How To Tell If A Baby Squirrel Is Dying? Here Is How Their Response Changes

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Jan 24, 2024 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 22, 2021
Edited by Lara Simpson
Little baby squirrel on a tree.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.3 Min

Squirrels are one of the most intelligent creatures known for their funky nature, speed, energy, and precision.

Baby squirrels can function independently at 10-12 weeks old, and in most cases, people do not need to intervene. But if a cold baby is found, it likely needs to be tended to.

Like most wild animals, squirrel mothers can look after their baby best. You may wonder how to detect if a baby squirrel is healthy or not. A healthy baby squirrel is usually pink and fat and squirms when touched gently. Squirrels are high-maintenance animals and can die from starvation, diseases, and harsh weather. The diseases that a squirrel can get are contagious to humans, other squirrels, and animals alike. Polluted water can spread diseases if it comes in contact with the corpse of a baby squirrel. Domestic and agricultural pets can also develop the disease from squirrel bites. Squirrels can get bitten by insects and other animals with different diseases and transmit their diseases through scratched and insect bites. Squirrels can also get sick by consuming polluted water. Squirrels can be carriers of diseases and not show any symptoms, so it is advisable to take care of a baby squirrel only after you don thick gloves.

If you like this article on how to tell if a baby squirrel is dying, then do check out our other articles like baby squirrel care and squirrel symbolism.

Signs Of A Baby Squirrel Dying

Squirrels are very energetic creatures, but if you have been noticing a gradual decrease in their appetite, loss of energy, weakness, lethargic behavior, loss of body weight, or visible skin abnormalities, then you should get your ill baby squirrel help. Fatigue, high fever, spots on the skin, baldness are typical signs that indicate that a squirrel may not be well.

Sedentary or lethargic behavior is an obvious sign that a squirrel is suffering from sicknesses like rabies, bubonic plague, or an internal organ infection.

Squirrels have a very high appetite and need to be fed very frequently, that is, within two to three hours, even through the night. But a loss in their appetite will indicate that they need to be taken to the veterinarian immediately. A dehydrated baby squirrel finds it difficult to digest food. To test for signs of dehydration, perform the pinch test on your squirrel. With gloved hands, lightly pinch the skin over the squirrel's shoulders and observe if the skin remains tented or not. If the skin remains tented, the squirrel is low on fluids and needs to be looked after immediately.

Loss of weight in a squirrel can be a slightly confusing way to determine your squirrel's condition. Weight loss can be connected with other symptoms of weakness, appetite loss, and a sudden sedentary lifestyle. Once a squirrel starts showing signs of weight loss, it may be too late because the squirrel may have lost its strength to fight back against the ailment.

Baby squirrels may also be prone to skin disorders that may involve baldness on the skin, bare spots, or visible tumors due to bacterial or fungi infection. Squirrel pox is generally seen in young squirrels, and the squirrel is likely to develop visible body tumors while suffering from this disease. This virus is usually not very harmful but can spread in extreme cases.

Is my baby squirrel dying?

If your baby squirrel's health seems degrading to the point that it concerns you and you might be suspicious of your baby squirrel dying, then definitely seek expert advice at once. Take proper care of the squirrel's diet, water intake, and make sure you provide enough heat to keep your squirrel's body warm.

Very ill baby squirrels are cold to touch, thin and pale looking with grayish pink lips. It is advised to visit a vet immediately if your squirrel's conditions seem to be worsening. If you're wondering if you're squirrel might be fooling around like humans generally do, then you're wrong. A squirrel cannot play dead. However, when they hibernate, their heart rate slows down, and the breathing rate drops to a very few shallow breaths per minute.

The three prime reasons baby squirrels die are an incorrect diet, metabolic bone disease (MBD), encephalomyocarditis, hypocalcemia, or internal injuries.

Metabolic bone disease is a very common illness in squirrels that develops due to the squirrels not getting adequate sunlight. They can also develop MBD if the squirrel has a poor diet, especially lacking vitamins in their nutrient intake. Symptoms of MBD include acute pain and lethargy. MBD can be cured by providing direct sunlight to the baby squirrels for around half an hour every day.

Encephalomyocarditis is a viral disease that transmits due to bacterial transmission or brief contact with infected rodents and can cause inflammation and eventual degeneration of the heart and skeletal tissue of the squirrel, finally destroying the entire nervous system of the animal. Symptoms include increased heart rate, respiratory trouble, blisters on the body, and lack of motor functions. Infected squirrels can be treated with proper antibiotics.

How to save a dying baby squirrel?

The most common injury in baby squirrels is, of course, falling from trees. If you find a baby squirrel fallen under a tree, allow at least two hours for the mother squirrel to return. Until then, put the baby squirrel in a safe place like in a box, out of the reach of predators, and make sure the baby doesn't fall out.

Contact a wildlife rehab if the mother doesn't return or in case of bleeding or other injuries. While traveling, keeping the baby squirrels warm is a priority. Putting them on a clean blanket with a ziplock bag of hot water under it will help to keep them warm. Otherwise, a clean sock filled with slightly heated uncooked rice would also help in increasing their body temperature. A minimum of 98-102 F (36.6-38.8 C) degrees body temperature is required to feed the baby squirrel.

Pinching the skin over the shoulders with thick gloves on would indicate the squirrel's hydration level. The baby is safe and ready to be fed if the skin springs back. But in other cases where the skin remains tented, one cannot get the baby to rehab right away. Hence it is imperative to hydrate the baby with rehydrating fluids like Pedialyte or a solution of a teaspoon of salt, three teaspoons of sugar, and a quart of water. Always remember not to feed a dehydrated baby squirrel.

Newborn squirrels need mother's milk to survive, which also builds a healthy immune system, helping the infants grow faster and stronger. But while saving a baby squirrel, use none other than a puppy milk replacement formula as a substitute. Other substitutes such as human baby formula, goat milk, and cow milk are unsuitable and might make the baby very ill. Very weak baby squirrels may only be able to take in a few drops at a time.

Baby squirrel in human hands.

Take Care Of A Dying Baby Squirrel

Baby animals do not generate their own body heat; hence the mother squirrel cannot identify their baby squirrels once their body temperature drops. So the baby squirrel is most likely to die if the cold temperature persists. The orphan dying squirrel is to be picked up gently and placed in a plastic tub with soft bottom and 1/8 inch air holes drilled from the top. The tub needs to be kept in a warm and quiet corner in the house. Their eyes are extremely sensitive to bright light, so direct sunlight is to be avoided. Place half of the tub on a heating pad set on low to keep the baby warm. The squirrel's temperature should be at least 98 F (36.6 C) before feeding it. The most likely dehydrated squirrel is hydrated and then fed with warm Pedialyte drop by drop through a needleless syringe.

Baby squirrels less than five to six weeks old will have to be stimulated to make them pee and poop. Use a dampened cotton swab and flick lightly across the baby's genitals.

How to treat a dying baby squirrel?

Clean the wounds with saline solution and apply a tiny amount of Germolene or any other antiseptic on the affected area. In case of open wounds, flies often lay eggs that need to be removed at once; otherwise, they might develop into maggots and cause further bacterial and fungal infections. Wrap him in a soft cloth and hold him against your body to warm him. Giving the baby squirrel a warm bath also helps.

In case of any abrasions, disinfect the place with antibiotics after washing it with soap and warm water on the bare skin. But in case of serious injuries or a urinating or defecating problem, contact a veterinarian for assistance.

The basic formula for feeding is a cup of water and half cups of powder Esbilac heavy whipping cream. The amount and frequency of feeding depend on the age and size of the squirrel.

Less than one week old: nine feedings a day, 1 cc per feeding

Two to three weeks old: five feedings a day, 1 1/2 cc to 3 ccs per feeding

Four to five weeks old: four feedings a day, 3 1/2 cc to 5 ccs per feeding

Six to seven-week-old squirrel: four feedings a day, 6 ccs to 9 ccs per feeding

Eight weeks old: two feedings a day, 10 to 14 cc

Nine weeks old: Begin with solid food.

Relieve the baby after each feeding. Suddenly if he refuses to eat or there's a loss of appetite or blood stains are seen, there is nothing to worry about. Baby squirrels teethe twice, once for upper teeth and once for lowers, and it is normal for them to lose their appetite at that time.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how to tell if a baby squirrel is dying, then why not take a look at how much does a squirrel weigh, or are squirrels nocturnal?

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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