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Care of Orphaned Mammal Babies

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  If there will be a delay in transporting the animal, it may be necessary to provide temporary care. This is normally discouraged but is often the only option.

In the case of an injured animal, do not attempt to feed. They may have an injury that will be worsened if they eat.

Wildlife rehabilitators prefer that you not provide food or water to an orphaned wild bird or mammal unless directed to do so. Too many orphaned wildlife die because of the good intentions of the person that found them. The baby may appear hungry, but feeding a weakened animal or providing the wrong diet could cause irreversible complications that could further compromise the baby's condition.

The only recommended Emergency Care that should ever be provided if treatment by a wildlife rehabilitator will be delayed, is to provide a source of hydration and possibly supplemental heat. However, should a rehabilitator not be available for more than a matter of hours, you will need to warm the baby first and then proceed with feeding (see care specified by species).

Before attempting to provide Emergency Care, please screen the baby first to ensure there are no other complications. Also, this information is provided with the assumption that the animal will be taken to a rehabilitator within a matter of hours.

Use of a Heating Pad

The most important thing for an orphan is for it to be warm. If the baby feels cold to the touch and is inactive, then it is chilled. A baby with a normal body temperature will feel warm and be more active.

Put the baby in an animal carrier or box with safe nesting material i.e. a t-shirt, ski hat, etc. Do not use colored newspaper (poison) or cloth that shreds or unravels as the baby's nails can get caught and they can also choke on small pieces of shredded or unraveling fabric.

Supplemental heat should be provided to any mammal baby that is not fully furred with eyes still closed, and to any baby bird that is naked or only partially feathered.

Place a heating pad under up to ½ of the animal carrier so that the baby can get away from the heat if it gets too hot. Turn the heating pad on LOW. Frequently check the settings…Too high heat can cause or accelerate dehydration and cause death. Make sure warming occurs gradually so the baby doesn't go into shock. Do not use a heat bulb as the animal may come in contact with it and get a burn.

Do not try to feed the baby until its body temperature has been brought back to normal.  A chilled baby cannot digest food so warmth comes before sustenance.

The next step is to provide a source of hydration. The recommended hydration method is different for mammals and birds and personal safety should be a key factor in deciding if intervention is warranted. Always take appropriate measures to prevent personal injury.

For mammals, use a rehydrating solution like Gatorade or Pedialyte every two hours until the mammal can be transported. Place small droplets on the tip of the animal's lips. If it is responsive, continue providing droplets. If the animal is unresponsive or shows signs of becoming stressed (breathing hard, eyes closed, becoming very still), stop immediately and leave the animal in a covered box until it can be transported. NEVER put the liquid inside the animal's mouth. If it is too weak to swallow, then it will inhale the liquid, further complicating its condition and putting it in danger of developing aspiration pneumonia. Please do not provide a pet store milk replacer unless a rehabilitator has given you specific preparation and dilution instructions. Rehabilitators closely match a milk replacer with the composition of each species' mother's milk and slowly introduce it at high dilution levels to prevent complications such as bloat or even death.

Should you decide to raise the baby until it is released, try to handle it only as necessary so that it does not lose its fear of humans which can be detrimental should the wrong individual come along. It is also very important to keep the baby away from the family dog / cat as they may harm the baby, and for proper release, dogs / cats must remain natural enemies.

Bowel and Urine Control

Controlling bowel and urine elimination in the very young baby is a necessity. This includes all mammals…raccoons, opossums, squirrels, rabbits, fox, etc. Until the eyes are open, you must stimulate elimination and urination as their mothers do. This is essential because their intestinal tract is too immature to function on its own. Most babies will urinate and defecate each time they are fed. To keep yourself, the baby and the baby’s environment clean, stimulate elimination prior to each feeding. Use a soft cloth, wet it with warm water and gently massage the genital areas until urination occurs then the anal area until defecation occurs. After three to ten strokes, you should begin to see results. Discontinue stimulation after two minutes whether elimination has occurred or not.

After 2-4 weeks, most babies will begin to eliminate on their own. Until such time, continue manual stimulation.

Also see

I Found A Baby Mammal - Now What?
How To Rescue Baby Mammals

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