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Tips for success

Treating Dehydration

All orphans should be assumed to have some degree of dehydration and provided rehydration fluids.  The degree of dehydration can be assessed by conducting a few simple tests.

Gently examine the squirrel. Dull sunken eyes and dry or tacky mucous membranes (mouth) are a sign of serious dehydration.

Perform a skin turgor test by gently grasp the skin on the back of the squirrel between two fingers so that it is tented up. The skin is held for a few seconds then released. Skin with normal turgor snaps rapidly back to its normal position. Skin with decreased turgor remains elevated and returns slowly to its normal position. Decreased skin turgor is a late sign in dehydration. It occurs with moderate to severe dehydration.  

Note: very young baby squirrels have naturally loose skin that will demonstrate some tenting normally.

Stimulate the baby to urinate, if there is  little or no urine output (Oliguria) or the urine is a dark brown, dehydration is strongly indicated.

Warning! The only fluids that should ever be offered to a baby squirrel are rehydration formulations for human infants, such as Pedialyte or a milk replacement formula appropriate for squirrels (such as Fox Valley Day One). Inappropriate fluids will make dehydration worse and/or cause life-threatening diarrhea.

Never feed a squirrel any of the following fluids


In a pinch, you may dilute adult rehydration fluids with 1/3 hydration fluid and 2/3 water as long as it uses sugar and not artificial sweeteners or use the recipe below.

Hydrating the baby

Homemade Rehydration Fluid

In a pinch, a suitable oral hydration fluid can be made by dissolving 3 teaspoons of sugar with one teaspoon salt in four cups (1 quart) very warm water.  

Cool until fluid is comfortably warm

Administering Fluids

Feed the baby a rehydration fluid by mouth using a 1 cc syringe or eye-dropper taking care that you dribble the liquid very slowly into its mouth, allowing sufficient time to swallow.  Forcing fluids will result in aspiration into the lungs which often kills the baby within a few days from  pneumonia.

Offer a small amount of fluid (at room temperature or comfortably warm) every hour for up to 6 hours. Beyond six hours, begin transitioning the baby to formula.

As a general rule, the baby's tummy can hold up to 5% of its body weight.  Do not attempt ot rehydrate too quickly or overfeed.

Warning! The baby must be warm before you can provide hydration. Do not feed a cold baby.

Two week old Eastern Gray Squirrel

Feeding baby squirrels

The milk replacement formula you choose can make the difference between a healthy baby, one that barely thrives, and one that does  not survive at all.  This section provides you with the best options available.

Feeding Baby Squirrels
Warming the Baby

If the baby is cool to the touch it must be warmed. This section discusses methods for warming the baby.  See also: Build an Incubator.

Warming the Baby
Going to the Bathroom

Baby’s with their eyes closed must be stimulated to urinate (pee) and defecate (poop). They cannot do it without help!

This page provides step by step instructions for accomplishing the task after every feeding.

Feeding-Related Complications

Most digestion and intestinal problems can be traced to improper feeding methods. This section cover diagnosing and correcting feeding problems and provides guidance when veterinary care may be warranted..

Minor dehydration, less than 5% can be quickly resolved with supplying a rehydration fluid, such as Pedialyte®.  As dehydration becomes more pronounced the animal must be rehydrated over a period of 24 to 48 hours.  All lost fluids must be replaced to a normal level.  Severe dehydration can result in seizures and death.  Once dehydration exceeds 12%, few animals can recover.