Knowing how to safely medicate ducks or other waterfowl can make the difference between life or death for your pet or backyard ducks. In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to pill or syringe your ducks to provide the medications they need when at-home care is appropriate.
We should start out this article by making three points crystal clear:
1. You shouldn’t get any animal (including ducks and other waterfowl) unless you’re prepared to provide them with excellent care — including medical care — if/when they need it.
2. If you have backyard ducks or pet ducks, you should have a duck first aid kit in your house in the event that there are minor medical complications/problems.
3. If a duck in your flock gets seriously sick or injured and/or you’re not confident in your knowledge and ability to treat it, you should take it to a vet immediately (ideally an avian vet).
We’ve got many years of experience successfully raising ducks and providing them with knowledge-appropriate at-home medical care, but we are not avian vets (e.g. we’re not qualified to do at-home avian surgeries or to diagnose or treat serious life-threatening illnesses/injuries in our ducks). If you’re reading this and you have a sick or injured duck, it’s likely that you’re in the same boat we are.
In short: please don’t let your sick or injured duck suffer unnecessarily if it needs help beyond what you can reasonably diagnose or provide — take it to your vet!
WHEN to medicate your ducks at home
Now that we have that disclosure out of the way, let’s talk about times when it’s completely appropriate for you to provide at-home medical care for your duck, including medicating your ducks:
- minor, non-life threatening illnesses and injuries;
- illnesses/injuries that you have prior knowledge and experience diagnosing and treating;
- illnesses/injuries that your vet has given you instruction to continue treating at home.
We’ve been through a wide range of medical complications with ducks in our flock over the years, so our confidence in diagnosing and treating certain illnesses/injuries at home is likely going to be very different from that of a new duck parent.
For instance, we just had someone in France reach out to us on our facebook page with the following inquiry:
Hi, I need help with my duck. 6 months old Pekin diagnosed with arthritis due to infection when a duckling before we rescued her. Vitamins helped but 3 weeks ago her leg started swelling and she now can’t walk or stand. In France ducks and chickens have no value so I have no vet support except generic antibiotics. What can I give her to ease the swelling and as long term support. The American forums are great and I found your site last night. Really helpful re first aid kit etc. Any advice really welcome. Regards.
In this instance, it’s pretty clear this relatively new duck parent is going to have to do some sleuthing and medicating on her own. Our advice back to her:
Hi! Thanks for your concern for your duck. There are a couple options available here in the US, but I’m not sure what options you have available there.
1. A drug called Metacam. That’s the brand name. The actual drug is generically meloxicam. It’s a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works great for ducks. Our avian vet has given us a standing prescription for it and we’ve used it for egg binding, injured legs, etc. over the years. It works great. It’s commonly prescribed for dogs as well, so perhaps you could get a vet prescription for it in France.
2. Turmeric powder/capsules. If you can find high quality turmeric capsules, this could be a big help as well. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. Our vet has actually recommended this as well. This is something you may be able to find in a grocery store, health food store, or pharmacy – if not, you should be able to order it online easily – no prescription required. Hope this helps and your duck’s arthritis symptoms become manageable!
Additionally: Metacam is a liquid that you have to put into a blunt plastic syringe and shoot down their throat, carefully avoiding the glottis. The glottis is the windpipe/hole in the middle of their throat at the back of their tongues that opens and closes allowing them to breathe. It’s actually surprisingly easy to do this procedure yourself and there are online videos showing you how. (It’s easier with two people involved when you’re new to it.) If you put fluid into their glottis, it can cause serious aspiration-related health issues (including death), so it’s important to learn what to do before doing it.
Turmeric pills would also need to be pushed down their throat to the side of the glottis in order for them to swallow it.
What does a duck glottis look like?
If you’re wondering what the heck a duck glottis is or what it looks like, here you go:
Funny example of medicating our duck
Below is a picture of Jackson, one of our ducks. As you can see, the bottom of her mouth is very swollen in this photo.
Why? Jackson decided to eat a hornet (unrelated but you should check out the inside of a hornet’s nest – they’re amazing!).
Jackson was not happy about this condition and was clearly in pain. We were worried she might have trouble eating and drinking – especially if the swelling got worse. What to do?
We gave Jackson:
- A syringe of *Children’s Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) two mornings in a row to help stop the swelling and reduce her body’s allergic response to the hornet sting. (*Very important: Do not use grape-flavored children’s Benadryl on your ducks. Our vet told us either the dye or the flavoring used in the grape is dangerous to waterfowl.)
- A syringe of Metacam (meloxicam) twice daily. As mentioned above, this is an excellent non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) that helps control pain and inflammation. It also requires an Rx from a vet.
After a bit of indoor R & R and medical treatment, Jackson was soon back outside.
HOW to medicate your ducks at home
We don’t recommend giving your duck a shot (with a needle) into their flesh at home unless you have training and experience doing so. Giving ducks shots carries a high risk of you puncturing an air sac or organ unless you have experience with the procedure and know duck anatomy.
The medical procedures we’re outlining in this article are:
- giving your ducks pills, and
- giving your ducks oral injections with a syringe.
There are quite a few instances in which such care would be necessary. A few examples:
- bacterial or fungal infections,
- egg passage issues or egg binding,
- broken bones,
- serious cases of bumblefoot,
- a minor sprain or twist,
- vitamin deficiencies.
The primary risks involved with pilling or injecting medication or supplements into your duck’s mouth are:
- putting something down their glottis which can kill them or cause an infection;
- causing additional injury or damage to their mouths.
Depending on whether you need to give your duck or other waterfowl a pill or an oral injection with a syringe, the instructional videos below should help:
Video 1: How to safely give your duck a pill
Thanks to Marigold von Duck for posing in this how to pill a duck instructional video, which she was not terribly pleased about. She’s not sick, so we just gave her a B Vitamin.
Video 2: How to safely give your duck an oral injection with a syringe
Thanks to Jackson von Duck for begrudgingly starring in this how to give your duck an oral injection with a syringe video. Jackson isn’t sick either, so we just gave her a bit of homemade elderberry syrup mixed with water.
We hope the information and videos in this article help you safely and effectively care for your ducks! If you have additional questions about how to medicate ducks, please let us know in the comment section below.
More backyard duck articles that will quack you up:
- 10 things you should know before getting ducks
- How to get your ducks to like you: 3 tips
- Duck health guide: duck first aid kit essentials + other health tips
- How to tube feed a duck or other poultry species (w/ video)
and other duck articles from Tyrant Farms.