Common Waterfowl Illnesses and Treatment
Having waterfowl and collecting their eggs is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had since I started on this little adventure. Keeping ducks healthy requires taking steps to prevent disease outbreaks from occurring.
Waterfowl owners must establish and maintain biosecurity that will help to prevent the introduction of diseases. In cases where it is necessary to bring live ducks or geese to your farm, they should be quarantined before being placed on the farm premises. If possible, immunizing your waterfowl against known infectious diseases will help prevent the further spread of those illnesses. Lastly, minimizing environmental stresses which may cause ducks and geese to become susceptible to infections or diseases. This includes providing proper and secure housing.
A few common diseases that our backyard friends may come across are
Duck Virus Hepatitis, New Duck disease, and Avian Cholera.
Duck Virus Hepatitis
This virus is highly contagious to ducklings that are susceptible at a younger age and gradually become more resistant as they grow older. The disease is rarely seen in ducklings over 4 weeks of age. The onset of the disease is rapid and spreads quickly through the flock. Since there’s no treatment or cure for this virus, prevention is key.
New Duck Disease
This is another disease that may cause high mortality in your flock. Most of us will first start to notice that our waterfowl seem listless and potentially have eye discharge. Often, ducks show incoordination and shaking of the head. The best way to prevent New Duck Disease from harming your flock is through vaccination. If you notice any of these symptoms, a call to your local Agricultural Extension office would be the best place to start. Typically, antibiotics upon early onset is the treatment.
This illness is caused by bacteria and is troublesome to our domestic ducks. This disease is commonly seen with poor husbandry and standing water in the duck pen. You will notice your ducks or geese have loss of appetite, mucous discharge from the mouth, or even labored breathing. Good sanitation practices go a long way toward preventing this disease. If Avian Cholera does become a problem in your backyard, antibiotics (directed by a veterinarian) typically help cure this unwanted disease.
So all in all; keep your pens clean, isolate newcomers, vaccinate if possible, and reach out to your local Ag Extension office upon onset of any illness. Prevention is key to most viruses and diseases.
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Regarding Duck Virus Hepatitis, you say prevention is the key but you don’t say what that prevention entails. Vaccination for this disease was not an option when I purchased my ducklings from Meyer and I lost one to this disease yesterday at just under 4 weeks of age. How can we prevent it when vaccination is not even offered?
Hi Julene. Thank you for reading our blog and for your comment. My research found that a hepatitis vaccine for backyard pet ducklings isn’t readily available for purchase. The vaccine is administered to duck breeder flocks, which then allows maternal antibodies to be passed onto the ducklings for protection of several diseases that ducks can get. Unfortunately, there’s no way to guarantee that a duckling will acquire maternal antibodies from their mother, and those antibodies would generally only last a short time. To acquire natural immunity, the duckling would hopefully be challenged with the virus in a low enough number to allow the duckling’s immune system to produce antibodies and fight off the infection before succumbing to an illness. When vaccination is not an option, sanitation is an even more important part of disease prevention. Maintaining clean water, isolating an animal at the first sign of an issue, and routinely scrubbing and sanitizing feeders and waterers regularly are the best ways to help spread disease.