But, if you are not sure and are wondering if there is an alternative to commercial formula, allow me to lay out some facts for you to consider.
To begin, you should always read labels. What you will find on the label of most commercial formulas is the fact that they start with skim milk, then add fillers and finish up with a bunch of vitamins. At first glance, this seems to make sense, after all, who doesn't need vitamins? People should take vitamins to supplement what they are lacking. Because, if you take vitamins that your body doesn't need, especially the water soluble kind, you will simply pee them out. Many doctors will tell you that many people who take vitamins have the most expensive pee in the world!
This begs the question, " What vitamins does a baby squirrel need?" Here again I deffer to what most doctors and pediatricians say when asked the question, " What is the most important part of formula and/or breast milk for the growth and development of a baby?" Almost without fail they will tell you that it is the milk fat and protein in the formula or breast milk that is the most important component. Why the milk fat? Because babies synthesize everything they need for growth and development from the milk fat and protein! Think about that last statement, that's why I underlined it. They synthesize everything they need for growth and development from the milk fat and protein!
All babies are in that unique stage of life where the main emphasis is on growth and development. Since doctors agree that everything they need in this stage is synthesized from milk fat and protein, why is there a need for formula to be fortified with vitamins?
The next question you should ask yourself is, " How much milk fat does a baby squirrel need, and does my formula meet that need?" Most Rehabbers cannot answer that question for you. But, I have an ancient research paper, that predates most modern formulas, that sheds some light on the milk fat requirements of squirrels. It was conducted by the Ohio State University back in the 1960's where they took a number of lactating female Grey Squirrels and milked them to analyze the contents of their breast milk. They were only able to obtain just a few cc's of breast milk and had to use ancient technology in their analysis. What they found was astounding! They found that the fat content of Squirrel breast milk ranged fro 12 to 24%. To put this into perspective, that would mean that Squirrel breast milk is second only to whale and seal milk in the amount of milk fat! A PDF of this study can be viewed at: http://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/5665/V72N01_003.pdf?sequence=1
I think it is safe to say that baby squirrels in the wild are raised on milk that is very high in fat. If baby squirrels require a high fat content in the wild, why on earth would you want a formula that has skim milk as the main ingredient?
As a note of interest, the above report by the Ohio State University also mentions that they were feeding their research baby squirrels a combination of whole cow's milk with canned condensed milk added. In other words, they were increasing the fat content of whole cows milk with high fat condensed milk to increase the fat content of their formula. It doesn't say that they were using some powdered milk re placer. It also doesn't say that their babies were dying horrible deaths because they were feeding them formula made from cow's milk!
The idea of Cow's milk killing baby squirrels is a lie that is intended to get you to fear and doubt the idea of ever feeding them regular milk. The fact is, that if you feed a baby squirrel Cow's milk without first boiling it, it can give them diarrhea because their immature gut reacts to the enzymes present in the milk. If diarrhea is left untreated, a baby squirrel can get dehydrated and develop an electrolyte imbalance. If an electrolyte imbalance is left untreated, it can cause a heart arrhythmia, which could lead to sudden cardiac death. All this can be prevented by bringing milk and cream mixture to a boil. Doing so destroys the enzymes and leaves you with a high fat formula that is perfect for baby squirrels at a fraction of the cost.
Some of you may be asking yourself, why would Rehabbers and Formula Manufacturers intentionally mislead people about formula? All I can tell you is to follow the money line. Formula manufacturers make millions of extra dollars per year by expanding the scope of their sales into wild animal rehabilitation. They send their "experts" to the various State Rehab' conventions to explain to the Rehabbers that attend, why their product is superior for various animal species, and present half-truths like the above mentioned diarrhea to death scenario as being the end result of feeding anything else. To seal the deal, I'm sure that lots of money gets dumped back into the coffers of State Rehab' organizations, in exchange for them promoting their products.
It irritates me to no end that this stuff takes place, but it does not bother me. My goal is to provide my readers with truthful facts, and let them draw their own conclusions. I've never lost a baby squirrel to a formula related problem, and I've taken care of babies that were within days of dying from severe malnutrition and advanced metabolic bone disease! My homemade formula has never failed me, and I have no financial interest that would motivate me to lie.
I've taken heat from a number Wildlife Rehab' individuals including a pair that once tried to get my State Rehab' license revoked for, "spreading lies about feeding baby squirrels Cow's milk." I've always patiently refuted all their arguments and even made my State's director of the Division of Wildlife laugh when I explained my position in the ensuing investigation. Needless to say I'm still allowed to rehab' squirrels!
If you have any questions or comments, you can always contact me at SquirrelNutrition@Yahoo.com.