Did you come outside to tend to your ducklings, or perhaps to collect eggs and find one of them panting?
Usually, when your duck is panting, they are simply experiencing heat exhaustion and need to be moved to a cooler environment. However, sometimes it can be a more serious concern, which is worth paying attention to.
It can be quite worrisome to see your duck or duckling panting and not be able to tell what’s wrong with them. Let’s break down some of the reasons why your duck may be huffing and how to assess the situation to best help them.
6 Reasons for a Panting Duck
One of the most common reasons for a duck to be panting is from overheating or “heat exhaustion.”
Ducks need constant access to water; if they’ve been out in the sun for too long, they will likely begin panting.
This is their way of trying to cool themselves down and may also be accompanied by drooping their wings and shutting their eyes.
In general, ducklings are more susceptible to heat exhaustion than adult ducks are, so this is something to keep in mind if you’ve got little ones.
They also need to have access to shelter at all times and be moved inside to a cooler environment if they are overheating.
It’s possible that your duck’s nostrils may be clogged up, causing them to pant.
Bathing is one of the things your duck can do to help clear their nasal passages. So, if they haven’t bathed recently, this could be the culprit for the panting.
Just like we can get a stuffy nose or a cold, your duck can too. Be sure that they have plenty of water to help combat this.
It’s common for a duck that is stressed out to be panting or exhibiting other strange behaviors.
Your duck may show mild to moderate symptoms as a stress response, such as:
- sudden lameness (rare),
- loss of appetite,
- weight loss,
- disinterest in normal routines,
- feathers that remain ruffled open
In other cases, your duck may be panting due to sickness or infection. You’ll want to pay close attention in this instance because time is of the essence when your duck is sick.
Typical respiratory concerns for ducks are
- tracheal obstruction,
- fungal or bacterial respiratory infection,
- enlarged coelomic organs (liver, spleen, renal, reproductive) or
- other respiratory-related problems.
Injuries go hand in hand with sicknesses as well, so examine your duck to be sure they are not hiding some sort of injury, typically with the legs or feet.
If you are overfeeding your duck, this could result in panting. This occurs because their digestive system can’t handle that much food at one time.
It makes them very uncomfortable and causes gas/bloating, which could cause them to pant or exhibit labored breathing.
A normal amount of food for a mature aged duck is around 170 to 200 grams per day, and ¼ pound of food per day for small ducklings.
If they consume more than the recommended amount, you are likely overfeeding them.
Ducks are notorious for choking on their food and obstructing their airways. Panting or heavy breathing could be a sign of a food blockage.
If a duck is choking, they will typically open and close their mouths repeatedly, with nothing coming out. This is another sign to look out for if you think your duck may be panting due to choking.
What to Do if Your Duck is Panting?
One of the first things you need to rule out is heat exhaustion. Check your duck’s temperature to see if they are overheated.
If your duck is overheated, move them to a cooler environment immediately. Get them out of the sun and bring them inside, if possible.
You can also offer them sugar water or something with electrolytes to replenish. If they are overheated, they are likely dehydrated as well.
Adding electrolytes to the water is always a good option, as it can help alleviate stress, dehydration, and heat exhaustion, which will make a sick duck feel better and provide it with some added energy.
Check For Signs of illness
Panting can often be an early sign of illness for a duck. If the panting is accompanied by other strange behavior, consider calling a vet.
Behavior to look out for are things like:
- loss of appetite,
- mucous from the mouth/labored breathing
Ducks also tend to separate themselves from the rest of the flock when they are sick or injured.
Set Up an Indoor Space
Create a draft-free safe house for your ducks to go inside when needed. The space should have plenty of water, straw, and food. Some duck owners also like to use mulched hay in place of straw.
You should never use blankets or towels, though, as they can get caught in their feet and cause injury.
When setting up indoor space for your ducks, you’ll want to ensure that it is a safe space where predators cannot get to them at night.
If the panting is due to overheating, this draft-free house should help eliminate that.
Check for injuries
In rare cases, your duck may have injured itself, resulting in panting. The most common injury is usually to their legs or feet, so check them out.
They also could have been wounded by a predator.
If the animal is quiet, has low energy, and fluffed feathers, this could be a sign of injury. It may also show lameness, and inability to stand or fly, which are all clear signs of an injury.
If you suspect your duck may have an illness, you will want to quarantine them immediately. This will hopefully prevent any passing of the illness to the other ducks.
The duck must be kept at least 30-40 feet away from the rest of the flock. Quarantine them in a safe space away from other animals and potential predators.
Call a Vet
If your duck is not overheating, stressed or sick, it may be time to call a vet. Fill them in on your duck’s behavior and ask for a second opinion.
If your duck is, in fact, sick, a veterinarian can offer medicine for illness or an antibiotic for a potential infection.
Signs of a Dying Duck
In the unfortunate event that your duck may be dying, there are signs to look out for. Blood will typically drip from the nostrils.
They will often have blood-stained feathers around their vent, which will be visible to the eye.
No Physical Touch
Family/farm ducks typically become domesticated. In fact, many duck owners even hold their pet ducks and cuddle with them.
So, if they suddenly do not want to be touched, this can be a sign they are dying or severely sick.
Loss of Appetite
Loss of appetite may be a sign that your duck is dying. Monitor them closely to see when the last time they ate was.
If your duck goes more than a day or two without food, something is wrong. You can also check to see that the food you are giving them is appropriate and that they like it okay.
A dying duck may have diarrhea with bloody discharge in it. While this could also be caused by something foul they ate, diarrhea often indicates illness in a duck.
Keep a log of their bathroom visits the best you can to see how long they’ve had diarrhea. This will be information you can pass along to the vet in the event that you need to call one.
A dying duck will become very lethargic and sluggish towards the end.
They may even shut their eyes and have drooping wings, and their strange behavior will be very obvious to you. They will also separate themselves from the rest of the flock.
When You Should Seek Professional Help
After 24 hours
It’s always best practice to have a vet on speed dial and have already established a relationship with one prior to an emergency.
If your duck has been persistently panting for more than a day or two, it may be time to call a vet. This may be its last hope if your duck is severely sick or injured.
After injury is present
If you can physically see that your duck is injured, it’s time to get them to a vet. Don’t wait, as improperly treated injuries can result in infection and even death.
If your duck is limping, they are likely injured. Monitor them well, and if they are limping for more than a few days, it’s time to call a veterinarian.