HEAVY METAL POISONING in Ducks: No Appetite, Falling, Weight Loss, Lethargy

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by cas, Apr 11, 2014.

  1. cas

    cas Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 10, 2009
    1. Ducks will eat all kinds of things while searching with their bills in mud and water. This includes:
    a. Screws (coated with zinc)
    b. Nails (coated with zinc)
    c. Twist Ties
    d. Pins
    e. Bits of assorted metal
    f. Fishing weights (lead)

    We read all about this before getting ducks, but when you watch them, they are actually VERY picky as to what they will
    eat! They will "try" things like cracked corn & wheat seeds (basic scratch grains), but immediately spit them out and walk away.
    We tried to give them table scraps (like we do for the chickens), but they barely eat any of them. Sweet Corn and fresh Spinach,
    some other fresh greens (colard greens etc) they LOVE. But, because they were so picky, we just couldn't imagine them actually
    eating a screw or nail. We were careful never to drop any staples, screws or nails where they would be grazing however, but just assumed that whatever was already in the ground, they would never REALLY eat!

    Two of our ducks were losing weight, were lethargic, and uncoordinated. One was the "runt" - so it took as a while to realize how much weight she lost. The other lost weight really quickly. We tried everything: vitamin/electrolytes in their water, special food (eggs, ground up Mazuri Duck food, greens, ground nuts etc). They both seemed excited to eat, but as soon as they tried it, they shook their heads and spit it all out. The "runt" died on Sunday. We decided we needed to find out the problem for the rest of the flock quickly - so we took the remaining duck to an Avian Vet! Now, we know why all this was happening. An Xray at the Vet revealed:
    1/4 cup of assorted nails, screws, twisted wire, pins, and tiny bits of metal!
    It was SHOCKING to see! She was suffering from heavy metal poisoning! Besides the pain that the sharp objects caused in her stomach, the zinc was causing all kinds of problems, including making food taste bad, kidney and liver malfunction, and lots more.

    The "runt" always escaped from the penned area and loved finding worms all over the yard. We thought it was cute, but tried to corral her. She was a real escape artist though, and climbed out of most of the things we put up. While she was scavaging - she was injesting all those metal objects!

    I still can't believe that they can swallow a 2.5 inch screw! How does it go down? But both of these ducks did - many times! We are in the process of using a strong magnet to check all over any area that they ducks can get into, expecially their yard. We've found so much metal it is scary. And these areas aren't places where construction was going on (to our knowledge). I am sure the other 18 ducks have some metal in their stomachs as well, and we will keep an eye on them. They all are very healthy at this time.

    By the way, the only "cure" for this is chelation therapy (Calcium-disodium - removes the zinc and lead poisoning from duck and also from the metal in their stomachs). But the removal of the metal is also necessary. This surgery would have cost $1400 and there was a large chance that the duck would not make it through the surgery (with sedation problems ducks already have and our duck's horrible health situation). We mercifully had her put to sleep after a night at the vets, receiving food in a feeding tube, pain meds and antibiotics. She had one last good night!

    I looked about 300 times on the interent during this period of time to try to figure out why they were losing weight, and never came across this possibility. I wanted to add this to the forum, to help other duck owners avoid the heartache and/or solve the problem of their duck's losing weight etc.

    In memory of Mascot and Spandackle - two very sweet Muscovy Ducks!
    5 people like this.
  2. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

    Jan 3, 2010
    Southern New England
    cas, thank you for this. Oh, it is so difficult when these things happen.
  3. veronicasmom

    veronicasmom Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 31, 2009
    [​IMG] I am so sorry.
  4. chicknmania

    chicknmania Overrun With Chickens

    Jan 26, 2007
    central Ohio
    Wow. We've been losing chickens, about one a month for the past six months. Some of them have been eating out of an old metal pan.
    Never thought about metal poisoning, til I took the last one for a necropsy and the State vet mentioned it was a possibility, based on their symptoms....
    Sorry for your losses.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2014
  5. AlohaDuck

    AlohaDuck Out Of The Brooder

    May 29, 2014
  6. tridentk9

    tridentk9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 2, 2014
    Some topicals also have heavy metal in them. Umm, I think diaper rash cream is one. The tubes from ointments are sometimes zinc too. Old drapery weights. Old pennies (pre 80's?). Some welds. Decorative plates and pots. It also happens in dogs, cats, parrots, etc.

    DE doesn't help with the heavy metal itself. It *may* add micronutrients- but absorption of anything can be a problem with heavy metal toxicity.

    I'm sorry about Mascot and Spandackle.
  7. AlohaDuck

    AlohaDuck Out Of The Brooder

    May 29, 2014
  8. AnnieD

    AnnieD Out Of The Brooder

    Jun 3, 2014
    That is so very sad for you, But thank you for sharing this, I and many other new and old 'duck mummies' are learning all the time.. So sorry for your loss :(
  9. TracyLovesDucks

    TracyLovesDucks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 25, 2014
    Northern Colorado
  10. Sugar Mountain

    Sugar Mountain Out Of The Brooder

    May 19, 2015
    What's the recommended dose of DE for ducks. I found 5% in food, but would love if someone could give me a measurable amt.?
    (Background on my poor duck:
    My pekin duck has been lame for a few weeks. He had an injury to one leg & when favoring the other, he developed an infection in the good leg. He had an infection in his leg (hot, swollen, wouldn't walk...sad), and new to ducks we gave him a course of penicillin w/ procaine. We also found an area where he ate paint chips from our old foundation wall. He got a little better, then worse. We waited a few days after the penicillin treatments and started on an oral antibiotic, vetericyn spray for eye & saline washes and vitamin supplement b/c his eyes started to bubble and water...but not improving. Maybe it's metal poisoning from the procaine or paint chips? His one leg is starting to atrophy I think.)

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