If you have ever owned ducks or been around them, you will know how fun they can be and how cute they are to watch as they waddle around looking for food. We all know they like to swim, and some can even fly long distances, but have you ever seen a duck pee?
Ducks do not pee like mammals do, but just like a bird, ducks do excrete a urinary substance that is basically their way of peeing. They do not pee out liquid urine as one may expect but they do have two kidneys that filter out toxins from the liquids in their bodies just like ours do.
Just because ducks do not pee, per se, they still need plenty of water each day to survive. Water is extremely important for the health of ducks and it helps to keep their digestive system functioning properly.
The more you know about ducks and how their excretory system works, the easier you will be able to spot and even prevent potential kidney issues in your own flock.
Duck Excretory System
A duck’s excretory system is the system that removes any excess toxins and waste out of the fluids within the body. A duck, like other birds, has two kidneys that work hard to filter toxins and waste including uric acid from the animal’s blood.
That resulting urine is then sent from each kidney through the ureters to the cloaca. The urinary product is then pushed into the duck’s intestines where any excess water is absorbed, leaving only a pasty white uric acid substance.
That remaining pasty product is expelled from the duck along with their waste. It is not peed out as liquid urine.
What Is Uric Acid?
Uric acid is the byproduct of the nitrogen being metabolized by an animal’s body. Uric acid is filtered by the kidneys and it is a natural process that the body performs. In a healthy body, uric acid is released by the body through the animal’s urine. (source)
Why can’t ducks pee?
Ducks are not able to pee like mammals do because they do not have a bladder to hold their urine nor do they have a urethra to release their urine from their body.
To account for a lack of a bladder, and as a way to conserve water, a duck’s body handles urine in the same way that other birds do, by turning it into a pasty -like substance that can easily pass with their waste.
Are Your Ducks Kidney’s Working Properly?
The easiest way to see if your ducks excretory system and kidneys are working properly is to glance at their excrement. If there is a white pasty substance mixed in, then things are probably working the way that they should.
If your duck is walking, eating and behaving normally, there is a good chance that their kidneys are working right.
Urinary Issues in Ducks
You may be wondering if ducks still need to drink water.
Ducks do need to drink water. Just because a duck’s body handles urine differently and they do not ‘pee’ like other animals, they still need a lot of water each day to survive.
Adult ducks, on average, need to drink at least 1 liter of water each day, which equals a little over a ¼ of a gallon. A lack of water can lead to dehydration, which can quickly cause a duck’s body to stop working properly and even begin to shut down. (source)
The excretory system of a duck can be affected by nutrition, dehydration and a wide variety of other factors. Gout and high uric acid are of particular concern.
Gout in ducks is the same disease that humans get. Gout is a disease that occurs when the body becomes overwhelmed with urate crystals, the result of too much uric acid in the system.
In a healthy duck, the kidneys work to filter out the duck’s uric acid, however, dehydration, illness, and poor diets, among other things, can cause high levels of uric acid to overrun the duck’s body. (source)
High Uric Acid
Ducks that are suffering from gout and too much uric acid in their systems will display clear signs of illness. They will have swollen leg joints which will cause a difficulty in their ability to walk. Their joints may even be warm to the touch.
Ducks with gout may not want to move like they normally do and they can have purple-looking skin under their feathers. They will be listless and lethargic as the disease progresses. (source)
How to prevent urinary issues in ducks
To prevent any urinary and kidney issues in ducks, there are a few key things you should always do for your ducks.
- Make sure they always have access to water.
Dehydration can be a direct cause of uric acid buildup and kidney issues in ducks. You should make sure your ducks are able to get water throughout the entire day.
- Try to only feed food designed for ducks and other waterfowl.
Feed designed for waterfowl or specifically for ducks will contain the proper nutrients that ducks need in order to flourish and prevent diseases from developing.
- Do not feed laying feed to ducks that are not laying eggs.
Laying feed is designed specifically for ducks that are laying eggs. Male ducks and young ducks that have not begun laying should not eat laying feed because it contains a higher level of nutrients that are not needed.
Vital Nutrients for Kidney Health in Ducks
The wrong levels of nutrients in duck’s diet can lead to gout, uric acid issues, and kidney illnesses in ducks. Proper amounts of protein and Vitamin A, and phosphorus are vital for kidney health in ducks.
Feeding ducks feed with high amounts of protein can cause them to produce too much uric acid for their bodies to handle, leading to kidney problems.
Adult ducks need feed that has at least 16% protein while ducklings only need around 20-22% protein in their feed. Young growing ducks need an average of 18% protein in their feed. (source)
A lack of adequate levels of Vitamin A in a duck’s diet can lead to ureter damage. The ureter carries urine from the kidneys to a duck’s cloaca. This can cause a duck to suffer from gout as a result.
Adult ducks need around 4130 mg of Vitamin A while ducklings need about 3100 mg of Vitamin A in their feed. Growing ducks with approximately 1720 mg of Vitamin A in their feed to flourish. (source)
Phosphorus helps prevent a duck’s body from producing kidney stones by acidifying their urine. (source)
Adult ducks and ducklings need feed with at least 0.40% phosphorus levels. Growing ducks can get by with 0.35% phosphorus. (source)
Ducks may not pee like mammals do, but they still produce a urine product and water is still a vital part of their diet. Without adequate water and proper nutrition, a duck can suffer from severe kidney issues that can be very detrimental to their health.
It is important to always provide ducks with the water and proper feed they need so that they can thrive and grow without issues. It is also good to know that the gross white pasty substance you see all over your property now actually means that your ducks are properly filtering out the uric acid in their body!