Little Ones Tend to Hide Their Biggest Problems

Alexis Davidson, Class of 2023

Back in August, a juvenile female eastern gray squirrel presented to the Wildlife Medical Clinic after being picked up by a dog. It was suspected that she had fallen from her nest and that her canine companion found her opportunistically. During the initial intake, we noted bloody nasal discharge and fleas, with all other examination finding being normal. We knew she had been only recently injured as she had an appropriate body condition, no dehydration, and was bright and alert during the exam. Her treatments began with us clearing her nasal passages, administering supportive fluids, treating her for fleas, and beginning a course of anti-inflammatory medication to address the injuries she sustained from both the suspected fall and her mostly well-meaning canine finder. Our plan was to provide for her basic needs, including food, water, and shelter, continue her medication, and perform another exam in a few days to ensure we accounted for any developing (but not yet apparent) concerns.

As her time with us progressed, this squirrel started to tuck her right rear limb and did not have an appropriate placement reflex of that foot. Upon palpation, we were able to appreciate a newly developed swelling below her knee. The degree of swelling and progression of her signs made us suspicious she had injured the leg during her initial fall, and that she was able to mask the injury up until this point. Luckily, we had anticipated this could happen and she was healing well thanks to the cage rest and care we were already providing.

After a few weeks in care, this squirrel was showing more mobility in her hind limb and more aggression during handling. While her aggression was normal for a squirrel of her age, angry squirrels are not to be quarreled with! After a thorough exam, we noted her leg swelling to be improving and we were confident her leg injury was healing appropriately. After 20 days in our care and nearly doubling her weight in that time, this squirrel was transferred to a certified wildlife rehabber for further growth and preparation for release back to the wild!