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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 23837
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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We rescued an adult turkey from sad conditions. He is very

Customer Question

hello, we rescued an adult tom turkey from sad conditions. He is very thin but seems to be eating and drinking well. he has been with us for a few weeks now and seems to still fall asleep just standing, seems lethargic and falls over in a panic when startled or you get to close to him. he has a pretty long beard so i am thinking he is an older bird.
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Could be a lot of things that cause lethargy. The Veterinarian will know how to help the bird. What is the bird's name?
Customer: he is a bourbon red turkey and his name is Jack
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Jack?
Customer: I am worried about him. I can't stand to see him so weak and falling over. what can i do for him to make him feel better?
Submitted: 11 days ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 days ago.

You're speaking to Dr. Michael Salkin. Welcome to JustAnswer. I'm currently typing up my reply.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 days ago.

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. We don't have many avian vets on this site. Thank you for rescuing Jack. As you already understand, such a thin and weak bird is severely ill. Birds will hide their illnesses until they're unable to do so. This is a protective mechanism because sick birds are attacked by others in the wild and in dometic flocks.

Unfortunately, Jack's thinness, somnolence (sleepiness), and profound weakness can indicate any number of illnesses or health issues in turkeys. In avian medicine, there's rarely one cause of such a presentation, so we usually begin with a list of differential diagnoses and use lab tests, X-rays, and physical exams to differentiate one from another. With this in mind and to answer you directly, your best bet is to consult with your county extension poultry personnel or avian-oriented veterinarian (please see here: for help.

It's best to approach the diagnostic process with a clear sense of his financial value to your operation. Although some services such as your county animal disease diagnostic laboratory might be available free of charge through a county agency or land-grant extension office, the expense of some diagnostic tests and treatments can add up quickly. While it’s always worth your time and money to identify a bacterial or viral infection that could potentially impact more than one member of the flock, this might not be the case with a condition that only affects one turkey. It frustrates me that I can't be more specific for you but such is the dilemma of poultry owners and vets alike.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Jack has been kept in quarantine since I rescued him. I rescue abused and unwanted exotics and wildlife so I do have a vet that I usually use but catching and stressing him more to go to see him I'm just not sure about. Unfortunately looking at the financial aspect, without any outside financial help, the job I work only goes so far. I feed and care for over 100 animals daily as well as my own. Can you suggest a supplement or antibiotic or something that I can try to help him out? I'm not sure that I can designate the funds for all the testing you are suggesting. I always try to do everything possible to help the animals we rescue and place them in quality homes if possible after they are better. I contacted you since I had exhausted all the ideas and research that I had already completed in the last few weeks he has been with me.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 days ago.

I understand your constraints and I appreciate all of your rescue efforts. While of necessarily questionable value, a broad spectrum antibiotic such as tylosin is reasonable. This is given by injection, however, in the form of Tylan 50 dosed at 20-30 mg/lb once daily for 5-7 days into a breast muscle. If stressing him in this manner needs to be avoided, you're left with treating through his water with tetracycline in the form of Duramycin-10 as per the label's instructions.

In general, I'll offer such an ill but appetent bird anything and everything he'll eat. Our goal is to increase his protein intake but, frankly, increasing his fat, vitamin, essential fatty acid, and mineral intake is desirable as well. Turkeys are omnivores and can eat hard boiled egg yolk, pancakes and cornbread, the tops of fresh greens, dairy products such as yogurt and cheese, fresh fruits such as apples, pears, melon, kiwi, and berries, vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, beets, asparagus, cabbage, sweet potato, and squash, and even tiny pieces of meat.

Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Is the Tylan 50 something I would need a script for ? I would love to do the injections but am afraid there may not be enough breast muscle for 7 days but am willing to try and if I have to switch to dosing his water, I can. We do feed all sorts of extras as you suggested above and he does seem to enjoy them. Yogurt was one of the first things I gave mixed with hard boiled egg. I try to mix it up daily to keep him eating and did enjoy some boiled chicken along with some greens, boiled potatoes and pineapple today.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 days ago.

No, Tylan 50 is available in many feed stores and can be purchased online as well. I'm pleased to hear that he's eating so well. The best scenario would be that he's simply malnourished and with good feeding he'll turn around nicely. Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
I will make a trip to the tractor supply {45miles or so away} and hopefully get the Tylan 50 tomorrow. What size needle do you suggest for the injections? He is 38.5 pounds as of 2 weeks ago. I will also pick up the tetracycline then too! Can you make any other suggestions on Medications /vitamins etc. just in case this route does not work? We are going into cold weather and I know he likes to be out in his enclosure, but I worry about wasting excess energy trying to keep his body heat up. What other signs should I look for during treatment to know that we are on the right track other than the obvious? He is being fed a 18% poultry pellet.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 days ago.

You can find supplements for poultry at Tractor Supply as well. Eating well is the best approach. Supplements can be used for 1-2 weeks but any longer than that risks unbalancing a bird's diet. You may need a radiant heater as is provided for production poultry. Weighing him weekly is a good gauge of his progress. Here are some turkey sites that you might find helpful; you can scroll down to "feeding turkeys":

A 1" 22 gauge needle is common.

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
Well, I was hoping for more help when I paid to get on this site, but I guess it is what it is. I will continue with what I am doing already and implement your suggestions. Thank you for your suggestions and have a good evening.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 11 days ago.

You're welcome. I've offered up all I have and so I'll opt out which will give other experts the opportunity to enter this conversation.

Customer: replied 5 days ago.
Any help i can get for him would be great!
Thank you!

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