Friday, June 3, 2011

Signs of Intestinal Blockage in Pet Ducks

This entry is based on personal experience. Always consult your veterinarian when you suspect your pet is ill.

After losing my sweet boy Clyde to a burst intestine this week, I have gained insight regarding what to watch for in cases like his where intestinal blockage leads to intestinal rupture.

Clyde's first symptoms were lethargy, hunched back, lack of appetite.

The second to last day of Clyde's life--notice the hunched posture.
Clyde's normal posture. (He is half mallard/half Indian runner.)

Observe your duck closely for a hunched up look. It's best to keep your duck isolated from the others, if you have others, and/or in the house inside a crate, because it is easy to confuse your duck's fecal matter with that of another duck, or to think he/she is pooping when he/she's not. Examine any fecal matter your duck is passing.

Clyde's fecal matter was white--uric acid--and did not contain any solid food like the normal duck stool produced when eating normal amounts of crumble or grass.

Some of Clyde's poop contained small bits of greens. Tiny bits. When he pooped it looked like this:

Notice that it's all fluid except for a small, thin drop.

Think of the intestines as the passageway that they are. What if there's an obstruction? It could be a rock, plastic, string, metal, or even organic material as was Clyde's case. If there is an obstruction, chances are not much, if any, digested matter can pass through the bowels and be evacuated. If it is evacuated it is reasonable that it would be "squeezed" into tiny bits like that shown above. Also note the white uric acid drop to the left in the photo. When I first brought him inside, Clyde was producing a lot of this white fluid.

Excessive thirst. At first, when I brought him inside, Clyde kept "licking his lips" so-to-speak. He'd move his bill as if his mouth was dry. I checked inside his mouth for sores and in his throat for obstruction.

I gave Clyde electrolytes. I took him to the vet for an x-ray and the vet thought his gonads were a mass. (This vet was not aware of the gonads increasing so much in size during the breeding season.)

Finally, in an attempt to get his appetite up, I bought some mealworms. I'd had several people suggest I tube feed him, but I felt it was against my better judgment based on what I was seeing. I had a fear that I would be pushing something on him that would make him more uncomfortable. Luckily, I didn't tube feed or he would have suffered horrendously in this case.

Clyde ate crickets and mealworms. Then he felt better and became talkative and social with my hen CoCo, who was inside to rest her bum hip. He wanted to go outside and called out to the flock and they answered boisterously.

So he had a little energy, but he wasn't 100%. There was no discharge from the eyes, nose, or mouth.

In hindsight I remember Clyde's body being hunched the first day I noted he seemed "not himself" and a slight bending or pushing motion he was making with his rear/tail area.

Clyde wanted to feel better. I could tell it was something not as serious as it had to be (had it been caught early on). I would have expected different behavior from parasites, intestinal virus/bacteria, cancer, or other disease. Clyde's feathers were healthy. He was trying to eat, but something was causing discomfort.

If your duck has the following symptoms, don't force feed or encourage eating until you've seen a veterinarian and had either an ultrasound or exploratory surgery if all other causes are ruled out:

*Hunched appearance (not ruffled feathers--that is different)
*White uric acid or clear water diarrhea
*Poop that is skinny like spaghetti noodles or in tiny pieces like it squeezed through a smaller-than-normal intestine
*Perking up at mealworms, etc.
*Excessive thirst
*Lip smacking, swallowing as if something caught in throat--the same way a person does when they have dry mouth--not gulping or anything like that--just acting like the mouth is dry
*Moodiness--nudging flock members away with bill or biting you or other birds when they approach
*Not eating regular foodstuff, but wanting to eat, especially if mealworms or crickets are presented
*Sometimes drinking, but not swallowing--just letting the fluid run back out of the bill and into the water dish
*Mimicking the action of eating, but not really eating--dipping bill in crumble and then dipping bill in water, but not really swallowing (the desire to eat, but the inability to eat due to being full from the obstruction)
*Weight loss (compare photos from the same time the previous year, if you have them. If not, monitor your duck's weight.)


*Give mineral oil to attempt to lubricate and loosen the object
*Give electrolytes and vitamin water (available at the feed or pet store)
*Do not feed, except in tiny amounts like a cricket or two
*Have a blood test to rule out metal poisoning and parasites
*Let your duck sit in a warm tub
*Request an ultrasound

Once the intestines have burst there isn't anything that can be done--at least that's what I was told. The harmful intestinal juices leak into the body cavity and cause infection. If your duck's intestines have burst you may hear him/her repeating a small grunting sound, especially if you feel the soft belly area between the legs. This is where the discomfort will probably be. Get to the vet as soon as possible. If the intestines have burst or there is a case of peritonitis, the feces will have a strong, infection-like, and fetid odor.


Anonymous said...

Hi, my duck, Calvin is exhibiting very similar symptoms to your duck. I think he has a blockage of some sort. I read online that you can use molasses to flush their systems, so I tried putting a teaspoon in his quart sized water container. He drank some last night but he still won't eat his crumbles this morning and his poop still is white uric acid with just tiny bits of regular greenish poop in it. Should I continue with the molasses or is there a more effective method? Please help me I don't want to lose my little guy.

Shanti Perez said...

Please take little Calvin to the vet ASAP. Tell them you suspect intestinal blockage and, if it is blockage, eating may cause rupture. That was the mistake I made. If I knew what I knew now I would have had the exploratory surgery done sooner. It was the only way. Also, I would have given some mineral oil. Please let me know what the vet says, but remember that intestinal blockage, like Clyde's, that is plant matter will NOT show on an xray.

Anonymous said...

I think this happened to our duckling eddie. Eddie was 5 weeks old and was spending a lot of time sitting down. Then eddie went wobbly and fell over when she tried to walk. Eddie then started opening and closing her mouth like she was thirsty. She ate a little but then started to look uncomfortable. Eddie then got taken to the vet who felt eddies stomach and said there was either a growth or a blockage. He prescribed paraffin oil, antibiotic and steroid and gave a little to eddie at the vets but shortly after eddie got home she died.
Do you think this was the same as what happened to clide?

Shanti Perez said...

Hello person who took care of Little Eddie. Yes, this is what, in fact, happened to Clyde, only Clyde was two years old. He never gasped like your little guy did, though.

Korrine said...

My Peking duck, Charlotte is leaking white gooey stringy stuff from her vent, I'm really scared, what is wrong? Help please!!!!! I don't want to loose her, I love her dearly.

Shanti Perez said...

Hello Korrine, I would take her to the vet immediately. I'm sorry I didn't see your post sooner. It sounds to me like an egg has broken inside from what you describe. I hope she is okay. Please let me know.

Amber said...

Hi my pekin drake is having similar problems he has increased thirst. He is acting sluggish. His poop is a yellow and watery. He seems hunched he is just in general not himself he sits pretty much all day when before he was very active. His feathers appear to be falling out easily to. His eyes seem sunken in. I have been giving him brewers yeast in his food and putting a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in his water. He is eating his pellets on his own but he doesn't eat alot.

Anonymous said...

Oh, boy. My two year old Muscovy duck is having a terrible time today particularly. He lives in the house and has a large great dane crate but can walk all over and if it weren't cold, he'd be on the back porch with a large pool. He is excessively drinking today - I picked a small handful of grass for him today and I bet a piece of that is stuck. I'll watch him closely tomorrow. I turned out the lights and he seems quieter now. I removed his large water bowl and he has a smaller one instead with super fresh water. It upticked today. No more outside grass for him. I'm really concerned. My cat just died from a blockage and bladder infection that took him in five days time even w/vet treatment. What a way to start a year. Well, at least I know it very well could be a piece of grass. He had something stuck in his throat before and was completely down on his cage floor and I did the Heimlich maneuver on him and we went to the vet the next day who ckd him over. Poor Les, he's on you tube saying I Luv U. Anyhow, I'll watch him tomorrow. Glad this happened begin of week instead of before the weekend. I hate to take him to the vet who ignored my urgent phone calls about my cat but not many avian doctors around here. I'll ck his posture tomorrow.

Doobbie said...

We have a Muschovy named Rosie. A few weeks ago she became lethargic, withdrawn, and was not eating much. Her stool also becam watery, but was till green in color. We have used r some antibiotics from Tue feed store, but that did not help. Her stools went from green and watery, to Brown and watery, and smelled very bad. I then saw your blog a few days ago, and remembered we changed her vrit from w fine grit they sell fr smaller birds at the pet section of Walmart to a corser grit the had at the trqcter supply store, and thought maybe she had a blockage. I gave her some mineral oil via a medicine spoon syringe but all that rid was increase the volume of the horrible smelling Brown stool. She had that for about 3 or 4 days, then we stopped yesterday. Today she has not gone at all, so I do not know if to start the oil again or not. There seems to be q small mounding just qbo e her opening. Some days I hear her playing with her toys in her crate, but when I come to check on her,I see her lying with her head tucked under her wing. Do not know what to do as I do not have money for a vet visit, as I am temporarily disable myself. Please give me some ideas, thanks. She is a duck as rescued from botulism as a duckling a nurse back to health with antibiotics before.

Anonymous said...

My two week ducklings accidentally ate some play doh or clay and after that they stopped pooping. Whats wrong???? Please answer. I love them.

Shanti Perez said...

I'm sorry about all the troubles readers are having with pet duck health. It's never easy. I haven't been updating or checking my blog for a long time, so I apologize for not answering questions. I hope you were able to find a good veterinarian. They are difficult to find for pet birds.

Anonymous said...

Hello. I have a baby duck that we bought from the Amish. I think its around two weeks old possibly older. Anyway the little duck ate a quite big piece of plastic yesterday but swallowed it easily. Only today did I realize it was pooping a lot. Like its trying to push it out but can't. It has watery poop but still some normal poop. I'm really worried. Can't really afford much from the vet and I am a first time duck person. I don't notice any eating or drinking habits change. It drinks and eats a lot so I might've just not noticed. Please help!!! i don't want to lose our first duck so soon!

Anonymous said...

I have a Question about my Peekin Duck. We recently bought a small farm and previous owners left the duck and a couple Guineas. We have no idea how old the duck is. The duck this morning had white watery poop and I have never seen this before. She is also giving us an egg a day. I have no idea when this white watery poo has started but I'm also concerned about her eggs. We have been eating her eggs for a while, they seem good but do we have to worry about anything if she is not feeling well? I do not know much about ducks. This is very new to us.

Shanti Perez said...

This sounds like the normal excretions of uric acid.

Shanti Perez said...

Here is an example:

Shanti Perez said...

Here is an example:

Jessica Ortiz said...

Hi! I just read your story and I have semi-similar problems with our duck. His.. around 4 weeks old and sometimes poops normally ( nice solid poops) sometimes murky looking the color varies from dark green to black. And now his poop is more runny. I thought it was because he consumes more water. However he started to poop just plain water or clear liquid it's scary to see that. He doesn't walk a lot since he is in a cage and everyone is out of the house. We let him swim around for 20mins each day, but walking doesn't happen a lot. I think it might he his health. But I'm not so sure, and please help me oh! And he eats a TON and drinks lots of water which is one thing that makes him different than the rest of the stories I have heard.

Shanti Perez said...

If he's eating and drinking tons, but confined to a cage a lot, perhaps he doesn't have the muscle to withstand exercise. Perhaps he needs a checkup. He definitely needs more exercise.


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