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The Wild Squirrel And Flea Products For Exotic Pets

Dr. Jerry Murray treats a wild squirrel and discusses preventing flea infestation in exotic pets.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: June 13, 2012, 8 a.m. EDT

wild squirrel in a tree
© Jerry Murray, DVM
Wild squirrels can suffer many ailments, including trauma, parasites and disease.

A wild juvenile squirrel was brought to the clinic near the end of May 2012. The city’s animal control officer had found the youngster in a city park. The squirrel was having a difficult time walking because of a severe head tilt. No visible wounds could be found, but he had a definite head tilt to the right side. No ear infection or ear mite problem was found. Some diseases, including rabies, can cause a head tilt, but rabies is not a common problem in squirrels. Some parasitic diseases can also cause a head tilt, but trauma was the most likely cause in this case.

The squirrel was given a dose of cortisone, some time to recover and a lot of tender loving care by a receptionist. After a few days he was quite active, and the head tilt had resolved. He was given a soft release and went back to being a wild squirrel.

In some parts of the country, squirrels can have fleas that contain the bacteria that can cause plague. Fortunately, the Dallas area does not have that problem, but Advantage for small cats, Frontline for cats and Revolution for kittens can be used to treat squirrels with fleas.

Fleas can be a problem for any exotic pet that goes outside or if other domestic pets in the household go outside and bring fleas back into the house. Rabbits are commonly kept outside and frequently have flea problems. 

Rabbits have a few unique quirks when it comes to flea products. Frontline and the generic fipronil products are not recommended for bunnies, because adverse reactions can occur. Revolution is safe to use in rabbits, but recent studies at Kansas State suggest it does not have flea activity for a full month like it does in dogs and cats. It is recommended to use Revolution weekly for flea control in rabbits. Advantage for cats appears to last longer and is very effective for flea control.

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>
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Reader Comments
As a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in New York State, I find it disturbing that you did not relinquish the juvenile squirrel to a licensed rehabber. It is illegal to possess wildlife in Texas, as it is here, without a license or permit. You missed a wonderful opportunity to PROPERLY educate the public on the important roles wildlife rehabilitators and centers play. What is to keep your readers from thinking, "I can give a little squirrel tender loving care too?" I also triage at a 24-hr emergency service and go to great lengths to educate our CSR's to inform people who call seeking advice on how to "take care" of orphaned/injured wildlife that it is illegal and not in the best interest of the animal not to surrender it to an experienced rehabilitator.
Melissa, Rochester, NY
Posted: 9/5/2012 12:20:03 PM
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