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Dr. Pat
Dr. Pat, Bird Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 4244
Experience:  25+ years working primarily or exclusively with birds
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Turkey question. I have a pet turkey who doesnt seem to be

Customer Question

Turkey question. I have a pet turkey who doesn't seem to be doing well. She is about 7 years old. Has been still laying her eggs and will go off to do so. She had gone out in one of the pastures the other day and I found her the next morning after a night of light rain. She could have gone in the side door of the barn but didn't and was pretty wet when I found her.

She now pretty much just sits there, eyes shut, openms them every now and then if someone/something comes close. Drinks a little water when offered, goat milk and grain. I have seen where she has passed some stool and I have also seen a little drool coming from her mouth.

I realize she is old but if there is anything I can do, I will. Oh, thinking the cold rain might have caused a problem, I have stated her on penicillin, 2cc's twice a day. This morning was her third short. Can turkeys have electrolytes designed for livestock?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 4 years ago.

Greetings, I am Dr. Pat. I have worked with birds for many years. I will do my best to help you.

Penicillin is no longer effective in avian species. Most bacteria are thoroughly resistant to it, and it is not metabolized well in birds anyway. Please discontinue.

I have known pet turkeys 20 yr of age so I do not consider her to be elderly.

Is there a possibility of predator trauma?

Is it saliva, vomit, or respiratory mucus?

Abdomen normal/egg palpable?

Do not try to force food or water. Pedialyte or electrolyte replacer can help but many birds do not like them; when in doubt, plain warm water is best. They can hydrate from oral fluids almost as quickly as IV if the GI is functioning properly. Livestock electrolytes may or may not help, I would suggest warm water and every other offering, make it warm sugar water. You can offer warm cooked rice, pancakes, cornbread, grapes, melon, greens in addition to normal food.

Pet/feed store medications and home remedies are harmful, ineffective, immuno-suppressive, and make them much worse and may interfere with the veterinarian's diagnosis and treatment. Do not use them. Homeopathy and natureopathic techniques do not work in avians and can actually be very dangerous.

The first thing is to find out exactly what is wrong. If she has not been on a turkey-specific diet (chicken feed is not adequate especially for the laying hen turkey) she may be severely calcium deficient.

If you feel comfortable with it, examine the bird thoroughly, using gentle restraint via washcloth or hand towel: do not restrict the chest or hold around the body. Check the eyes, nostrils, mouth and beak if possible, having a good look in there for mucus, redness, masses or anything else unusual. Palpate the tummy for pain, fluid, lumps or anything else (eggs, if female or unknown). Check all the joints for swelling, pain, and mobility. The feathers should be parted to view the skin, muscles and skeleton below; this can be done using a q-tip with isopropyl alcohol or KY gel. Look for bruising, lacerations, injured feathers.


Move the bird indoors to an aquarium, box or carrier with soft towels or hay in the bottom, no perch, and food and water in low bowls that can be reached easily. Keep her partially covered, warm and quiet.

I know it is expensive, but you may not have many home options, because the first thing you need a vet for is to find out what is going on. Treatment is only as good as the diagnosis. If you call around, you may find a vet to work within your means.

I know it is expensive, but you may not have many home options, because the first thing you need a vet for is to find out what is going on. Treatment is only as good as the diagnosis. If you call around, you may find a vet to work within your means.
She needs to see an avian/poultry-experienced veterinarian ASAP for complete examination, diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Check
for members of AAV in your area.

If this were my patient, and money was not a factor (and if trauma or accident was ruled out), I would start with complete fecal analysis and direct smear, for multiple parasites; bacterial culture and sensitivity of the feces and choana. Depending on the case I might do a fungal culture. Routine blood work is necessary to rule out other issues. I would very likely order a number of DNA tests for poultry viruses as well. Generally I start them out on injectable antibiotics as indicated by the tests.

Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 4 years ago.
Hi Sue,

I'm just following up on our conversation about Henny. How is everything going?

Dr. Pat