Three reasons why baby squirrels die in captivity

Have you ever taken in a baby squirrel and started feeding and caring for it, then made it physically go downhill 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 squirrels die. There is a lot of controversy about what is the correct formula to feed baby squirrels that are still nursing. Many wildlife rehabilitators will tell you to buy expensive puppy formula and never feed a squirrel cow’s milk. I used the expensive puppy formula with marginal success, but they recently changed the formula and left it without enough butterfat for the squirrels. Now all of a sudden people are being told to add heavy cream to increase the fat content! Hello! What is heavy cream? It’s the cream of cow’s milk! The reason cow’s milk will kill a baby squirrel is because there are substances in the milk that will give the squirrel severe diarrhea. Diarrhea will lead to electrolyte imbalance, leading to heart irregularity and ultimately death from sudden cardiac arrest.

I’ve found that if you get rid of the stuff in cow’s milk and cream that causes diarrhea, a baby squirrel will do just fine with a high-cream cow’s milk formula. But you must do one simple but vital thing to make this formula safe for squirrels! I can show you how to make this formula and save you having to spend twenty dollars a can on puppy formula!

two. Hypocalcaemia.

The second great 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 levels occurs after they stop breastfeeding. As they get milk, their calcium needs are met. When they stop nursing, they need a calcium supplement or they will develop what is called metabolic bone disease. This disease is characterized by loss of calcium from the bones, especially in the spine and hind legs. They begin to drag their hind legs when they walk and gradually lose nerve and muscle control. Their bones become brittle and break easily.

Low blood calcium levels can also lead to heart irregularities 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 ensure optimal calcium intake and good health for the squirrels.

3. internal wounds

The last big cause of death for baby squirrels is internal injuries. Many times, a squirrel found has fallen a great distance from a nest of leaves. One of the first things you should do for a baby squirrel, after getting it into a warm environment, is to check it carefully for injuries. Babies normally have rapid breathing and heartbeat, but if a baby squirrel has difficulty breathing or uses more than just its chest muscles to breathe, it may have internal injuries. You 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. The abdominal wall of a baby squirrel is very thin. If you see a dark purple discoloration in the abdomen, it is an ominous sign indicating internal bleeding.

There is not much that can be done for a baby squirrel in this condition. A veterinarian could evaluate the animal, but most likely nothing will be done other than to observe and support its respiratory struggle with oxygen and a warm environment until it dies. In my years as a squirrel rehabber, I’ve found that squirrels love to have their heads and necks gently rubbed, it’s very calming for them. Death is part of life. For me, holding and comforting a dying squirrel helps me realize how precious and short life is. I find great joy and satisfaction in caring for these magnificent creatures, and thank God that even in death, I can make a difference!

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