Important Diseases of Ducks

Important Diseases of Ducks


The diseases of ducks as usual are caused by virus, bacteria, fungus, parasites and physiological disorders. The most common diseases are briefly explained under these sub-sections.

A. Viral diseases

The important known viral diseases are briefly explained here.

  1. Duck Virus Hepatitis

It is caused by a small RNA virus called Picorna. This disease is found even among the wild ducks: But the chickens and the turkeys are not affected by this. It was found first time in Long Island in U.S,A. and Dr. P.P. Levin from State Veterinary Institute, Ithaca, New York named this virus.


Two types of duck virus hepetitis is found to occur: type I and type II. The type I is also called the classical type.


  1. Type I

Type I form of Duck Virus Hepetitis occurs suddenly among the ducklings below three weeks, spreads fast and in two days time 90% of them die. Normally not more than 5% of the ducklings of the age between 4 -5 weeks are affected by the type I hepetitis.


  1. Type II

Type II is not very common and is found only among the ducks which are above five weeks of age. The mortality due to this type of hepetitis is about 50 -60 per cent.


  1. Symptoms

Ducklings appear dull within 30 minutes after they are infected by this disease and they stop taking feed and stand away from the crowed. Within a short time they fall on their sides and start struggling with legs. A kind of brownish (?) colour is seen on the beak and their droppings become greenish and watery. It is fond that the best and the fat ducklings are infected and die first. Some of them may recover miraculously and start growing normally along with others.


  1. Mode of spread

It believed that the disease spreads through the intake of infected feed material and there are no indications so far that the disease is spread through eggs from one generation to the other. Within few hours after the infection the virus appear in the droppings which contaminates the litter and the feed. The virus can live on many weeks and hence they can infect the subsequent batches of ducks being reared. The virus is easily transmitted to through the vehicles, people, animals, birds and materials used in carrying eggs etc. Where rearing is done under good sanitary conditions the incidence of this disease is very rare.


  1. Prevention

There are two ways we can prevent this disease: immunization and vaccination. By collecting the blood serum from those that recovered from the disease and injecting the duckling immunization can be done; because there are antibodies in the serum of the cured ones. However this is not practical for the farmers as it requires certain laboratory facilities.


For the type I & II hepetitis vaccines available from the veterinary shopes or hospitals. The vaccine Hyperopic serum @ 0.5 to 1.0 ml per adult breeding bird will reduce the mortality

due to this disease in the flock. It is given on the membrane between the toes in the leg of the breeding ducks according to the dosage prescribed by the manufacturer. The resistance power from the breeding ducks will be transmitted to the off springs through the eggs. The first vaccination is done to the day old ducklings on the foot web. With the first vaccination the ducks should be safe for the rest of the life. However a second vaccination may be given when the ducklings are four weeks old. For the ducks selected for breeding a third vaccination may be given when they are 8 to 10 weeks old. The dosages of 0.5, 0.75 and 1.0 rnl per herd are given respectively at the 1st, 2nd and 3rd vaccinations.


  1. Duck plague

Duck plague is also known as duck virus entreritis and is caused by a herpes virus. Ducks of all ages are affected by this disease. It spreads fast and is more prominent among the ducks which are reared in the open water bodies like pond, river, lakes etc. The germs are spread through the flowing water and hence at the out break of the disease the birds should be kept away from the open water. The recovered birds can be the carriers of the disease.


  1. Symptoms

At the onset of an outbreak some birds may die without showing any symptom. Affected birds are listless with drooping wings, ruffled and dull feathers, no desire to walk or swim, conjunctivitis may be seen in broiler ducks; swollen and moist eyes with sticky discharge in advanced stages; some ducks may become blind; nasal discharge with dirty nostrils, laboured breathing, loss of appetite but increased thirst; watery greenish-yellow diarrhea sometimes mixed with blood; photophobia, swollen and protruding penis with superficial ulcers in males and drop in egg production in layers.


  1. Prevention and control

Treatment for cure is of no use and only vaccination with duck plague vaccine can ,protect the birds. The ducks are vaccinated thrice: at two weeks age, at 10 weeks age and at 24 weeks age using the deep freeze vaccine called attenuated egg adapted living virus vaccine. One ampule of vaccine is diluted to 100 ml and can be used for about, 200 birds. Thereafter the birds are to be vaccinated every six month.


Once an ampule is broken and diluted with bridge old distilled water or normal saline then the whole medicine should be used within two hours of its dilution or the left over should be disposed of. The diluted vaccine should not be exposed to sun light or heat. The medicine can be stored in title refrigerator at 5 degree C for a month but at -5 for about 2 months.


  1. Raniket disease

Raniket disease is caused by a paramyxo virus. The ducks are less susceptible to this disease compared to fowls and infection does not lead to any mortality. However infection results in the drastic reduction of the egg production. Hence the laying flock should be vaccinated against this disease.


  1. Duck influenza

It is caused by different serotypes of avian influenza virus. Secondary infection may be caused by mycoplasma and or bacteria can only produce clinical symptoms. Insanitary conditions, overcrowding, poor ventilation and poor management are some of the main environmental conditions for the causal organisms to grow and multiply.


  1. Symptoms

Uni or bilateral inflammation of the infra-orbital sinus filled with exudate, nasal discharge, dirty feathers/on both sides of head, sneezing, difficult breathing and hoarse respiratory sound are the prominent symptoms of this disease. Mortality is high but variable but growth is retarded very much in chronic cases.


  1. Prevention and control

First of all ensure proper sanitation and ventilation, avoid overcrowding and improve the management practices. As a preventive method one course of antibiotics like Sulphamecithene @ of 0.2% solution in water is given followed by a second course after three days. We can also give 460 gm Sulphaquinoxine per tonnes of feed for one and half days to control the disease. However medicines belonging to the amide classes, if given even in slight over dosage will affect the growth of the ducks adversely and hence such medicines should be used very carefully.


Antibiotics such as Oxytetracycline and Chlor-tetracycline at the rate of 100 gm per tonne of feed can used to control this disease. However when these medicines are stopped there will be incidence of this disease. It is also a practice to give these types of antibiotics in the feed on a regular basis at least during the possible outbreak of this disease.


  1. Duck pox

Pox is a common disease to most of the birds and caused by virus. However the causal organisms vary for different birds i differ. So also ducks are affected by the duck pox virus. Ducks of all ages are affected by this disease and is mostly spread by direct contact as well as through the blood sucking insects like mosquitoes etc.


  1. Symptoms

Wart-like growth is noticed on the bill, head and sometimes on foot. The eyes will be affected by purulent conjuntivities with closed eyelids and sometimes blindness. Sometimes a third type is also seen where moth and comers of the mouth are affected. The affected birds become week and the egg production become very less. However the mortality is less than 5% and the birds mostly recover from the attack.


  1. Prevention and control

So far no effective vaccine seems to be available and the fowl pox vaccine does not seem to be effective. But maintaining proper sanitation both inside the duck house as well as outside and disinfection periodically will reduce drastically the incidence of duck pox.

B. Bacterial diseases

The diseases caused by the bacteria are the following.

  1. Duck cholera

Duck cholera is caused by Pasteurella multocida and affects birds above 4 weeks of age.


  1. Symptoms

The birds show loss of appetite, increased thirst, ruffled feathers, mucous discharge from mouth, high body temperature and diarrhea first with mucous droppings followed by light greenish types.


  1. Prevention and control

Antibiotics are effective in controlling the disease and reducing mortality. They can be given either in feed or in water. Where there is possibility of the outbreak of the disease the birds should be vaccinated against the disease at least twice: first at the age of 2 to 3 months and the second at 4 to 5 months later. It provides immunity at least for six months. If needed vaccination can be repeated after another 6 moths.


Beside antibiotics proper sanitation, avoiding overcrowding, proper ventilation and congenial atmospheric conditions etc. are necessary for the prevention and control of duck cholera. Ducks which die of this disease should be buried deep in the soil.

  1. Salmonellosis

It is also known as paratyphoid infection and is caused by the Salmonella group of organisms. The infection spreads through the ovary, incubators containing infected eggs, through, contact and infected feed etc.


  1. Symptoms

The hatchability is reduced due to dead embryos. Even at the duckling stage they are infected. Ducklings drop the wings ruffled feathers, anorexia, increased thirst and watery diarrhea.


  1. Prevention and control

The eggs should be disinfected with formalin solution to prevent egg-shell contamination. The feed should be free from mold and fungus infection. Pelleting the feed is a solution to feed contamination; because during pelleting the feed is heated and the Salmonella organisms die. Besides all these maintaining proper sanitation frequent and regular disinfection are very important for the control of this disease. Infected birds should \ not be used as breeding stock.


  1. Botulism

It is caused by the toxin liberated by the bacteria called Clotridium botulinum.


  1. Symptoms

Dullness, ruffled feathers, lameness, dropping wings, laboured breathing, coma and death are the usual symptoms noticed. The neck muscles become week and they are unable to keep their head high.


  1. Prevention and control

Most of the infected birds can be saved by separating them and providing them rest and clean water. C-type of antitoxin also can be used for the treatment of the sick birds. Care should be taken that no dead rats, ducks or any other  small animals are left inside the duck house. The incidence of the disease is relatively high when rotten vegetables and kitchen wastes are given as feed to the ducks. Beside all these proper sanitation is essential to control this disease.


  1. Ornathosis

It is caused by Chlamydia psittaci belonging to the bacteria. The young ducks are more prone to this disease and is transmitted through the eggs as well as direct contact. Over-crowding and bad hygiene do cause the incidence of this disease.


  1. Symptoms

Symptoms are observed usually in duckling less than 3 weeks old. Purulent conjunctivitis, blindness, general weak-ness, stunted growth, watery diarrhea and emaciation are the visible symptoms. Mortality may be up to 30 per cent. In layers there will be a drastic reduction in the egg production and in breeding flock increased mortality of day old duckling are also noticed.


  1. Prevention and control

Broad spectrum antibiotics like chlorotetracyclin @ 500 ppm mixed with feed can control the disease effectively but the recovered birds may remain as carriers. Avoid getting duckling from infected flock.


  1. Infectious serositis

This disease is also known as duck septicaemia, new duck disease and Pasteur anatipestifer infection as it caused by the organism called Pasteur anatipestifer. It usually affects the young duckling up to 8 weeks of age. Transmission occurs through direct contact, air and probably through egg. Insanitary and unfavorable conditions will also aggravate the incidence of this disease.


  1. Symptoms

Young ducklings die without any apparent reason watery discharge from eyes and nostrils, dullness, anorexia, green diarrhea, weakness and inability to walk, tremors of head and neck and swollen hock joints etc. are the symptoms. Mortality can vary from 5 to 80 per cent depending on the severity of the infection.


  1. Prevention and control

Maintenance of proper sanitation, protection from adverse weather conditions and good management are the prerequisites to control this sickness. Broad spectrum antibiotics and sulpha drugs are useful to control this disease effectively.


  1. Colibacillosis

This disease is usually affect the ducklings from 2-3 weeks of age and is caused by 2 serotypes of E. Coli.


Most of the symptoms are similar to infectious serositis but without nervous symptoms.


  1. Prevention and control

Use of Sulphamides and antibiotics are useful to control the disease. Good management and hygiene are necessary for its prevention.

C. Fungal diseases

Aflatoxicosis and Aspergillosis are the two common fungal diseases of the ducks.


  1. Aflatoxicosis

This disease is caused by the intake of it toxin liberated by the fungus Aspergillus flavors. This fungus is usually found in the oil cakes used as feed for the ducks under hot and humid conditions which is favorable for the growth of the fungus. Ducks of all ages are affected by this disease however the symptoms are more pronounced in the young ones.


  1. Symptoms

The symptoms appear two weeks after the infection. Decreased feed intake, poor growth, falling feathers, lameness, purple discoloration of feet and legs, and drop in egg production etc. are the symptoms observed in duck affected by this disease. Young duckling show convulsions.


  1. Prevention and control

Avoid the use of infected feed. The feed ingredients should examined before they are mixed to prepare the balanced ration.

D. Protozoan disease

Various types of coccidia are involved in the infection of this disease in the ducks but they are different from the ones infecting the chickens. The mortality though not high the reduction in the egg production and retardation of the growth are the results of this disease.


  1. Symptoms

Stopping feed intake, blood stained droppings are the common symptoms.


  1. Prevention and control

Give 0.1 % Sodium Sulphdimidine in water for three days and after a gap of two days again give the same for three more days.

E. Physiological disorders

Feather picking, prolapse and water belly are the common physiological disorder that are noticed among the ducks.


  1. Feather picking

This is a behavioural problem resulting into a physiological disorder. This is noticed among the ducks which are always kept inside the cage. This tendency is observed more in ducks which are of age between 6 to 7 weeks. Sometimes certain individual ducks are very aggressive and keep on picking the  feathers of others. When enough feed and water are not available to the ducks then also feather picking problem takes place.


Blood smeared feathers on the wings and tails is the first symptom of the feather picking. The wounds may get infected further depending on the weather and environmental conditions.


This problem can be solved to some exterted by providing the ducks enough space in the cage or house, by debenture and by keeping the aggressive ones separately. In case there are wounds treat them with ointment or any other available medicine.


  1. Prolapse

In this condition the oviduct comes out due to some reason or other and when this happens all the other ducks come around and peck on the expelled portions. This noticed in ducks which are reared in closed cages and, also in those which are more fatty. Excessive fat deposition reduces the contractability of the oviduct after laying of the eggs.


Blood smeared feathers around the cloaca is a sign that the feathers problem of this physiological disorder.


Avoid constipation by providing laxatives like liquid parphine in the evenings along with the feed is a normal precaution to be taken against this problem. In the cases where already the prolapse has taken place try to place it back into the abdominal cavity after disinfecting the hands. Such ducks should be kept separately.


  1. Water belly

Excessive collection of water in the belly of the ducks is observed in this type of physiological disorder. This is due to cancerous growth or due to some infection or wound on the internal organs.


Water can be sucked out using a sringe to give immediate relief to those affected ones but they will require treatments from a veterinarian.


  1. Bow legs

The legs are bent like bow and the ducks are unable to walk properly. This disorder is noticed in duckling which are reared in brooders under overcrowded condition and are below three weeks in age.


Avoiding over crowded rearing conditions is the necessary precaution to be taken against this disorder. Providing 10 mg Niacine and 75 gm per kg feed can rectify this disorder.


  1. Poisoning

Ducks may be poisoned due to intake of feed contaminated with lead, insecticides, weedicides etc. This happens with those that are let loose freely and containers and packing materials of these substances are thrown around indiscriminately all around the place. Burrying such substances deep in the soil the chances of poisoning can be avoided.

F. Parasites

There are two types of parasites: external and internal. Lice mites and other small insects inhabit in between the feathers of the ducks and drink the blood. This will affect the growth and development of the ducks and in the case of layers there will be a serious drop in the egg production.


Flukes, type worms and other types of worms (ascarids, round, nodular) are the usual internal parasites that affect the ducks. Tape worms and other worms are parasites found in the digestive tract. As a result of the attack of these parasites the growth, development and egg production are reduced. Examination of faeces reveals the presence of these parasites. Such parasites occur when the ducks are reared in stagnant water and are left free to move around.


The birds should be reared in clean environment. Proper disposal of the faeces and other wastes generated in the duck house should be done regularly. Ducks should not be allowed to come into contact with decaying things and filthy water.


The practice of regular deforming is a sure means of keeping the birds free from the worms and other intestinal parasites. Piperazine salts are effective deworming medicine against most of the worms. Mixing sodium flouride in feed at the rate of 0.75 to 1.00 per cent is effective against ascrids worms. Cadmium oxide fed at the rate of 0.15 % in the feed for three days is effective against round worms. Every year new deworming medicines come out in the market and one has to be familiar with their usages etc.


However treatment of fluke infected birds will be difficult. Where there are chances of fluke infestation extra precautions should be adopted to get rid of the fluke infestation from that area before one introduces the ducks in to those areas .

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