle set on the finest spray but a spray
bottle is not ideal. By the way, routine fogging of groups of young birds
in the brooder house may prevent some cases of fungal infection of the lungs
and is recommended on a weekly basis.
Baytril is a broad-spectrum antibiotic in injectable form often prescribed
for use in dogs. It is relatively expensive but very effective for a broad
range of problems. The specific strength recommended is 2.27% and the dosage
is 2 10ths of a CC per pound of body weight. One half CC is often used for
bantam ducks or chickens. Two injections per day for 5 days is the course
of treatment. Do not quit treatment earlier than that even if the bird appears
fully recovered. Oral administration of a probiotic should accompany the antibiotic
treatment and should continue for at least three days after the antibiotics
are finished. Probiotics replenish the good bacteria in the gut that are killed
by the antibiotic. Treatment with probiotics should continue for 7 days after
the antibiotics are finished. The injections should be given in the muscle
of the breast or leg with the breast preferred.
General Do's and Don't's
Originally published: 10-24-2006
It probably pays to keep some medications on hand for emergencies. I keep
some Panalog ophthalmic ointment handy to treat "sticky eye" infections. As
mentioned earlier, I also keep Aureomycin on hand to treat gut infections.
One does not want to have to wait several days to receive a needed medication
in the mail when time is of the essence. When giving injections to multiple
birds, be careful not to spread infection by using the same needle without
sterilizing it between uses. Rubbing alcohol or heavily diluted chlorine bleach
will do a nice job as a disinfectant. Giving injections is something one must
learn to do properly. When giving an injection in the breast or leg muscle
(intramuscular), always pull the needle plunger back slightly once the needle
has been inserted but before the antibiotic has been injected. If one has
accidentally hit an artery, blood will flow quickly into the syringe. Withdraw
the needle and try another location. If one injects some forms of antibiotic
directly into an artery, one may be left with a dead bird in one's hand due
to the shock. For information on waterfowl and West Nile Virus, see the separate article.
Last updated: 03-07-2008