Care of Neonatal Squirrels

Filed Under: Pocket Pets, General Care

Raising baby squirrels can be a rewarding experience. Most baby squirrels do well when you follow some basic rules. Baby animals are not usually able to maintain body temperature and need to warm up to an additional heat source. Hypothermia is the primary cause of death in an immature squirrel. When confronted with a baby squirrel, the first step should be to warm them quickly and gently. A hot water bottle is the safest heat source and can be easily constructed from a couple empty plastic soda bottles. Fill the bottle with hot water and wrap in a towel. For multiple numbers of baby squirrels or a larger squirrel, multiple bottles may be used. A heating pad may be used to warm young animals but needs to be set on the lowest setting available and should be well padded. It is easy to burn a young squirrel with a heating pad, especially when they are weak and may not be able to escape the heat source should it become too warm. To house the squirrel, use an enclosed box with paper or cloth bedding and place it in a larger cage from which they may not escape. This will prevent the squirrel from becoming loose in the house. Place the heating pad under only half of the inner box so that if conditions get too warm for the baby squirrels they can move to a cooler area. When using hot water bottles, remember they need to be changed frequently in order to keep them warm. Make sure hot water bottles do not leak, for a wet baby will lose heat even more rapidly than a dry one.

To feed a baby squirrel, “Esbilac” or comparable brand of puppy milk replacer may be used by diluting one part milk replacer with three parts water. The formula should be fed baby bottle warm. The general guideline when feeding baby squirrels is to feed the equivalent of 5% of the body weight in grams, as milliliters of formula per feeding. Unfurred squirrels should be fed every 2-3 hours while furred ones should be fed every three to four hours. As the squirrel becomes older, baby cereal may be added to the formula. When hungry, baby squirrels will often cry, are restless and root around the bedding. The formula may be fed by a puppy/kitten nursing bottle or by a feeding tube. Most veterinarians will be able to furnish you with a French feeding catheter and guide you through their usage. The catheter is gently pushed over the tongue and down the esophagus to a distance equal to the location of the stomach. A syringe loaded with the appropriate amount of formula is placed at the end of the catheter and the formula is delivered directly into the stomach. The feeding tube is a time saver and should be used whenever the babies are too sick or weak to nurse on their own.

Baby squirrels tend to open their eyes between the nineteenth and twenty-first day of life and will give you a general idea as to the age of the orphan. Once their eyes have been open for one week, the baby squirrel may begin feeding on a puppy milk replacer mixed with baby cereal from a dish.

Once fed, the babies should be stroked in the anal-genital area with a gauze sponge or cotton ball. In nature, the mother will lick this area in order to stimulate urination and defecation. The baby squirrel should urinate after each feeding and defecate several times a day. The feces should be formed but soft. Without stimulation these orphans will become constipated and bloated.

If the stool becomes too loose, “Pedialyte” may be substituted for a couple of feedings, after which the formula may be given at half strength for an additional couple of feedings, followed by full strength formula. A stool sample should be submitted to your veterinarian in refractory cases for parasite analysis.

When the baby squirrel’s tail “fluffs”, the formula should be gradually decreased and fresh corn, apples, cracked nuts and seeds should be included in the diet. Climbing spaces and a cloth “hammock” high up in the cage should be provided. Baby squirrels tend to mature rather slowly but may be released when they are able to crack large nuts and exhibit nest building skills.

Topics: adoption, diet

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