Best Tools for Feeding Squirrels
As with most jobs, having the right tools makes all the difference between a successful outcome (a healthy releasable squirrel) and dismal failure (illness or death from feeding related problems like aspiration phenomena, diarrhea and bloat).
Its vitally important that you feed the squirrel the correct formula in the right amount at the proper flow rate.
Most squirrels nurtured from newborn to weaning benefit from multiple syringe sizes that increase as the volume per feeding increases. It is best with younger or smaller species to start with a 1cc syringe that provides the maximum feeding rate control and gradually graduate to 3cc , 5cc, and 10cc syringes.
O-Ring syringes are an excellent choice for not sticking and providing superior feeding control; however, standard syringes will work also and even a dropper will do for very small babies.
1 and 3 cc syringes usually come in a slip tip design that will work with a canula, silicon, or catac nipples. 5 to 10 cc syringes come in either slip tip or leur lock designs. Select a syringe with a leur lock design if you plan to use the standard 2 oz nurser nipples, or elongated nipple. A modified nipple can fit either type of syringe tip.
Some nipples do not come with a pre-cut hole so you may need to create one by either searing the tip with a small hot needle or cross cutting the nipple to form a flexible opening. Crosscutting a nipple is accomplished by using small very sharp scissors to form an X or Y "cross-cut" on the nipple to achieve the desired flow rate.
You’ll know that the hole is the correct size when you invert the bottle, and the milk slowly drips from the nipple. If a steady stream pours out, the hole is too big.
In a pinch, a baby can be fed with only a syringe (no nipple) or a dropper. Some babies don’t take to the hardness and won't readily feed. There is also concern that regular feeding using a tip that is dissimilar to the mother squirrel's nipples (hard, inflexible or misshaped, square) may cause damage to baby’s delicate gums or developing teeth resulting in the teeth not aligning properly (Malocclusion).
Squirrel teeth grow about 6 inches per year so if they don’t align and naturally wear down they must be euthanized. Malocclusion is a horrible death sentence for wild squirrels! Reference Teeth Issues.
Many rehabilitators don't recommend the use of nurser bottles since they can deliver the formula too quickly causing the baby to aspirate formula into the lungs. This can result in aspiration pneumonia.
Nonetheless, they are usually readily available at most pet stores. Pet nursers tend to work better with older babies.