5. Common Problems
Bloating can occur when a squirrel eats too much and/or too often. The stomach should be rounded after feeding, but still soft, like a half-filled water balloon. It should deflate before the next feeding. If stomach feels hard or does not deflate before next feeding, skip a feeding, hydrate, and decrease the amount of formula at each feeding or increase the amount of time between feedings. Stimulate to potty. Dipping the baby in warm water up to his armpits and gentle massage can also help. Make sure the baby doesn't get chilled; dry him off carefully.
Clicking (aspiration pneumonia)
If formula comes out baby's nose, formula may get into the lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia. Symptoms are loss of appetite, lethargy, and a clicking noise when the baby breathes. Hold the baby to your ear like a phone, and listen carefully. The clicking is with each breath, in and out. This must be treated immediately with antibiotics or the baby will die. Consult a rehabber, vet, or The Squirrel Board.
This can be caused by overfeeding, too frequent feeding, wrong formula, or parasites. Stop feeding formula for a couple of feedings and hydrate instead. If baby is less than 4 weeks old, you may need to switch to the Homemade Goat Milk Formula. Diarrhea can kill quickly so consult a rehabber, vet, or The Squirrel Board.
It can take a day or so for the baby to start pooping after starting formula. If constipation persists, try adding a little apple juice to the formula for a few feedings. Constipation can also mean the baby is still dehydrated, so you can also try giving warm water in a syringe between feedings.
Caused by spacing the feedings too far apart. Baby may arch his back, have spasms, and gasp for breath. Rub molasses, honey, or pancake syrup on its gums. You should see improvement within 30 minutes. Try feeding smaller amounts more frequently.
While feeding, some babies will stop swallowing and open and close their mouth like a fish. This is not harmful but means feeding takes longer. Blowing lightly in her face or a gentle tap on the head can help. When they stop gulping, you can resume feeding them.
Nursing on Genitals
Baby squirrels may nurse on the males' genitals when they are housed together; some babies will also self-suck. You may have to separate the squirrels until they are a little older. This is a very serious issue: It can cause permanent damage to the penis and must be stopped quickly and treated. Watch for redness, swelling, or scabbing on the tip of the penis. Make sure the baby is actually peeing when stimulated.
Refuses to Feed/Blood on Nipple
Babies teethe twice, once for upper teeth and once for lowers. Teething may cause the baby to suddenly refuse to eat, or eat less than normal, and you may see a little blood. This is normal and should pass after 24 hours.
Whenever the baby isn't doing well, go back to the ABC's
- Is he warm?
- Is he hydrated?
- Is he being fed properly? (not too much or too little; not too often or too infrequently)
Then address those issues in that order!
Number 1 Killers of Baby Squirrels
- Lack of no-auto-shutoff heating pad: Baby will chill and die
- Wrong formula: Baby fails to grow or gain weight; develops diarrhea, constipation, bloating
- Cheap syringes that stick: Formula gets into baby's lungs causing aspiration pneumonia
- Syringes that are too big: Baby will eat too fast and get aspiration pneumonia
- Overfeeding: Baby develops diarrhea/bloating
- Underfeeding: Baby starves to death