Thursday, April 17, 2014
   
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Saving an orphan on my own, where do I start?

First of all, know going in that it can be very difficult to save orphaned, infant fliers.  The NFSA strongly suggests you find a rehabber with experience.  If you feel this is something you really want to do, listed below are some do's and don't.  Please frequent the NFSA message board as it will be a wealth of information for you.  Through the message board you will also be able to locate an experienced rehabber in your area and be able to post questions or problems you may have.  Due to their small size, when something goes wrong, it usually happens fast, so if you think something isn't "right", please post a message on the NFSA messageboard as soon as possible, preferably with a phone number, so that you can get immediate help.

Feeding:
Babies that are not weaned (under age 8 weeks) need to be fed Puppy Esbilac formula.  If you use the powder form, mix it to package instructions. The mixed formula is good for 24 hours in the refrigerator.  The number of feedings per 24 hour period depends on the age of the pup.  Generally if they have fur covering their body, then you can start on a three hour round the clock schedule. Please use our message board to determine the age of your pup so you can start on the right feeding schedule. 

At age 4 weeks they need to be fed 4 times per day (breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and very late in the evening). Be very careful that they don't aspirate the formula. If it gets in their nose and especially lungs, it can be fatal. They can drown, get pneumonia, or a sinus infection. They can be offered formula in a spoon to lap to avoid aspiration from syringe feeding. Feed pups whenever they stir and as much as they want without forcing any. If using a syringe without nipple or an eyedropper, put a droplet on the cleft of the muzzle and let the pup draw the droplet in instead of putting a syringe or eyedropper into the pup's mouth.

When their eyes are open in addition to formula, they can be offered soft solid foods. They can begin to gnaw on shelled pecans, walnuts and pine nuts although they continue to nurse until they are 8 - 10 weeks.  Give pups pecan halves -- split to make pecan quarters and pine nuts and hazelnuts broken in half. All out of the shell. Apples and pears are well received, as are grapes. Please do not cut fruit into small slices as they can choke on them.  Cut a grape in half at most.  You want a chunk large enough so they can not choke on it yet small enough for them to be able to grab onto.  Offer Cherrio's.
 
As they start eating solid foods, the formula can be decreased to 3 times per day. Usually before work or school, after work or school, and at 10:00 PM to 11:00 PM works good. Good starter foods are, grapes, diced apple, Cheerios, banana, and crunchy peanut butter. Starting on various vegetables now is a good idea such as  broccoli, cauliflower, peas, carrots to name a few.

Use 16oz and 32oz Cola lids for food bowls at first. They are the right size for a baby flyer and it is easy to tell how much and what they are eating. As they start eating solid foods, the stool needs to be watched to make sure they don't get diarrhea. This can cause them to dehydrate and that is a serious problem.  Make sure that you have a small dish of water at all times in their cage.  If you do not have a shallow dish, we suggest putting some marbles or smooth rocks in the dish so if they fall in, they will not drown.  If you think you want a traditional hamster type water bottle, use one that has no ball in the tip. Use a "hamster" water dispenser that looks like a test tube and has a glass drinking tube. It is easier for them to learn to drink from these. It is best to not use chlorinated water, softened water, or any other "treated" water. When they start drinking water, the formula can be cut back to twice a day.

After they are eating the starter foods (broccoli, cauliflower, shelled raw peanuts) shelled "hard shell" nuts and a high quality wild birdseed mix can be added to the diet. Several members swear by a nut mix called Nut-N-Berry.  Available at WalMart for about $5.00 per bag.

During the weaning process, as the formula gets cut back, calcium should be added to the diet. ReptoCal, PetCal, etc., that has Vitamin D3 also can be used. The Vitamin D3 is required to get the calcium absorbed by the body. This prevents Metabolic Bone Disease and is VERY important. Squirrels are rodents and have the same basic dietary needs as mice and rats. Rodent blocks are made to cover all the dietary needs of rodents including having calcium, in the correct ratio of 2:1 to phosphorous, to prevent MBD.

If in powder form, lightly dust food with the supplement three times per week. If you use too much, they may reject the food and not get the needed calcium.

At 5 1/2 weeks, they can eat pumpkin and sunflower seeds and gnaw on hard shelled nuts. (They don't get them opened, of course, but they do work on them!)

At 6 weeks old they can be offered Cheerios, peanut butter, banana and banana chips, blueberries, peeled diced apple, grapes, and pears as well as Dannon yogurt. (Dannon has a live bacteria culture and can be good for the digestive system. This is also good during weaning as a source for calcium).
 
The apple, grapes, and pears are peeled because they can't chew the peel at that age and can choke on it. Split the grapes. Feed small amounts so you can tell how much is getting eaten.

From this they can graduate to pecan and walnut meat (unsalted), pine nuts, broccoli, cauliflower, shelled raw peanuts, along with any of the above. Meal worms (2- 3 per day) can be offered. Pups seem to prefer dried worms ... adults, live.

Wean at 8-10 weeks:
At 8 weeks, they can open pine nut shells, and although it might take them a night, they can gnaw holes in hazelnuts and work at the meat. Flyers tend to wean themselves at about 8 weeks. They lose interest in the formula.
 
During the weaning process, calcium and phosphorous rich foods should be included:
  • Foods high in calcium are collard greens, kale, broccoli, Dannon yogurt, and cottage cheese to name a few.
  • Foods high in phosphorous are apple, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, orange, cucumber, lettuce, grapes, honey dew, celery, cabbage, dandelion greens, mushrooms, lima beans, oatmeal, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, and Brazil nuts.
Eventually, you will need to get them to eat hard shelled nuts.  Shell them first, then just crack them, but eventually they need to gnaw them open. Their front teeth grow their entire life, gnawing nuts open helps keep them worn down. If the teeth get over grown, the squirrel cannot eat.

Elimination:
Initial stools can be pasty and mustard colored. Babies need to be stimulated to go to the bathroom. You may use a warm damp cotton ball, Q-tip, or cloth for very tiny babies or tickle the genital/anal area with wet Kleenex.  Failure to stimulate can cause uremia poisoning and death. Stimulate after every feeding. Urine of all baby squirrels should be clear. As they mature and begin eating solid foods around 10 weeks, the urine may change color.  Feeding too much at a time or too often can cause loose stool and dehydration. Nothing needs to be added to the Esbilac to make it better, it is fine by itself.
 
At 4 weeks old and eyes open, a pup is probably able to "go" on its own -- although stimulation won't do any harm. Putting toilet tissue in the nest box sometimes helps because you'll be able to see droppings and wetness (a good temporary nest box is a small pop up tissue box - remove the plastic around the opening, add some cotton balls and tissue and you have a great "nest box" for your baby fliers. 

How to Read Droppings:
Golden-brown, soft, peanut butter consistency: Normal if on formula.
Golden-brown suddenly loose: Too much formula.
Pale green: Over feeding, too much bile.
Black: Possible internal bleeding or parasites.
Brown, bulky, semisolid: Normal during weaning.
Brown, firm, well-formed: Normal for weaned animals.
Babies should be kept at 85-90 degrees for them to digest the formula properly. This can be dropped as they get to 8 weeks old.

Baby Squirrel Hygiene Tips:
  • Gently remove all spilled formula from the baby's fur after each feeding. If the formula is allowed to harden, the fur will fall out.
  • If you wipe the entire body of a baby squirrel with a damp cloth, make sure you dry the squirrel completely. Do not return to cage chilled.
  • If urine burns appear in the genital area, apply corn starch after washing and drying. Do not use any other type of powder.
  • Baby squirrels frequently attempt to nurse each other's genital area. This is a serious problem for males. Separate to prevent damage.
  • Keep all feeding equipment clean. A bleach solution of 1/2 teaspoon bleach to 2 cups water may be used to sterilize the feeding equipment occasionally. Rinse well in hot water.

  
As you can see from the information listed above, this is no small undertaking.  Rehabbers will be the first to tell you that orphaned fliers are more time consuming and exhausting than having a newborn, human baby.  Rehabbers will set their alarms and get up many times throughout the night and to feeding three baby fliers usually takes 30-45 minutes.  Now figure if they are very young, you have to feed them every 2-3 hours and you can see how soon you can get exhausted after a month of not sleeping through the night.  We will update this information as new information comes in.  Please use the NFSA message board to locate a rehabber in your area that will take in baby fliers or to get advice.