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Waterfowl

 

Respiratory Disease in Ducks

Cause

Most often respiratory disease in ducks is caused by a bacteria called Riemerella. The bacteria is either inhaled or the bird are infected through cuts on their feet. The bacteria infects the brain (Meningitis), the joints (lameness), the oviducts and the respiratory system.  The infection can cause severe damage to the oviduct meaning that it cannot take the eggs from the ovary to the vent resulting in internal laying.

Although the eggs will be absorbed, they are often laid faster than the absorption rate so egg yolks will build up in their belly.  This makes it hard for the ducks to breathe causing them to stand upright like penguins to take pressure off their respiratory system.  This belly of yolks is easily infected and can go on to cause peritonitis (an infection of the belly) which can be fatal.

The disease commonly affects ducklings, older birds are less vulnerable.

What to look out for

  • sneezing
  • runny nose and eyes
  • lameness
  • dullness
  • diarrhoea
  • twisted heads

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is based upon swabs taken by your vet to look for the bacteria.

Treatment

Your vet is likely to prescribe antibiotics but it is important to note that many ducklings fail to recover and those that do survive may have stunted growth.

If a duck becomes an internal layer your vet may suggest the use of a hormonal implant to stop her laying.

Prevention

Once on a site it is hard to get rid of the bacteria.

You can reduce the chances of your ducklings getting the disease by keeping the house, run and pond as clean as possible (this is not easy as ducks are experts at making a mess). Use Interkokask as a disinfectant for the housing.

In theory a vaccine could be used, however there is not one currently licensed in the UK.

 

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Diarrhoea in Ducks and Geese

Just as for chickens there are several possible causes of diarrhoea in waterfowl (coccidiosis, worms, viruses and bacteria).  These agents damage the intestine wall and can cause reduced absorption of nutrients leading to weight loss and dehydration. Depending on the cause the diarrhoea may be contagious to other birds.

Poor quality feed or excessive/inappropriate treats can lead to diarrhoea.

Dirty drinking water can harbour lots of bacteria to cause diarrhoea. (Ducks like to dirty their water).

Note: Worms don’t usually cause diarrhoea but large burdens may upset the gut.

Ensure your geese have been wormed in the past three months with Flubenvet 1%.

What to look out for

  • wet bedding
  • loose droppings
  • weight loss
  • dull hunched birds with ruffled feathers
  • pasted vents

Treatment

If you are concerned about the possibility of worms or coccidiosis being an underlying cause then you can use the Chicken Vet Faecaes Sample Kit. Simple collect 10 fresh droppings, place into the pot provided, complete the submission form and post to Chicken Vet.  We will count the number of coccidial oocysts and worm eggs in the droppings to determine if your bird has coccidiosis and or worms.

If your bird looks reasonably bright and is eating and drinking it may be worth trying BioStop. BioStop contains tannins to help maintain and support intestinal upset. This product should be given for 5-7 days in drinking water and can be given to healthy birds.

Your bird may not be absorbing enough water and electrolytes from its gut so we recommend given Anilyte + C in water for up to 3 days.  This contains electrolytes to rehydrate your bird and aniseed to give the water a pleasant taste therefore encouraging your dehydrated bird to drink. This can be given with BioStop.

Note: Ducks in particular normally have access to ponds.  If they are unwell it may be worth keeping them in for a few days to ensure they drink any medication prescribed by your vet.

Prevention

Try to keep wild waterfowl away if possible as they can carry diseases which can cause diarrhoea in domestic waterfowl.

Try to keep the pond water as fresh and clean as possible.  We appreciate that this is not easy as ducks like to carry feed to the pond. 

Always feed an appropriate waterfowl feed with minimal treats. Geese will like to graze.

 

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Coccidiosis in Ducks and Geese

Coccidiosis is caused by a single celled parasite which enters the cells of the bird’s gut to reproduce. In doing this the parasite destroys the cells lining the gut wall leading to intestinal damage. The degree of damage will depend on how many coccidial eggs (oocysts) are eaten which in turn will depend upon how contaminated the environment is with oocysts.

This damage reduces the gut's ability to absorb nutrients leading to weight loss and diarrhoea.

The damaged gut allows harmful bacteria to reproduce causing a secondary bacterial diarrhoea, and in severe cases cross into the blood, causing blood poisoning.

Coccidiosis eggs (oocysts) have a very thick wall and as such can survive years in the environment and can be resistant to many disinfectants so ensure that your disinfectant is licensed against coccidiosis.

Wild water fowl are often a source of infection for domestic birds so it is important not to encourage them if possible.

Note: The coccidial species that infects chickens, ducks geese and turkeys are different and they cannot infect each other.

Which birds are at risk?

Young ducklings and goslings up to two months of age.

What to look out for:

  • birds that are dull and hunched up with ruffled feathers
  • sudden death
  • weight loss
  • diarrhoea +/- mucus and blood  
  • many birds are often affected in varying degrees

Diagnosis

You should consult your vet if you suspect coccidiosis or you can use a Chicken Vet Faeces Sample Kit. Simply collect 10 fresh droppings, place into the pot provided, complete the submission form and post to Chicken Vet.  We will count the number of coccidial oocysts in the droppings to determine if your bird has coccidiosis.

Treatment

This condition needs veterinary intervention as an anticoccidial agent will be needed possibly along with antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infections.

Your bird will not be absorbing enough water and electrolytes from its gut and it should be given Anilyte + C in water for up to three days. This contains electrolytes to rehydrate your bird and contains aniseed to give the water a pleasant taste encouraging your dehydrated bird to drink. Give Anilyte + C for 3-5 days in drinking water.

Prevention

Try to keep wild ducks and geese away if possible.

Keep accommodation as clean as possible and use a disinfectant licensed to kill coccidiosis such as Interkokask or Bi-OO-Cyst.

 

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Worms in Ducks and Geese

Cause

Just as for chickens there are several species of worms which can infect both ducks and geese.

There is a species of worm which is related to gape worm which can live in the trachea (windpipe) to cause gasping, however this is relatively uncommon. Worms that live in the digestive system are much more common and important.  Capillaria (Hairworms) are highly important in young goslings.

What to look out for

  • weight loss
  • poor growth
  • dullness
  • lack of egg production
  • mild diarrhoea

Diagnosis

The only way to be sure if your birds have worms is to sample their droppings using the Chicken Vet Faeces Sample Kit. Simply collect 10 fresh droppings, place them into the pot provided, complete the submission form and post to Chicken Vet.  We will count the number of worm eggs in the droppings to determine if your bird has worms.  We will then let you know if you need to worm your birds.

Treatment

Give your Geese a course of Flubenvet 1% in feed for seven days at 60g/20Kg of feed.

Note: There are no licensed wormers for ducks in the UK.

Prevention:

Either routinely worm your birds with Flubenvet1% at least every 6 months (spring and autumn), and ideally every 3 months or send in droppings samples every 8 weeks to Chicken Vet.

When cleaning your Waterfowl houses, use an appropriate disinfectant such as Interkokask that is licensed against worm eggs.

Try to move your run if possible to prevent a build up of worm eggs on the pasture.

 

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Duck Viral Hepatitis

Duck viral hepatitis is a disease that affects the livers of young ducklings up to 7 weeks of age.  Once the disease enters a group of ducklings it will spread rapidly. 

What to look out for

  • sudden death
  • twisted neck
  • dullness

Diagnosis

Diagnosis can only be made by a post mortem by your vet.

Treatment

Antibiotic treatment may be attempted

Prevention

Good hygiene and a reduction in stress will help reduce the likelihood of this disease occurring. Interkokask is an excellent all round disinfectant.

A vaccine is available in some parts of the world but unfortunately not in the UK.

 

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Duck Viral Enteritis

Duck viral enteritis (Duck Plague) is a viral infection of ducks and geese. The virus is often spread from wild waterfowl via contaminated water and rapidly infects domestic flocks.  Even if a bird recovers it will shed the virus for life as it will remain a carrier.

What to look out for

  • sudden death often in April-June (Due to migration of wild birds)
  • wing walking
  • runny nose and eyes
  • loss of appetite
  • bloody diarrhoea

Diagnosis

Your vet can make a diagnosis on post mortem.

Treatment

Your vet may prescribe antibiotics

Provide TLC and Anilyte +C.

Prevention

Try to keep wild waterfowl away where possible

Only buy ducks and geese from reputable suppliers as apparently normal birds may be silent carriers.

A vaccine is available in parts of the world but not in the UK.

 

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Fowl Pox

Cause

Fowl pox is caused by a pox virus and can affect chickens, pigeons and turkeys.

The virus can get into the skin via biting insects and skin wounds to cause ‘pocks’ (scab-like crusted  raised areas) on featherless skin such as the legs, comb, eye lids and wattles. This is called the ‘dry form’ of Fowl pox.  In some when the eye lids are affected, the birds can lose their sight. Birds with the ‘dry form’ seldom die.

In rare cases the virus can infect the mouth.  The oesophagus (food pipe) and the trachea (windpipe) are initially affected to form white nodules in these areas but subsequently these areas join together to create a layer of mucus, pus and dead cells from the mouth lining. This is called the’ wet form’. This mucus/pus/dead cells can obstruct the trachea making it difficult for the birds to breathe (in severe cases choking the bird) and it can be very painful making it hard for the bird to eat. Birds with the ‘wet form’ if severe enough can die.

The virus will spread very slowly throughout the flock but an outbreak will last several weeks.

What to look out for

Dry form

  • raised crusted areas on featherless skin (legs, comb and wattles)
  • drop in egg production
  • weight loss

Wet form

  • weight loss
  • death
  • refusing to eat and/or dropping food from the mouth
  • difficulty breathing/gasping

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is mostly based upon clinical signs.

Treatment

Your vet may prescribe antibiotic to control secondary bacterial infections.

Note: Birds with the wet form may die.

Prevention

  • To prevent Fowl pox there is no currently licensed vaccine in the UK.
  • Improving overall hygiene and keeping the birds as stress free as possible will help.

Note: The Fowl pox virus is very resistant and can survive for years on the holding.

 

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