Foster kid Francis’ Cause of Death
If you haven’t already heard, our foster duckling Francis passed away unexpectedly on Saturday afternoon. Francis started limping on Thursday, went to the vet Friday and died Saturday. We all thought he had a sprained leg, but when he died suddenly, we had his remains necropsied by the vet to determine why he passed.
Francis’ necropsy showed severe kidney and liver disease. The vet said “it didn’t have anything to do with you in any way” which was a relief for us to hear. Unfortunately, Francis never had a chance. The liver damage was so severe that he bled internally, even into his muscles. If he were older, it could be a common problem in ducks called amyloidosis, which is sort of an immune-related disease. However, since Francis was so young (likely only 5 to 6-weeks-old) we’re having tissue samples sent out to a special lab to determine if the liver and kidney damage was caused by a virus or bacteria.
The good news is that it wasn’t caused by another duck picking on him here with us and he didn’t have a sprained leg. He was safe here like we thought he was, and he wasn’t hurt by the other ducks. It’s also good for me, as I don’t have to feel guilty that I should have done more to keep him safe. He was safe. I feel much better about that.
It’s also good that Francis was a feisty, active kid up until Thursday afternoon, and he died two days later. So he was pretty happy and rambunctious right up until his last two days.
The bad news is just that Francis is gone, and there’s nothing that could have been done to save him. We will share the results of the tissue sample analysis when we get that back, but it will likely be quite a while – two weeks or more. It might shed some light on why he was afflicted with kidney and liver disease so young. Hybrid ducks are known to have many problems, so it’s possible it was congenital or genetic. We’ll share when we know more.
I know his death came as a shock to many of the people who followed his short journey with us. It was especially hard for me, because I thought I might have let him down. When his limp was worse Friday morning and I made an appointment for the vet, Francis did something that a few other animals have done with me in the past. He directly asked me for help. I can’t explain it because it’s subtle, but Ramona did it in the past when she had aggressive lymphoma. Ramona, who was normally skittish and mostly ignored me, walked right up to me and stood in front of me asking for help. In her case, I was able to listen and the vet was able to do surgery and treat her with steroids which gave her a few extra months of great life before she succumbed to the lymphoma.
Francis did the same thing. He came to me on Friday morning, and when I picked him up, he melted into me and asked me for help. I knew at that moment that he could be in serious trouble. He was so wild and feisty up until that moment, and then he just made a choice to trust me because he needed help. It breaks my heart that there’s nothing I could do to help him. We took him to the vet, and it seemed that it was probably just a sprain after all. But my gut was in knots. I couldn’t figure out how a sprain could have happened. We chose to treat him with antibiotics just in case, to give him the best chance at a fast recovery. He came home with us and swam in the baby pool and ate.
Less than a day later he was gone.
It is always difficult for me to take in a foster duckling. I don’t have room to keep a new, healthy duckling forever, and yet I get attached and want to make sure I find the safest, best forever home possible, which is never a guarantee that he’ll live a long and happy life. Francis was only with us a little more than a week, but he captured our hearts with his larger-than-life attitude and his bossy, feisty personality. We had big hopes and dreams for him, so it was hard to say goodbye so soon.
Rest in peace, little Francis. We wish we could have done more for you in your short time on Earth, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Lots of love, baby Francis.
P.S. Special thanks to everyone for the good thoughts and condolences on the loss of Francis. I know many of you got attached to him too, and it was a shock to see him go. Thank you for the support.