Foamy Eye Disease in Ducks

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Ducks are pretty hardy birds, but Foamy Eye is a fairly common issue with ducks.  Generally if you see foaming in your duck’s eye, it is their body’s natural way of trying to clear an infection either from an injury or from a respiratory issue.

One of the most important things you can do to keep your ducks healthy is to provide plenty of fresh, clean water.  Duck water bowls need to be at least several inches deep, enough that they can completely submerge their head to keep their mucous membranes moist & clean.

Water bowls should be cleaned & refilled daily to keep them clear of dirt, algae & poop.  Dirty water can lead to an infection in the duck’s respiratory system.  Another possible cause of respiratory issues is ammonia build up in the duck house from overly soiled bedding.  Symptoms of respiratory distress in ducks include a foamy or bubbly eye (white frothy foam forming around the eye), sneezing, coughing and/or labored breathing.

Foamy Eye in Ducks
photo credit: BackYard Chickens forum

Treatment of respiratory disease

You should begin treatment by separating the infected duck. I always like to try out natural remedies before resorting to antibiotics with my flock. Provide plenty of fresh water; you can mix in a little apple cider vinegar (about 1 tablespoon ACV per gallon of water).  Rinse the eyes with saline solution twice a day.  While you have the duck restrained for cleaning the eyes with saline, also put a couple drops of Vet Rx under each of her wings.  Vet Rx is a great natural medicine for treating poultry respiratory issues.  It works like a menthol rub on humans- as they tuck their bills under their wings to sleep, they inhale, clearing up congestion.  I would give the natural route of treatment & extra cleaning 5-6 days, if symptoms have not cleared (or if at any time they get worse), you may need to consult a veterinarian for a round of antibiotics.

Foamy Eye without respiratory problems

If your duck has a foamy eye but doesn’t have any respiratory symptoms, the cause is likely either from an eye injury or over mating.  When ducks mate, the drake grabs the back of the female’s neck which is where her sinuses are located.  During mating season especially, a favored female can experience eye & sinus issues.  Separate the effected duck (or separate the drakes to give her a break while she is healing).  Provide plenty of clean water for drinking and cleaning, mix in some apple cider vinegar to the drinking water, and rinse her eyes twice a day with saline solution.  The eye should clear up in about a week as the injury heals.  If it doesn’t an antibiotic eye ointment might be needed.

Foamy Eye in Ducks

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  1. Poor Ducky!
    I want some ducks so badly! I just love them!
    Great article, Please feel free to share with us on the Homesteader Hop anytime!

  2. Symer Cross says:

    My drake has a white eye but im not thinking its foamy eye cause his whole eye is white I can’t c any of his actual eye and he cant c out of it what do I do for him?

    1. That does sound very concerning. I am not positive what that could be, but I would start by rinsing the area with saline and maybe you will get a better look at what is going on. Is it possible there is just so much foam it is covering his whole eye? I would add some probiotics to his water and rinse the eye with saline twice a day for a few days. If it’s not clearing up, you might need to seek out a vet.

  3. Foamy Eye is a fairly common issue with ducks. It is most commonly caused by lack of bathing & injury to the eye but it can also be brought on by stress & sudden changes in the weather. Foamy eye is usually easily fixed by providing clean bath water for the bird and making sure they bathe well.​

  4. Nancy Satterfield says:

    My two drakes constantly beat up on my little female duck and they pull her feathers out and both mount her in the pool so she can’t breath, which I stop when i can but I’m not always home. But today I noticed her eye and how foamy it was and separated them completely. She matches all the symptoms on this article and I plan on buying the solutions but what should I do about the separation. She can’t be kept with the others but she is kinda twitchy by her self. (also we plan on switching out the drakes for two females)

    1. I think getting rid of those drakes – or getting several more females is going to really help. You should ideally have 3-4 females per 1 male. Right now the drakes are being aggressive because they are competing to be top duck. Gangs of male ducks in the wild can get really aggressive with mating when they are in competition. It is generally the worst in spring when mating season is getting under way. It can sometimes even lead to death for the female. Even when there are enough females around duck mating can seem really harsh – but if they can at least spread their affections it makes it better for the females. Ducks are really social though and don’t like to be kept alone so getting her some nice friends would be great for her. Poor girl! Hope she is feeling better soon and those boys start behaving!

      1. Rattlerjake says:

        This behavior is very rare in the wild because females have unlimited options for evading males; when males become aggressive or gang up the female simply flies away; and even if some of the males follow she will do evasive maneuvers through trees, brush, or other obstacles. The majority of problems occur with domestic waterfowl and poultry because they have a limited area, even when free ranging, and because most domestics are poor fliers it is harder to evade these males. The other problem is when people cause the problem by having lopsided populations of their birds.

  5. Cris Monette says:

    My duck got an infection and it went septic (according to the vet). He is now passed all that (eating, drinking, walking, quacking, pottying just fine). He ended up being blind in one eye from the infection. He was on Tylan 50 (1cc) for 3 weeks per the vet. He continues to have an eye issue in both eyes. The eye that is blind is goopy and the eye he can still see out of has clear bubbles around it and some white. I have been using triple antibiotic ointment and Vetericyn on his eyes. What can I do to clear this up? I am so afraid he will get sick again. He is an indoor duck.

    1. It sounds like your duck is under some good vet care so I would defer to the judgement of your vet on this issue, it sounds like he is doing everything right. I will tell you that I had a cat that we adopted who had lost an eye. Her remaining eye was pretty much always weepy and gooey. It was just something we had to wipe clean frequently. So I am not sure if that is a similar situation, but it may just be a condition that will require your maintenance. I would definitely discuss it with the vet and see if they have any further suggestions

    2. april says:

      My drake is like this now. His eye glued shut with green mucous for a few days, I wiped it out and got some terramycin. Now its open again but all white inside and seems blind in that eye. BUT he is also not eating, drinking or quacking. I bought Corrid for the water, Vetrx for his beak and terramycin in that eye. I have old expired Tylan but he is now limping on one side. How did you save yours? How old?

    3. Rattlerjake says:

      What do you mean by “indoor duck”? If this bird spends most of his time in your house, you are killing him. These animals need direct sunlight. This is the main reason that so many cage birds (parrots, finches, even poultry) have illnesses is because they do not receive enough sunlight. All of the antibiotics and other treatments will NOT replace the natural effects of sunshine. It’s the same reason that so many people are always sick.

  6. Md Kamrul Hasan says:

    Can female ducks lay eggs by themselves, like chickens, or do they need drakes to produce eggs?

    1. No drakes required unless you want babies 🙂

  7. Cindy L says:

    my drake is covered in mud both his eyes are foaming and a bit of mud is in one eye he won’t let me get it out and i don’t have a vet or money for one what do i do?

    1. Hi Cindy, you are going to have to catch him and treat him, get a helper or two if you need help holding him down or catching him. Get him cleaned up and keep him in a separate, dry run if you can. It will keep him cleaner and make him easier to catch every day if he is just in a little enclosure (a large dog crate would work, or block off a portion of his duck run). Keep the water in his enclosure clean by empty and washing the bowl with vinegar every day. Beyond that just follow the instructions in the post (cleaning with saline solution a couple times a day and supporting his immune system with some apple cider vinegar or probiotics). You will probably have to treat him for a least a few days until his eyes clear up

  8. James says:

    Hi my duck is not moving and has foam coming out of the mouth, I give them fresh water everyday with duck feed, he is not eating is there anything I can do, it’s a Muscovy duck?

    They refuse to go indoors and the weather has just changed, it rained and we are bout to enter the winter weather.

    1. Hi James, that does not sound good at all? It is possible he got into a shed or garbage area where he could have gotten into something poison (like grass fertilizer or insecticide?). This sounds like an issue for a trained vet, I would get him in as soon as possible

  9. jenny says:

    My girl is egg bound. She is in my tub right now and I was able to pull the egg out since it doesn’t have a shell at all. She now has foam coming out of her eyes. Any recommendations? She is an outdoor khaki campbell 3 years old.

    1. That is very strange – a foamy eye is generally a sign of some kind of infection so shouldn’t be a result of being egg bound (unless maybe the stress of her condition left her more vulnerable to infection). Keep it clean with saline and if it doesn’t clear up in a day or so take her to a vet. Hopefully with the egg passed she will be back to normal.

  10. Karen E Ramer says:

    I have a duck that has one foamy eye can I clean the eye with boric acid water solution to help clear it up I’ve used it on kittens for cold in the eye

    1. I have never tried using boric acid for cleaning up their eyes, but I know people use it as an eye wash and it has some natural antibiotics so it should work!

  11. so my mallard has a foamy eye I clean their water dishes and make sure they’re always clean, but every time cheque on him his eye seems to be closing more and more I’m worried that he is going to lose his right eye so could foamy eye cause vision loss.

    1. It could certainly effect his vision if it doesn’t clear up. Beyond keeping the water clean (which is an excellent first step) have you been treating him at all? I would suggest following the instruction above and be sure to rinse his eyes a couple times a day with saline

  12. so my mallard has a foamy eye I clean their water dishes and make sure they’re always clean, but every time cheque on him his eye seems to be closing more and more I’m worried that he is going to lose his right eye so could foamy eye cause vision loss. Also, he is his normal self but I noticed that he shakes his head and leans his head hard towards the right I already lost my female for no reason and he is separated from the other two mallards

  13. so my mallard has a foamy eye I clean their water dishes and make sure they’re always clean, but every time cheque on him his eye seems to be closing more and more I’m worried that he is going to lose his right eye so could foamy eye cause vision loss. Also, he is his normal self but I noticed that he shakes his head and leans his head hard towards the right I already lost my female for no reason and he is separated from the other two mallards but I’m mostly concerned about his feather loss around his eye and my ducks have never fought or plucked at each other so I’m guessing its from the puss around the injurie???

    1. The head shaking is just him trying to “shake” the foam out of his eyes. The feather loss is likely self induced, from him scratching at his eye with his feet/claws. If he has scratched open a little wound that could also add to the puss/foamy look

      1. Luiza says:

        Can you help me with this doubt?
        Do ducks have tear ducts?

        1. They don’t really have tear ducts, this is part of the reason why it is important for them to have access to water deep enough to dip their head in. Being able to dip their heads in water helps clean their eyes & sinuses

  14. Whitney says:

    Hi would this work for muscovy ducks? One eye seems to be covered with foam:( what should i do? It’s wild but it comes to eat in my backyard. Thank you

    1. I don’t keep any muscovy ducks but the treatment should be the same – if you can catch him!

  15. Erik G says:

    Hello. Recently purchased 3 ducklings. Probably say they are around 3 weeks. Noticed last night that one of them was sitting there with one eye open and one closed. No foam around the eye and jumps into water every chance we can get. Any advice? What saline solution do you use? Also have noticed that 2 of the 3 ducks are heavy breathers. Is that a sign of possible respiratory issues?

    1. You can use regular saline solution for humans to rinse his eyes if you think that is the problem. But ducks are capable of being half asleep – essentially half their brain rests while the other can stay alert for predators so if you see no injury or foam and he is acting normal and eating normal I would just keep an eye on him for now. Same goes for the heavy breathers – it could just be their rapidly growing lungs and bodies. If they are walking around, eating and drinking and not wheezing when they breath (sounds sort of wet or sometimes like a whistle) I would just keep an eye on them for now

  16. Amy J. says:

    I recently ordered 3 ducklings from an online hatchery – they are 1 week old. I noticed one of them “spit up” water a couple of times the other day when I picked her up but I haven’t noticed that happening again since. Today, she has a super small bump on the inside corner of one eye. Does it sound like baby foamy eye to you? I have been watching her since I noticed the regurgitation and she has been acting totally normal, eating and drinking, etc. I appreciate any insight you may have!

    1. It could be that she has some sort of irritant in her eye and that bump is just her body trying to protect it. When they have foamy eye, the foam is something you could wipe away though and this doesn’t sound like it is the case. I would definitely keep an eye on it, hopefully it will just resolve on it’s own. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to wipe the eye a few times a day with some saline solution just to keep the area clean

  17. Hi, my rooster recently poked my duck in the eye and it was bleeding at first but now it foams in one eye and in the other it has a white skin like thing over it. My mother refuses to take a duck to the vet, what should I do??

    1. It certainly sounds like he could use a trip to the vet, but if you can’t get him there the best you can do is keep his eye clean. Rinse it with saline a few times per day and clean his water bowl twice a day. He will use his water to try and keep it clean himself so you want to be sure he isn’t using dirty water for that. The white thing is probably just his third eyelid. It is usually clear/cloudy white and helps them keep dust out and to swim underwater with their eyes open. Usually it retracts automatically but sometimes when they are injured or tired you can see it poking out (chickens have a third eyelid too, if you have ever taken a pic of one of your birds and their eyes looked cloudy you caught them in mid blink of this extra eyelid). The foamy is just part of his body naturally trying to keep the eye cleaned and push out any infection. So keep his eye cleaned the best you can and hopefully it was just a minor injury and he will be back to normal in a week or so 🙂

  18. Dillon says:

    I’ve had 11 Pekin ducks for about 7 weeks and I am planning on slaughtering them soon. about 4 of them have a foamy eye and some of them have a gunk kind of thing on their beaks. Is it okay to consume these ducks that have the infection?

    1. I don’t raise meat animals, so this is not my area of expertise, but I would think you would want to clear up the infection before slaughter just to be on the safe side. I bet the foamy eye and gunky beaks is related (some sort of sinus infection). I would make sure they always have really clean water (change it a couple times a day) and put a little ACV in the water at each changing.

  19. Sadie Y. says:

    Hello! First of all, this site has been super helpful, so thank you!
    Second of all, one of my female Blue Swedish, who is a little over one year old, has not been laying eggs, only a couple of jelly eggs during weird times in the day that are not her usual times to lay eggs, has labored breathing, and a little bit of foam around her eyes. I wiped the foam away and separated her from the other ducks, gave all the ducks some apple cider vinegar and some VetRX. One of my other ducks had this before and I did all the same stuff and it slowly went away. I was wondering if I can do anything else to help her recover faster, how contagious this is, and if my duck who had it before has natural immunity.

    1. Such a strange collection of symptoms, I am not sure what it could be. The foamy eye is usually related to an eye injury or respiratory illness, not reproductive system issues. Jelly eggs can often be caused by lack of calcium in the diet, but sometimes can also signal a more serious issues with the reproductive system. And the labored breathing could be anything from a cold to cancer. The VetRx will help and the apple cider vinegar is a good idea, beyond that perhaps add either some vitamins or some ProBios to her water. You might want to consult with a vet though because this one has me a little stumped. Good luck!

  20. Sadie Y. says:

    Hi again! One of my duck’s foot is incredibly swollen. I don’t know what happened, one minute she was fine and the next she was not putting any weight on her foot at all. I put her in some cold water and she seemed to enjoy that but I have no idea what is wrong and haven no further ideas on what to do. Do you know what could have caused her foot to swell so rapidly? I felt her foot and it doesn’t seem broken but it definitely seems to be hurting her.
    Any advice would be appreciated!

    1. Have you checked the underside for a bumblefoot infection? Bumblefoot is an infection that usually stems from the duck stepping on something and getting a cut. Then they walk in their poop or mud and it gets infected, the infection gets into the blood stream. Check the underside of her foot, it usually looks like a scab. Once you pick off the scab there is a kernel of pus and tissue that needs to be removed. Afterwards you will need to treat the wound with neosporin and an antiseptic spray. It can be near impossible to keep a duck’s foot wrapped up, if you can wrap it to keep it clean that is ideal. You will need to change the bandage daily. If you can’t keep it wrapped, you might want to keep the duck inside while she heals. If it is not bumblefoot (or if it is and you don’t feel comfortable treating it), you might need to take your duck to the vet and have a professional take a look at her

      1. Sadie Y. says:

        It is definitely not Bumblefoot, I have already checked for that. After soaking her foot for some time she seems to be feeling a bit better and is putting a little bit of weight on her foot. I still can’t tell what it is wrong with it although I have not yet inspected it closely today.

        Do you have any other ideas on what it might be?

        1. Hopefully she just sprained it then and with a little rest it will heal up on its own

  21. Sadie Y. says:

    It is definitely not bumble foot, I have already checked for that. After soaking it for a long time the swelling is down a little bit and she is putting some weight on it. I still can’t tell what it is though, so do you have any further ideas?

  22. How’s it going on that acre for you Liz? Still at it?

    1. Still going strong! I love my little farm 🙂

  23. I have a question. We’ve have roosters that beat up other roosters, females, chased us around, and one even tried to scare off a dog! (I think he was trying to protect his brother) when you have a bird that’s just plain mean,(or a team of two) is there anything you can do? Also, currently we have ducks, five Peking and three mallard. I know The mallards are females, and I think All Except one of The Peking are male. They jump up on the females, and one will sometimes fight the one male that’s on top so he can get on top of her! The females can’t even lay eggs yet! Do Peking just mature faster? My brother thinks they’re just fighting. We separated them cause I saw one had a foamy eye, and I didn’t want them to hurt the girls since they’re smaller.what can we do? (Also sometimes they do this weird head bobbing thing.I thought they were courting, but later I saw a female bobbing at another female,so what does that mean?)

    1. Most homesteaders will tell you that if a rooster is causing you that much trouble it’s time to put him in freezer camp (eat him). That of course depends on your view of your chickens, we don’t eat ours, but we have given away a rooster that we just couldn’t turn around. I draw the line at a rooster that chases after and attacks humans. We had one bantam rooster that we kept and tried to rehab even though he would go after people though. It takes a lot of patience and honestly once they get in the habit of bullying everyone it can be hard to break. You can separate him in a place where he can see everyone but not get to them to give him a time out for a couple days. To make him respect humans you need to think like a chicken and “embarrass” him a little. When he goes after you, you need to either grab him and carry him around under your arm for a bit, or hold him pinned to the ground for a bit to show your dominance. Of course, remember you are much bigger than him and be gentle but firm. You need to walk away the winner at the end so if you pin him and he wiggles out and attacks you and you run away it will only reinforce the behavior. It is helpful to have a long handled rake with you when you enter the chicken yard. It can help him keep his distance, but also spooks him if you hit the ground near him with the rake and he will often back down. I’ve found the worst time for roosters is around their first birthday to their second birthday. That is when their hormones are at their worst and you need to give frequent reminders of who is in charge.

      With the ducks, it’s very common to see mating behaviors before the females are laying. They are either practicing their mating skills or they are working out the pecking order. You might find you have an issue with the Pekins males and Mallard females because the Pekins are so much bigger than Mallards. You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on them and separate them if the Mallards start losing feathers or get foamy eye. The head bobbing has two means – and you’ve worked them both out! Generally up and down head bobs are flirty or sometimes if they are just happy or excited. Side to side head bobbing is more territorial, females will often do that to other females to tell her to stay away from her mate or her nest or space. The side to side bobbing is also common when they are working out which female is the top female.

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