Botulism: Nothing to Quack About

At the end of summer, things can get a little run down… a little past prime. The goldenrod is browning; leaves have long since lost their spring green; and there are brown stalks where day lilies once bloomed.

For one juvenile mallard duck, an end-of-summer occurrence brought him to VINS Wildlife Services with a case of avian botulism. When August heats up the environment, decomposing vegetation becomes the perfect spot for the botulism bacteria to grow, according to the U.S. Geological Services’ web site. Vegetation found in and around the edges of waterbodies can rot and carry botulism, which produces toxins. Ducks and other waterfowl can directly ingest such toxins by eating this vegetation.

On August 25, a Vermont man spotted a mallard duck on his property near a lake. The man suspected the bird had been hit by a car, as the bird was unsteady on his feet and unable to keep his head held up. When examined by Wildlife Services’ staff, the bird was found to have no broken bones, no feather damage and no signs of head trauma or internal bleeding. In other words, the bird was probably not hit by a car. However, the bird’s inability to properly use his legs to stand or hold his head up are both signs of avian botulism.

We have treated the duck with ToxiBan, which contains activated charcoal to absorb toxins in an animal’s body. The mallard was also given a sequence of homeopathics to treat his symptoms.

Today, the duck is standing on his own, holding his head high and eating hardily. If things continue to progress, we see a successful release of this duck back into the wild!
Images: Above right, the duck is tube-fed a liquid diet. Above left, the duck takes a sip of water. Below, watch a video of the duck eagerly drinking down a bowl of fresh water.

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