Can Ducks Suffocate Or Experience Blockage In Their Throats?

I had a group of ducks that I let them graze and roam in my spacious yard. I’ve noticed one of my ducks panting so fast like it can’t catch her breath and trying as hard as it can to get any air. I soon discovered that she had swallowed something that caused her to choke.

Unfortunately, the yard had some strings and remnants of fodder bags! I tried to save them and turned the ducks upside down so that gravity would play its role and the stock fell. Thank God, we had good luck, as a ball of string fell out of the duck’s mouth after turning and shaking it!

Suffocation of ducks is something that does not happen often. However, it is possible if the food provided to the ducks is not suitable for the nature of its body and its digestive system, which consists of small tubes.

It also happens if the environment around the ducks is not clean and contains things that can lead to suffocation of ducks when swallowed.

Let’s learn in the coming lines about how duck suffocation occurs, methods of treatment, and methods of prevention.

Can Ducks Choke?

Yes, ducks can choke if something gets stuck in their windpipe or esophagus and partially or completely obstructs breathing. Ducks can easily choke if they swallow large pieces of food or if any of the food gets into their windpipe.

Causes Of Duck Choking

Duck Is Being Choked

Swallowing Large Portions Of Food

The main and direct cause of choking in ducks is swallowing large portions of food. Ducks may choke even though they have good oral health and normal esophageal function. This behavior is often associated with malnutrition or inappropriate offerings to the ducks, such as treats and dry scraps.

Ducks do not have teeth like we humans do, but ducks do have comb-like projections called lamellae. These lamellae may look a bit like teeth, which ducks use to grind down bits of plant matter and other edible crumbs.

If the food portions are too large or dry, these bumps cannot break them up to pass through the esophagus smoothly. If one of the large parts of the food crosses into the esophagus, it leads to suffocation in the ducks.

Diseases Of The Esophagus

Duck choking can occur if the ducks suffer from diseases of the esophagus. Tumors and scars reduce the diameter and narrow the duck’s esophagus. It also leads to tension and stiffness of the muscles of the esophagus, which reduces its flexible movement.

This prevents the pushing of into the stomach, which leads to suffocation in ducks. Even if it consumes its usual small food.

Swallowing Foreign Bodies

Also, a common cause of duck choking is the ingestion of foreign objects. If the duck food is not clean or the barn is not clean, then it is exposed to swallowing foreign objects such as threads, feathers, leather, metal objects, bedding, and plastic, which leads to the suffocation of ducks.

It can be somewhat difficult to tell if a duck is choking and may actually die suddenly without you noticing! But let’s pay attention to the signs that your duck is choking in the next paragraph by answering the following question. 

Why Is My Duck Gasping For Air?

Duck With Green Head

The first sign that a duck is choking is that it is gasping for air, it is trying to do its best to save itself and get enough air to survive. So if you see a duck gasping for air, you should take it seriously because it is a sure sign of danger threatening the duck.

Other Signs Of Duck Choking Include:

  • Constantly raising the wings up and down
  • Standing in place for long periods
  • Do not eat or approach its food.
  • Abnormal behaviors
  • Watery vomiting 
  • Depression
  • Lethargy and inactivity
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Increased thirst
  • Poor appetite

What To Do If The Duck Is Choking?

Here are a couple of options that can help you when your duck is choking:

Turn The Duck Upside Down

Gently grasp the duck and turn it upside down, trying to get the object stuck in the duck’s esophagus. Shake it gently to help loosen the stick. This method can be effective if the stuck object has just stuck and has not gone down the esophagus much.

Seek Veterinary Care

It is recommended that you seek immediate veterinary care for duck choking, as your doctor will likely take X-rays to locate the suspended material in the air sacs or respiratory tree.

It is not recommended to use a piece of cotton to try to remove the object that causes choking, as this may make the matter worse.


The doctor may recommend an advanced choking procedure in which an endoscopy may be performed to remove the choking substance.


Nebulization may be an important part of treatment for choking in ducks if a liquid or semi-solid enters the duck’s respiratory tract. Where the veterinarian surgically places an airbag tube in the duck’s abdomen to allow it to breathe if there is an obstruction in the upper airway causing suffocation.

This procedure is as important as possible and is life-saving to allow him to breathe until the obstruction is removed.

Some scarring of the lung tissue or air sac may be in the case of aspiration of fluid or semi-fluid from the lung but this does not affect the normal activity level of the ducks or the performance of their respiratory system Unless the damage is severe.

Antibiotic Treatment

It may also require antibiotic or antifungal treatment to prevent secondary infection.

How To Prevent Duck Suffocation?

You can prevent ducks from choking and avert this crisis much easier than you can handle it! You can follow some simple steps to keep your ducks healthy.

Facilitate Access To Granules

First, you have to make sure your duck always has access to the pellets. Ducks that are allowed to free range often get enough pellets by walking around and daily scratching. Therefore, the ducks must be able to reach the small granules so that they do not go to eat inappropriate things and be exposed to suffocation.

Cut The Grass

Ducks love vegetables and get very excited when they see them and rush to eat them. They may not care about eating small portions, but they devour what they can reach. Also, if you are giving scraps of table food to the ducks, it is recommended that you cut them into small pieces so that the ducks do not choke.

Keep The Yard Clean

You have to keep the barn and yard clean and tidy at all times. You should get rid of any unsuitable objects including plastic, metal string, feathers, or anything that could be dangerous and cause the ducks to choke.

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Doaa Salah
The shy one (too shy to put her photo) and the only girl in our team! Doaa is a veterinarian who is passionate about writing content. She knows a lot about animals and birds, as she has been studying them for many years now. Her goal? She is researching and learning to convey to you all the knowledge she have and what's new about farming.