Duckling 3-4 weeks swollen belly lethargic, going down hill, not responding to AB, and other treatments help!


8 Years
Nov 16, 2015
I have a duckling about 3-4 weeks old with a swollen stomach. Thought it might be ascites felt a little like there might be fluid in there but tried to release some with syringe and sterile needle and couldn’t get any liquid out when I tried. has also been on various antibiotics with no real change, sometimes it seems to perk up and I think it’s turned a corner then a few hours later it goes back downhill. Has been this way for several days now and as of just in the last half hour it’s leg on the left side seems to be going lame.

I also wondered if it might be coccidiosis however it has not responded to an antibiotic that is supposed to be effective against Protozoa, and is on feed with antibcoccistat with no change.

Poop was normal coloured but scant because it was not eating much, today it started eating by itself but physically seems to be going down hill. Poop has been dark almost like blood in poo but not black, or tarry not sure if there is blood in stool or not, then later in the day all urates and pasty around the vent making me think maybe it’s fungal so gave it nystatin but no change so far from that though maybe it’s too soon to tell.

As a newly hatched duckling it was a bit ‘off’ I brought it indoors away from its mother because I kept finding it just standing not following mum or doing anything, actually started to wonder if it was mentally regarded lol. But it came right from that and was doing well for a good 2Plus weeks till a few days ago... I also wondered if it might have been blind as for a while it seemed like it couldn’t see where things were and would find it’s food and water by listening to the other ducklings it was with when they ate, if they were not eating it couldn’t find the food or water would just walk aboutnwith it’s beak in the litter as if tryingnto find the food. It was not responding to anything moved about in front of it’s eyes or me bring my hand in real close and fast which would make the other ducklings flinch or try to move away.but then that came right too. right before it got sick it was suddenly responding to where my hand was, and able to see food and so on. Ipthe eyes always looked normal, no swelling, no discharge, no closed eyes, no crustiness etc, however I had out some chloramphenicol eye ointment in its eyes a couple of times just in case...and it was after this it seemed to be able to see.

Then a day or two after this It got sick.

It’s got no fat on it at all just skin and bones, hunched, and now looking sleepy and generally miserable with dull fluff . No other obvious signs of illness, did have a very small amount of clear discharge from nares a couple of days ago which has passed. Mucus membranes maybe slightly pale. In the last few hours it’s eyes have started to be mostly closed and it is much sleepier, but is eating more than it has for a few days, and even got up and went to the food itself a few times which it has not done, I have been syringe feeding it and giving sc. fluids the last few days to keep it going.

It has kinda lost its voice at times but then regains it. Can’t hear any mucus in lungs when breathing (have had ducklings with respiratory issues where I could hear mucus when they were breathing but this little one sounds clear.

Has been raised on a combination of canned cat feed which I have never ev3 had any nutritional issues with in ducklings, plus chook grower with additional brewers yeast, and or /avian vitamin supplement, multi b vitamin added to ensure they gare t enough niacin. And recently switched from grower feed to started with a coccistat in case it was coccidiosis.

Also giving it meloxicam twice a day as it looks to be in pain.

Belly being so swollen maybe it’s a viral peritonitis or something? Have a large number of ducklings here and a number that this one has been around and one it is still with for company, none have shown any symptoms so pretty sure whatever this is it isn’t contagious,...
Also seems to hate light and will try and hide it’s gead somewhere if the light is on.
Could you get a few pictures of the duck, or even better a video of her, as well as some angles of the swelling? Do you also have pictures of her recent poops?

You mention the area feels like it's filled with liquid, it's not hard, or firm, correct?
Sadly the duckling went downhill on Sunday, by Sunday evening it was having difficulty standing and didn’t really seem to know where it was or what was going on. When I held it it still would cheep at me like ducklings do to their mum and climb up under my chin, but it it was no longer going to food and very sleepy.

Late Sunday night it wandered out (from underneath it’s blankets on a heat pad in its indoor house) and I found it sitting beside the food bowl not really seeming to be ‘there’ if you know what I mean, I cuddled the little one and it was making a tap or pop type noise with each breath and clearly struggling. I decided if it lived through the night and had not improved in the morning that I would take it to a vet and end its suffering, however as I was cuddling it it started to peep quietly but in a way that made it clear the poor wee baby was in pain and suffering, at this point I prayed that god would either miraculously heal it or take it immediately and end its suffering and in the middle of me doing that it died. Poor wee lamb it was the sweetest little duck. Even when it must have been suffering it would still give me a happy little chirp when I cuddled it.....

Sucks sometimes that the most innocent, blameless, harmless creatures we share this world with not only seem to suffer the most, but do so with such acceptance and still find the energy to give you a friendly little hello chirp as if nothing is wrong, when you cuddle them. 😢

RIP little charcoal duckling, I will see you again in heaven one day.
Could you get a few pictures of the duck, or even better a video of her, as well as some angles of the swelling? Do you also have pictures of her recent poops?

You mention the area feels like it's filled with liquid, it's not hard, or firm, correct?
It felt firm but possibly fluid though not a lot, ie fluid over swollen organs.
I tried inserting a needle down to the right of the vent and withdrawing but no fluid whatsoever came out, tried several times with no luck. The other thing that it might have been is air maybe. Whether it was fluid or air or neither it was not a lot and certainly not responsible for all of the distended belly as I could feel this layer of air or fluid and then under it I could feel organs and rib bones. The belly was noticeably distended, as if the duckling were (if it were a human) maybe 6-7 months pregnant ie the same amount of distension compared to normal as a 6-7mth pregnant woman’s tummy might be in comparison to her tummy when not pregnant. I have raised hundreds of ducklings and this was definitely a distended tummy not the normal roundness ducklings can have to their tums.

Poops changed a lot from dark poop, to mostly white urates then today to pretty much 100% clear urine. I tried to give it sc. fluids via inguinal(sp) which I have done before on a number of ducks and ducklings, but I had real problems getting the fluids in due to there being absolutely no sc. tissue at all, as duckling so emaciated , and also the duckling struggling and wriggling constantly while I was trying to get fluid in. So I got a little bit of saline in but not much. Had just decided to try and give it some fluids again when it started to pass.

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