2. Rehydrate the Baby Squirrel
How to Check for Dehydration: Pinch the skin on the back of his neck and also on the belly and count how many seconds it takes to go back down flat. 1-2 seconds is moderate dehydration; 4 seconds or more can be life-threatening. NOTE: This test is not reliable in hairless babies or emaciated babies; assume every baby squirrel is dehydrated when you first find them. Rehabbers should keep Fox Valley Electro-Stat Powdered Electrolyte on hand.Homemade Rehydration fluid:
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon honey, molasses, syrup, or sugar
- 1 pinch salt
Note: Pedialyte is very high in salt, so if using Pedialyte, dilute it half-and-half with water
Syringes: Use a quality o-ring syringe, with or without a nipple, 1 ml or 3 ml (cc) size. An eyedropper can also work in a pinch. Never use pet nursers, doll bottles, or syringes larger than 3 cc. Quality o-ring syringes cost less than 50 cents each and will save the baby's life. Our Baby Squirrel Kits include 2 sizes of o-ring syringes, along with everything else you need to take care of a baby squirrel.
How to Heat the Fluid: Fill a coffee mug with hot water. Fill the syringe with cold fluid and place it in the mug for a couple of minutes. Squirt a drop on the inside of your wrist. It should feel very warm but not hot on your skin. You can also mix formula in a small glass container and place it inside a bowl of hot water.
Proper Feeding Position: Hold the baby upright in your hand. A baby that can walk can also drink sitting up or lying on his stomach. Don't let the baby get cold. Keep him wrapped up while he eats.
Feeding Technique: Place the syringe tip on the baby squirrel's lips (from the side) and squeeze out one drop for him to taste. Let him swallow one drop before squeezing more. GO SLOW! It sometimes takes time for them to catch on. Newborn babies are fed drop by drop. With older babies you can squeeze slowly for one second, wait for him to swallow, then squeeze again. Don't let the squirrel suck so hard he pulls the barrel down; you control it.
If fluids dribble out his mouth or nose, you're going too fast. Stop and tilt the baby's head down so the fluid drains out (support his head and neck). Then wipe his nose and mouth with a tissue. Start over, slower. The baby could be at risk for aspiration pneumonia, which is fatal unless treated with antibiotics.
How much hydration and for how long? Initially, the baby can have as much hydration fluid as she will take. With severely dehydrated babies, offer fluids every half hour. Very weak baby squirrels may only be able to take a few drops at a time, given every 15 minutes. Keep doing the pinch test to track your progress.
When I can I start feeding formula? You should see the baby “perk up” once the dehydration starts to improve. If the baby squirrel isn't badly dehydrated, you can begin formula feeding within an hour or so. Even if the baby is badly dehydrated, you will need to begin formula feeding within 3 hours. You can dilute the formula 3-to-1 for the first few feedings. See page 3 about Feeding for more details.
Once you start formula, continue to give hydration IN BETWEEN FEEDINGS until the baby passes the dehydration test. Continue to check for several days, as it can take a few days to fully recover and dehydration can come back.
- Do not overhydrate. Stop once the baby squirrel is rehydrated.
- Do not use Gatorade or other sports drinks
- Do not mix hydration fluid with formula
Note: If the baby is firmly latched on to the nipple, never pull the nipple out of the baby's mouth. This can cause suction and force fluid into the inner ears, causing infection. Let the baby let go.