Did you ever take in a baby squirrel and start to feed and care for it, then have it go downhill physically and die? You’re not alone! The following are three common reasons why baby squirrels die in captivity:
1. The Wrong Diet.
Improper diet is the number one reason why squirrels die. There’s a lot of controversy over what is the correct formula to feed baby squirrels who are still nursing. Many wild animal rehabilitators will tell you to buy an expensive puppy formula, and to never feed a squirrel cow’s milk. I’ve used the expensive puppy formula with marginal success, but recently they changed the formulation which left it lacking enough milk fat for squirrels. Now, all of a sudden, they’re telling people to add heavy cream to boost the fat content! Hello! What is heavy cream? It’s the cream from cow’s milk! The reason cow’s milk will kill a baby squirrel is because there are substances in the milk that will give a squirrel severe diarrhea. Diarrhea will lead to an electrolyte imbalance,which will lead to a heart irregularity and ultimately death from sudden cardiac arrest.
I’ve found that if you get rid of the substance in cow’s milk and cream that causes diarrhea, a baby squirrel will do just fine on a cream rich cows milk formula. But you must do one simple but vital thing to make this formula safe for squirrels! I can teach you how to make this formula and save you having to spend twenty dollars per can for puppy formula!
The second big killer of squirrels is Hypocalcemia. That’s a fancy name for low blood Calcium. Squirrels, especially in captivity, have an extraordinarily high calcium requirement. Death from low blood calcium comes after they stop nursing. While they are getting milk, their calcium needs are being met. When they quit nursing, they need a calcium supplement or they’ll develop what is called Metabolic Bone Disease. This disease is characterized by loss of calcium from the bones, especially in the spine and back legs. They start to shuffle their back legs when they walk, and progressively lose nerve and muscle control. Their bones become brittle and break easily.
Low blood calcium can also lead to heart irregularity and sudden cardiac death. A squirrel with metabolic Bone Disease is a pathetic scene! Prevention is simple! I teach a very simple way to make a dietary supplement called Nut Squares or Nut Balls that will insure optimum calcium intake and good health for squirrels.
3. Internal Injuries.
The last major killer of baby squirrels is internal injuries. Many times a found squirrel has fallen a great distance out of a leaf nest. One of the first things you should do for a baby squirrel, after you get it in a warm environment, is to check it over carefully for injuries. Babies normally have rapid respiration and heartbeats, but if a baby squirrel is having difficulty breathing or is using more than just chest muscles to breathe, it may have internal injuries. It could have broken ribs or a contused lung or heart! Blunt trauma to the abdomen can injure internal organs such as the liver, kidneys or spleen. A baby squirrel’s abdominal wall is very thin. If you see dark purple discoloration of the abdomen, that is an ominous sign that indicates internal bleeding.
There’s not a whole lot that can be done for a baby squirrel that is in that condition. A Veterinarian could evaluate the animal, but chances are, nothing would be done other than observe and support it’s breathing struggle with oxygen and a warm environment until it passes. I’ve found in my years as a Squirrel Rehabilitator that squirrels love to have their head and neck gently rubbed, it’s very soothing and calming for them. Death is a part of life. For me, holding and comforting a dying squirrel helps me realize how precious and brief life is. I find tremendous joy and satisfaction in caring for these magnificent creatures, and thank God that even in death, I can make a difference!