Rubber duck surgeon and nurse

When Do You Need a Vet?

Ducks are hardy animals and, if kept well, are not susceptible to disease. However, almost any flock raiser is bound to encounter a problem, whether it is disease, injury, nutritional deficiencies, mites, or some other form of health problem.

In some of these cases, especially if you are knowledgeable about duck health, you may be able to solve the problem without the intervention of a vet. (And in some cases the duck will solve the problem itself without YOUR intervention!)

But at other times, you may be completely baffled and feel at a loss for what to do. In these cases, the possibility of taking the duck to a vet will come up. Even then, it’s not always necessary. The World Wide Web is full of information, and a Google search can sometimes find you an answer. There are also excellent online forums (such as the one at www.backyardchickens.com, which has a section for ducks) which can give you answers quickly, sometimes within minutes. I’ve seen experienced duck raisers on online forums help frantic duck owners with cases that seemed utterly hopeless without a vet. Many maladies are relatively easy to solve by yourself, provided you know what to do.

And if you CAN’T solve it?

Then you might want to take your duck to a vet.

You should definitely know a vet and keep a phone number or address handy, perhaps in a first-aid kit, just in case a problem comes up requiring the help of professionals. Unfortunately, many vets will not see ducks or other poultry, because they simply do not have the experience. If you can find a vet that specializes in avian care, that’s wonderful! And if you can’t, chances are you can still find a vet that is willing to try to help you. In these cases, it is often helpful to have knowledge of poultry yourself. This is what I’ve done. No one around has experience with poultry, but our vet is open-minded and willing to talk with me to find solutions that will work. In the case of one injury, I asked her, “What would you do if the patient was a dog?” We explored her suggestions, found some natural things that were safe for ducks, and it worked wonderfully.

In some cases, even if a vet could help, you might not want them to. If you are breeding your ducks, you absolutely do not want to breed weak stock. Birds with defects or weaknesses should be culled. If a breeding duck easily falls prey to sickness, even if medications are capable of saving it, you should cull it. Also, there may be some cases where it would simply cost too much. Some duck raisers treasure their birds like they were members of the family, and those people usually don’t mind that saving their bird robs them of a huge chunk of money. Others, like me, are a little more economical. If it’s a problem that has not resulted from weakness, and if I don’t have to fork over piles of cash to help the duck, I’d go ahead and save the duck. Otherwise, no. I love my ducks, but sometimes I just don’t think it’s worth it.

Some duck owners live in remote areas with no easy access to high-tech care, medications, or experienced vets. These people should research a lot and acquaint themselves with duck health so that they can save as many of their ducks that are worth saving as possible.

In summary, I think every duck raiser should prepare themselves and find a vet, no matter what their philosophy, just in case. Much of the time, you can spare yourself the expense, but when you’ve wracked your brain and are desperate to save a bird, a veterinarian is a wonderful solace. And if there simply are no competent vets, a comprehensive knowledge of duck maladies may be enough for you.