Treating Open Wounds in Squirrels
Unless the wound is urgent or life threatening, always warm a cold baby immediately before assessing for other injuries. See our steps for Warming a Baby before continuing.
Once warm, the baby needs to be cleaned and inspected for injuries. In a safe, warm place with good light (and no children, pets, or other distractions) place the baby on a soft light colored towel and check it all over for injuries. Check the towel for indications of blood, fleas and mites.
Dip a washcloth in the warm diluted cleansing solution (such as diluted Dawn dish soap, baby wash, or plain water) and ring-out excess water. Gently clean the baby using light small wiping motions that mimic the action of the mother as she would gently lick the baby clean. This gentle motion should be very calming to the baby and will help it to relax so you can better examine it for injuries and parasites. Be sure to clean the entire baby, taking care around folds of skin. Go slowly - be gentle and through - removing all dirt and external parasites like fleas or ticks.
Note: be careful to change any bedding before you return the cleaned baby so it is not re-infested. Wash all materials with soap & HOT water! Discard the squirrel nest.
A baby who has been without the care of its mother may also have fly eggs or larva. Fly eggs are whitish grains that may adhere to the skin, fur, inside and around wounds, and other openings such as the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or genitals. The presence of eggs or larva is a good indicator that the baby is an orphan since its mother would not permit her baby to be in such an unkept state.
As you are cleaning the baby, examine it for any obvious injuries like cuts, wounds or bites.
Pay particular attention to the face, checking for blood in the nose, mouth or eyes. It is not
uncommon for a baby to sustain injuries or breaks from its tumble from the nest or from being in the mouth of a pet.
Wounds can be flushed with warm water, saline solution, diluted Betadine® solution or ‘hurt free’ wound cleaner like Bactine®. Do not ever use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol as these will damage the baby’s delicate tissues and cause unnecessary discomfort and stress. Never flush the eyes with anything other than a sterile saline solution.
Warning! Cat bites are always serious.
If the baby was caught by a cat, it must be placed on antibiotics, even if you don’t see any obvious puncture wounds. Cats carry multiple strains of bacteria in their mouths that are readily fatal to untreated wildlife. Cat caught babies or those that are injured, are not candidates to be returned to their mother. Please contact a wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian for advice.
Antibiotic Use in Squirrels
NEVER give oral penicillin, amoxicillin, or tetracycline to any rodent (including squirrels) unless directed to do so by a qualified veterinarian familiar with the unique physiology of rodents. Administering inappropriate antibiotics orally will obliterate the delicate balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut and may result in life threatening intestinal problems and diarrhea. Many antibiotics that cannot be taken orally are acceptable if injected in the right dosage. Their are antibiotics that are safe to administer orally in rodents, such as Baytril or Sulfamethoxazole (SMZ/TMP). Since your veterinarian may not frequently treat wildlife, antibiotics safe for pet rats are safe for squirrels.
For small babies that are unlikely to lick at the wound site, a standard triple antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin® can be applied to fresh cuts and abrasions. Older babies (with their eyes open) will generally lick at the wound and ingest the ointment, which can seriously imbalance their digestive system and result in diarrhea. Instead, use Neo Poly Dex or other Ophthalmic ointment where a topical antibiotic is indicated.
Treating of Diarrhea while on Antibiotics
If the squirrel experiences loose stool or diarrhea while on antibiotics, giving yogurt or acidophilus will help resolve the problem by repopulating the gut with probiotics. You must take care to offer probiotics at least two hours before or after administration of the antibiotic since the antibiotic will kill all of the beneficial bacteria is present in the digestive tract.