Feeding of Casualty Shrews (Wildlife Casualty Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty & Convalescent Feeding which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Crocidura russula - Greater white-toothed shrew, Crocidura suaveolus - Lesser white-toothed shrew, Neomys fodiens - Eurasian water shrew, Sorex araneus - Eurasian common shrew, Sorex coronatus - French shrew, Sorex minutus - Eurasian pygmy shrew

These species are within the family Soricidae.

  • Shrews are insectivores with normal diets consisting of prey such as insects and earthworms (see individual species pages).
  • Shrews have a high metabolic rate and need to feed frequently in order to survive.

Fluids (water):

  • Offer a rehydration (electrolyte) solution such as Lectade (Pfizer Limited) to drink on admission.
  • Water should be freely available at all times unless the casualty is unconscious or severely debilitated and unable to hold its head up.
  • Both water and a rehydration (electrolyte) solution, in separate containers, should be made available initially.
  • (V.w5, V.w26)

Convalescent Diet:

Suggested convalescent diets include:

  • An easily-digestible food made from ingredients of food-groups normally eaten would be advisable.
    • For shrews, Hills A/D (Hill’s Pet Nutrition Ltd.) mixed with oral rehydration (electrolyte) fluids would probably be appropriate. (V.w5, V.w26)

Short term Maintenance Diet:

  • Shrews are small insectivores with high metabolic rates.
  • Daily food requirements are (approximately) (D25):
    • Sorex araneus - Common shrew 70% of body weight per 24 hours (e.g. 100 maggot-sized prey). (Body weight adults up to 13.0g).
    • Sorex minutus - Pygmy shrew 125% of body weight per 24 hours. (Body weight 2.3-5.0g).
    • Neomys fodiens - Water shrew 70% of body weight per 24 hours. (Body weight 9.0-16.0g).
    • Crocidura russala monacha - Common white-toothed shrew  (a subspecies of Crocidura russula - Greater white-toothed shrew) in captivity in Israel required about 100% of their body weight in food per day (10-15g per animal per 24 hours), when fed on fly larvae (maggots) and meat.(J23.13.w14)
  • Shrew require frequent meals.
  • Shrews left for several hours (e.g. overnight) without food available may easily die.
  • A range of food items should be available to the shrew, ad libitum, at all times (D24).

Suggested short term maintenance diets include:

  • Foods suitable for rodents (e.g. grain-based diets) are not suitable for shrews.
  • Readily-available foods such as earthworms may be adequate for short-term maintenance of shrews, but are not suitable for long term use due to calcium:phosphorus imbalances.
  • Foods which may be used to feed shrews include: mealworms/mini-mealworms, waxworms, maggots, blowfly pupae, catfood, insectivorous diet, fresh meat, egg. (D24, B142, B151, D25)
  • Live food such as woodlice and snails, supplemented with small amounts of tinned pet food or meat.(B199)
  • A diet of maggots (fly larvae) and water provided ad libitum in the morning and a mixture of chopped beef or chicken, boiled eggs, cereals, fish-meal and milk (for calcium), with multivitamins added twice weekly, in the afternoon, has been used to feed white toothed shrews Crocidura spp. in a long-term breeding situation. (Described for use as a long-term diet).(J23.13.w14)
  • Calcium supplementation should be considered when foods with a calcium:phosphorus imbalance, such as mealworms, are being fed.

(B22.27.w4, B142, B156.12.w12, B199, D24, D25)

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Fresh drinking water should always be available in a container of an appropriate size and type for the species concerned.
  • Fluid replacement therapy other than oral fluids may be required for casualties which are extremely dehydrated on admission or are unable to take in and absorb oral fluids.
    • Fluid therapy should continue until the animal is no longer dehydrated, even if it is self feeding.
  • Feeding of convalescents should take into account their requirement for additional nutrients for healing as well as maintenance requirements.
  • The required fluid intake for maintenance should be considered when designing convalescent diets.
  • Energy requirements for maintenance and healing should be calculated and used to determine the quantity of food required for both convalescence and short-term maintenance diets.
  • Convalescent diets should be easily absorbed/digested.
  • Care should be taken not to under or over supplement with vitamins/minerals.
  • Diets intended for feeding from a syringe or by stomach tube (gavage) must be of a sufficiently fluid consistency to pass through the syringe nozzle or down the tube without it becoming blocked.
  • The natural diet should be considered when deciding on suitable ingredients, including consideration of taste/smell.
  • Fresh food must be provided daily.
  • Regular cleaning of food and drinking water containers (e.g. daily) is important to reduce the risk of disease.
  • Food and water containers should be sited to minimise the risk of contamination with droppings/faeces/urine. 
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Foods suitable for rodents (e.g. grain-based diets) are not suitable for shrews.

  • Water bowls should not be left in the accommodation of a casualty which is unconscious or is severely debilitated and unable to hold its head up.
  • Dehydrated and malnourished individuals sometimes drink rehydration fluids but refuse plain water initially; others will drink water but not rehydration fluids. Both should be made available.
  • No diet, however well balanced nutritionally, is useful if the animal does not eat it, for example because it is not recognised as food.
  • Ingestion of food should be monitored, not assumed. This may include weighing food before presentation and weighing waste food after removal, and periodic weighing of the animal.
  • Monitoring of weight/body condition is particularly important for group housed/group fed animals, within which some individuals may take more food and others not get the food they require.
  • Diets suggested on this page are intended for short term use for wildlife casualties; they are not necessarily suitable for long-term use or in individuals which are breeding.
  • Diets suggested on this page are not necessarily suitable for feeding infants; information on appropriate diets for very young individuals are described in the page on hand-rearing.
  • If naturally-available food items are gathered for feeding to casualties it is important to be aware of the possibility of contamination with chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Oral rehydration (electrolyte) solutions are widely available from veterinary suppliers and chemists. 
  • A basic oral rehydration (electrolyte) solution may be made by dissolving one tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of salt in one litre of water.(B203)
  • A/D Hills Science Diet (Hill’s Pet Nutrition Ltd.) from veterinary suppliers
  • Lectade, Pfizer Limited: from veterinary suppliers and agricultural feed suppliers.
  • Live food may be bought from some pet stores and specialist mail-order animal food suppliers
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • No particular expertise is required.
Cost/ Availability
  • The availability of locally collected live food will vary, particularly with season.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Under the Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000 it is an offence not to provide animals (including captive wild animals) with necessary food and water. (J35.147.w1, B156.21.w21, B223, P19.2.w1)
  • Care should be taken not to let an individual become accustomed to a single food item as this may result in difficulties in feeding the animal if the food item becomes unavailable, and in preparing it for release.
  • Every effort should be made to provide appropriate natural, locally available foods to animals which have been maintained in captivity for prolonged periods before they are released, in order to re-accustom them to a natural diet and reduce the chance of digestive problems following release.(P24.233.w11)
  • The release of animals which, by virtue of an inadequate or inappropriate diet whilst in captivity, are not fit to survive when released may be considered an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act, 1960.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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