A duck found injured in a Santa Maria park is one step closer to good health thanks to a couple fed up with animal dumping and a foot treatment by a local veterinarian.
Victoria Nunez and Beau Claverie own eight ducks, some of which came to them after being dumped by others. There’s Sophie, who had an eye infection that left her with some vision impairment; Honey, who had bacterial folliculitis, lost all of her back and neck feathers and was covered in scabs; and Chester, who was so skinny from being starved and, unfortunately, died.
“We got into rescuing ducks after we got our first two ducklings in May 2017,” Ms. Nunez told the News-Press. “We learned how special these animals are and how commonly people dump them at parks and ponds. People think they can live there and survive there, when they can’t because they are domestic animals.”
On March 4, the couple came across a white duck at Waller Park on Orcutt Road.
“She wasn’t in great condition when we got her,” said Ms. Nunez. “She had a respiratory infection and bumblefoot – a staph infection in the pad of the foot.”
They named the duck April and, as they’d done in the past, the couple took it to the Cat & Bird Clinic in Santa Barbara, where it was treated by Santa Barbara native veterinarian Kelsey Grunewald.
Dr. Grunewald told the News-Press that April’s living conditions had led to a sinus infection, but that the foot issue “was the biggest problem” – one that, if an animal is provided proper living conditions, should not develop.
“The cause is generally poor husbandry, poor sanitary environment, walking on improper surfaces,” she said. “Oftentimes what happens is they’ll get a puncture wound from something on the ground, and bacteria gets into that wound. That can lead to a limp or painful gait.”
Telltale signs of the ailment include black and brown scabs on the bottom of the foot, and swelling.
“It’s usually very painful,” said Dr. Grunewald. “It can spread and become much worse. Luckily, this one wasn’t at that point.”
April is an adult, weighing in at 7 pounds its first visit.
“She’s a big girl, but not overweight.”
The typical treatment for bumble foot starts with medicated water, which softens the tissue allowing for dead tissue to be removed.
April, said Dr. Grunewald, 29, took to this easily, putting both feet in the bath.
Medicated ointment follows, along with wrapping the foot to take pressure off the injured area.
In more extreme cases, the duck can be outfitted with a boot made from wetsuit-like material.
“That helps provide extra comfort for the foot.”
Preventing the ailment is the human’s job.
“Speak with a vet about proper substrate, care and diet,” said Dr. Grunewald. “Make sure the environment is appropriate for the species. And don’t keep them on pavement.”
The doctor noted that duck ownership is much more involved than other species.
“For first-time pet owners, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a duck,” she said. “It’s definitely not an easy task.”
April is doing well with the “Claverie Ducks” clan, and aside from a bandage change, should be back to normal in no time.
“With her, we know she’s going to a much better environment,” said the doctor.
“We learned how special these animals are and how commonly people dump them at parks and ponds.”