This 11-year-old boy became worried when his pet Drakula the drake was feeling peaky
Published 17/10/2015 | 19:41
Since Kevin was just five years old, his family have kept ducks in the garden. They're fun to have around, quacking, waddling from place to place and poking around puddles. They don't show affection like dogs or cats, but they're entertaining.
They started out with two birds - Duckula and Drakula, but this pair produce a fresh batch of ducklings every summer. They rear the ducklings until they are old enough for new homes in the autumn, but they keep a couple every year, so their flock is expanding. Currently, they have 14 birds.
The first sign of Drakula Jnr's crisis happened when he refused to eat his dinner. Kevin gave him a worm dose (this needs to be done regularly), and he seemed to perk up a bit.
The next morning, he waddled out of the duck shed looking healthy enough, but he was still not hungry, and in the afternoon, Kevin found him stuck under a shed, weak and unable to move around normally. He put him into a cardboard box and brought him down to see me.
When I examined Drakula Junior, he was in good condition and there were no physical signs of illness, such as injuries, a sore mouth or a painful abdomen. He was just weaker and quieter than normal. There's a long list of possible reasons for ducks developing signs like this, and the ideal way to find out what's going on is to carry out a detailed investigation.
Blood samples could be sent to the laboratory, and diagnostic imaging, including X-rays and ultrasound, could be carried out. This is expensive, so often a general treatment is given instead.
First, we discussed the ducks' husbandry, making sure that Kevin and his family were looking after the birds properly, feeding them correctly and treating them adequately for parasites.
When a bird is weak and quiet, with no physical signs of illness, poisoning is on the list of possibilities, so we discussed plants that could cause this, as well as unlikely causes like old lead paint that the birds might have been pecking.
One common cause of poisoning in ducks is an illness called botulism: this is caused by a bacteria that grows in mud at the bottom of stagnant ponds.
Kevin should make sure that the ducks aren't dabbling around dirty, muddy areas that would be likely to be a source of this natural poison.
I also decided to give Drakula Junior a course of antibiotic injections, in case he was suffering from a bacterial infection.
Drakula Jnr is still not back to normal, but he is eating and drinking, and he seems to be gathering strength.
He'll be back for a check up next week. I'm hoping I'll then be able to give him a clean "bill" of health!