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Leech Infestation

Leech Infection

Leech infection has been reported to occur in ducks. It should be considered an emergency condition and can be rapidly fatal to the bird. Leeches are visible to the naked eye however they may go undetected if they have already migrated inside of the duck. Usually they are seen protruding out of the duck's eyes (the conjunctiva just below the nictitating membrane) or from the nares. Infested ducks will usually appear distressed and irritated. They may frequently shake their heads and try cleaning their bill in the water, in an attempt to remove the leeches from their face. If leeches are feeding in the area around the eyes, affected ducks will usually also show signs of conjunctivitis and keratitis, possibly resulting in blindness. When the nasal cavity is affected, bleeding may occur from the duck's nostrils. Secondary infections caused by leeches are common.


Leeches visible
Head shaking


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam


MethodMethod Summary
Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own duck "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Manual removalVisible leeches can sometimes be gently removed using forceps, after applying proxymetacaine hydrochloride to the surface to aid in removal.
IvermectinDip the ends of protruding leeches in ivermectin (10 ug/ml), apply in the form of nasal drops, or administer 0.02 ml/kg orally or subcutaneous.
Ophthalmic antibiotic ointmentMay be required for secondary bacterial infections involving the eyes.



Risk Factors

  • Ducks living near or with access to cold-water lakes