Food / Water Medication for Birds (Disease Investigation & Control - Treatment and Care)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Control / Treatment & Care / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords Oral medication.
  • Manufactured feed:
  • Although significant variability and standards exist from country to country, feed manufacturers often offer standard formulations with antibiotics, anthelmintics, and more specialised preparations.
  • Smaller feed mills may be willing to incorporate approved medications into diets, based on a minimum weight purchase.
  • On-site mixtures:
  • Medications can either be thoroughly mixed into a powder or water soaked pellet mash, or incorporated into a "treat food" that will be readily consumed.
  • Powder will also stick to grains if mixed with vegetable oil.
  • If a mixture is used, consumption should be closely monitored.
  • Medicated water:
  • When preparing water on a flock basis, package instructions should be used to obtain the correct concentration.
  • For individual animals, a calculation must be made on the volume of water that will be consumed in 24 hours, and then a concentration prepared that will provide an adequate dosage of medication if that volume is consumed.
  • However, because most medication will alter the taste of the water, a lesser total volume may be ingested, leading to under dosing.
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Medicated feed and water have their main advantages in treating diseases on a flock basis.
  • Animal is known to be eating and drinking normally.
  • Medication to be used is readily absorbed from the gut.
  • Animal handling is difficult or contraindicated.
  • There are limited access to alternative sources of food and water (ponds, grass, etc.).
  • Low stress for the animal(s).
  • Consistent intake and blood levels when consumed throughout day.
  • Efficient treatment for flocks.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Actual intake difficult to measure.
  • Must buy medicated feed in large quantities.
  • Some medications have limited solubility/stability in water.
  • Medication taste may affect palatability/acceptance, leading to reduced intake of drug and of feed/water.
  • Dilution/contamination may occur.
  • All animals may not receive equal dosages.
  • Not useful if the bird is not eating/drinking normally.
  • Waterfowl cannot be maintained away from other water sources for more than a very short period of time.
  • Parasitism, diseased mucosa and nutritional deficiencies such as Vitamin A Deficiency may adversely affect absorption of drugs.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Appropriate food as a vehicle, or water and containers.
  • Appropriate, orally-active drug.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Simple to use.
  • Require accurate calculations of food/water ingestion.
Cost/ Availability May be relatively expensive if large quantity of medicated feed has to be produced.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • If medicated food / water intake is lower than expected, the amount of drug consumed may be ineffective for treatment, and may promote the development of resistant micro-organisms.
  • If medicated food / water intake is greater than expected, toxic effects may occur.
  • Potential risk of drug entering environment e.g. watercourses.

In some countries there may be legislation restricting the diagnosis and treatment of disease in animals to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery."(see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).).

Use of Drugs (Medication):

  • Many drugs are not registered for use in particular bird species and care should be taken in their use, with proper regard for possible toxic effects. Consideration should be give to relevant legislation regarding the use of drugs.
  • In the UK, guidelines regarding the use of drugs are set out in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Guide to Professional Conduct 2000: (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Choice of Medicinal Products).
Author Debra Bourne
References B11.5.w18, B14, V.w7

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