TECHNIQUE

Feeding of Casualty Squirrels (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: Sciurus carolinensis - Eastern grey squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris - Eurasian red squirrel.

These species are within the family Sciuridae.

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 squirrels cereal and fruit based baby foods (Milupa, (Milupa) or Complan (HJ Heinz Co. Ltd.) would probably be appropriate. (V.w5, V.w26)
    • A high-roughage palatable syringe feeding diet specially designed for sick and convalescent rabbits and other small herbivores is available (Supreme Science Recovery, Rabbits and Small Herbivores, Supreme Petfoods Ltd.).

Short term Maintenance Diet:

  • Provide food ad libitum in a small stainless steel bowl.
  • Food bowl should be refilled daily to make sure that it doe not become filled with husks or rejected food items and that food does not become stale or mouldy. 

Suggested short term maintenance diets include:

Sciurus vulgaris - Red squirrel:

  • Walnuts, hazelnuts, apple, blackberry, rosehips, pine cones containing seeds. (D24)
  • Good-quality dry puppy food, (e.g. Hill's Canine Growth, Hill’s Pet Nutrition Ltd.), pecan nuts, hazel nuts, curly kale and spinach. (B151)
  • Nuts such as hazel nuts, almonds, walnuts and other foods such as carrots, cabbage, bread. (D25)
  • Rodent pellets may be used as the basic diet. (Described for use as a long-term diet). (B16.2.w2)
  • Parrot mix, peanuts, Chinese and Russian pine nuts, mixed nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds), Mazuri Zoo Food A (Mazuri Zoo Foods/Special Diet Services), Vitakraft Fruit Cocktail (Vitakrakt Pet Products), Shaws Egg Biscuits (Shaws Pet Products) plus fruit and vegetables such as e.g. apple, carrot, strawberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, dates, corn-on-the-cob, broccoli. Described for use as a long-term diet. (N4.22.w1)
  • A varied diet is preferable. Diets are generally based on a few items, mainly sunflower seeds, peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts and a variety of fruit, vegetable and fungi. A diet may, over time, include items such as "Alfalfa, Almonds, Apples, Apricots, Avocado, Bananas, Beetroot, Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Brazil nuts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chicory, Chinese pine nuts, Coconuts, Coquito nuts, Courgettes, Cucumber, Dried apricots, Dried figs, Dried prunes, Galangal, Garlic, Grapes, Green peppers, Hazelnuts, Honeyed prunes, Kiwifruit, Lemon grass, Lettuce, Lychees, Mango, Nectarines, Orange, Oyster mushrooms, Papaya, Peach, Peanuts, Pears, Pecans, Plums, potato, Raisins, Raspberries, Red chillies, Red currants, Red peppers, Russian pine nuts, Shi-take mushrooms, Spring onions, Star anise, Starfruit, Strawberries, Sultanas, Sunflower seed, Sweetcorn, Tamarind pods, Tangerine, Tomato, Wheat, Whitebait". Described for use as a long-term diet.(W163)

Sciurus carolinensis - Grey squirrel:

  • Walnuts, hazelnuts, apple, blackberry, rosehips, pine cones containing seeds, seeds, shoots, buds, bark.(D24)
  • Good-quality dry puppy food, (e.g. Hill's Canine Growth, Hill’s Pet Nutrition Ltd.), pecan nuts, hazel nuts, curly kale and spinach. (B151)
  • Nuts such as hazel nuts, almonds, walnuts and other foods such as carrots, cabbage, bread.(D25)
  • Rodent pellets may be used as the basic diet. (Described for use as a long-term diet). (B16.2.w2)
  • Flattened peas, flaked maize, grass pellets, peanuts, sunflower seeds, puppy meal, groats, wheat, hazelnuts, walnuts, apple, carrot, small amounts of lettuce. (Described for use as a long-term diet). (N4.25.w1)
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.
Notes
  • 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
  • It has been suggested that the use of peanuts and sunflower seeds in diets should be avoided. (B151)
    • Peanuts and sunflower seeds are highly palatable, high in fat and low in calcium. Individuals fed diets based largely on these food items may prefer them to the exclusion of other foodstuffs resulting in an unbalanced diet, a high risk of nutritional diseases and a high risk of starvation if the individual is released as it may not eat natural foods.(V.w5)
  • 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)
  • Lectade, Pfizer Limited: from veterinary suppliers and agricultural feed suppliers.
  • Mazuri Zoo Food A (Mazuri Zoo Foods/Special Diet Services), POBox 705, Witham, Essex, England, CM8 3AD.
  • Supreme Science Recovery, Rabbits and Small Herbivores, Supreme Petfoods Ltd.)
  • Complan: H J Heinz Co Ltd, Hayes, Middlesex, UB4 8AL: from supermarkets etc.
  • Milupa (Milupa, White Horse Business Park, Trowbridge, WILTS BA14 0XB)
  • Vitakraft Fruit Cocktail (Vitakrakt Pet Products), Shaws Egg Biscuits (Shaws Pet Products, available from Shaws Pet Products Ltd, 50 Weston road, Aston, Clinton, Aylesbury, Bucks. HP22 5EH): from pet stores or mail order pet/bird feed suppliers.
  • Other food items should be available from pet stores, greengrocers, supermarkets etc.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • No particular expertise required.
Cost/ Availability
  • Food items are generally widely available and relatively inexpensive.
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
References

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