View Full Version : Squirrel Pox

Girl Squirrel
06-21-2008, 03:49 PM
Hi Everyone, Iíve joined this board about 6 months ago and enjoyed visiting it a few months before that. Iíve been rehabbing in Texas for the past 7 years and Iíd like to share one of my experiences with you.

It was March and Benny was my first squirrel of the season. He was a 7 week old gray, 72 grams, very thin and covered in fleas. I had noticed a little swelling on his eye lid and thought it was a flea bite. Within 2 weeks it had grown a lot and I took him into my vet. The vet thought it was a tear duct infection and cut it open to drain but when he opened it up, it was empty. He gave me Baytril and we left.

Two days later a few more lesions had shown up of his foot and face. I called the vet to tell him and that was when I first heard the words ďsquirrel poxĒ. I started doing research on the internet and pretty much found nothing about it other than it usually ends in death.

It had mentioned the squirrels would lose their appetite, so I threw the 5% rule out the window and fed him as much as he could stand. I wanted to put some weight on him incase he got to the point where he couldnít eat. Which never happened, Benny was a pig from day one.

Not having any information on how to treat squirrel pox, I just had to watch them pop up all over him. I would occasionally put him on Baytril for a fever. He was very warm to the touch and so I called Shirley & Allan Casey (squirrel experts from Colorado who I knew from taking a few of their squirrel classes), about if they knew a way I could safely take his temperature. They didnít, so I just continued on with going by feel.

Looking back, I donít think I would have treated his fever. I think he was warm because his body was working so hard to fight this virus. Giving him the Baytril was just giving his body one more thing to deal with.

Bird season had hit at the wildlife shelter I volunteer at and one day I noticed that they were using something called Pox Dry on the lesions for the birds with pox. This got me wondering if it would work on squirrels too. I took some home and started putting it on Bennyís lesions. He had so many and they were so big by this time that he would only allow me to apply this stuff to half of his lesions. So I would do half one day and do the other half the next. The ones I put it on didnít seem to grow anymore but they were already so big that maybe they were done growing anyway. They started on his stomach and back last and I used the pox dry on them as soon as they showed up and they never got big. It would be interesting to see the use of pox dry from the very beginning.

I guess I can only add 10 photos per post, so here are some photos from Bennyís first 2 months in rehab. He was very familiar with getting his photo taken and I have edited down a lot to share with you but I still have many to go. So I will continue his story in a couple other posts.

Apple Corps
06-21-2008, 03:58 PM
:Welcome :Welcome

Now - start reading:


Girl Squirrel
06-21-2008, 04:41 PM
Days after I got Benny, I received my second squirrel of the season. It was a little fox squirrel and I put him in with Benny so they could curl up together. This little fox took advantage of the situation and did some genital nursing on Benny. They were separated for this reason and had still been separated when I got the news about the pox. After the news the fox remained by himself to see if he would start showing signs. He never did and after about 2 month he was given a buddy.

I had been given a name from a fellow rehabber about a guy doing a study on pox squirrels, Frank Slansky Jr. I e-mailed him about my situation and sent photos of Benny. He said Benny was one of the worst cases he had ever seen. He didnít have much information on how to treat the virus but he could inform me on what to expect. That alone was a big help. I had been alone through this entire situation and just having someone who knew about this, meant the world to me. Frank and I e-mailed often and he used Bennyís information for his study.

Now it was May and Benny was getting to the peak of his illness. His appetite was huge and I think the key to this virus. I fed him formula (Esbilac w/MultiMilk) until the lesions stopped showing up. He was old enough that he really didnít want formula anymore but he would indulge me with taking a few ccís once a day. He was also eating solid food very well. He ate and Iím not kidding, enough food for 5 squirrels a day. His body needed the nutrition to work so hard to get over this virus. So of course, I had to clean his cage daily because what goes in must come out.

I had started giving him Olive Leaf Glycerite twice a day. Itís an herbal dietary supplement and he hated it. I canít say I blame him because I tried it myself and it was awful but if it could help, I forced it down him.

He started making many small urinary stops. I think he had some internal lesions that were making it hard for him to go.

Frank had warned me about a couple of things. The first was that if the lesions covered his eyes completely it will cause him to be blind. The second was that he has seen the toes get so big that the skin splits open and the bone gets exposed. Both of these were becoming a fear for me. I would put the pox dry as best as I could around his eye but this stuff is like ink and he wouldnít sit very still for me. His toes did start to crack and so I didnít dare put the pox dry on any open wound.

Then Benny finally started to show signs of recovery. It would only be 1 or 2 lesions at a time but they would shrink fast. The scab wouldn't even have time to fully form before it fell off from being too big. I used True Tamanu Creme on him and it seemed to work pretty well.

More photos.

Apple Corps
06-21-2008, 05:16 PM
That was one BAD CASE of the pox !!

Girl Squirrel
06-21-2008, 05:26 PM
At the end of June, Benny had broken one of his huge pinkie toes. Iím not sure how he did because he was in a cage of 1x2 wire. It didnít seem to bother him at all except for when I would wrap it up so it could heal. Since he wouldnít keep it on I ended up taking him to the vet where he removed the toe. I was hoping for a cast but he said this would be better and he was right. The vet wrap stayed on for a day and the 2 stitches were not even visible. Benny had also gotten his nails trimmed while we there because they were starting to poke into his toes.

He had started having blood in his urine. I think he had internal lesions that were starting to heal and like his external ones, they were a little bloody. I gave him some homeopathic medicine but the bleeding continued for 2 weeks and then stopped.

When he stared getting better I stopped using the Olive Leaf. He was very happy about this! It took time but eventually they all started to shrink and he started to look normal again.

The only other problem that showed up and I don't think it was related to the pox was that he had lost some fur on his back hips. I never knew what happened but it did come back in.

More photos.

06-21-2008, 06:07 PM
Wow. That is incredible.

06-21-2008, 06:23 PM
You are a true hero.:bowdown

06-21-2008, 06:24 PM
This is an unbelievable story! I would never have believed a squirrel that badly infected could survive, much less recover fully. Squirrels that get that bad are almost always euthanized. This is truly mind-blowing.

You deserve a lot of credit for your faith and perseverance. :bowdown :thumbsup You not only saved Benny's life, you've changed the way a lot of people think about this disease. Thank you for sharing this incredible story.

I hope you get a chance to read up on some of the cases folks have dealt with lately here on TSB. I know they had good results with acyclovir and some other drugs. You guys really should get together and exchange ideas.

:thumbsup Girl Squirrel and Benny, you're both just amazing!:thumbsup

Girl Squirrel
06-21-2008, 06:41 PM
Benny had been with me for a year and was completely recovered. He did have scar tissue but it was very minor. The only thing that worried me was his nails. One was facing in the opposite direction and a few others were just slightly off. We made the trip to the vets again where I was prepared to have the one nail removed. I thought it might get caught on something and cause a problem later on. The vet assured me that he would be fine with the nail. He was also getting a white film in his eyes but after a few months, that went away

So with that out of the way, I prepared him and myself for release. Two day before release I went outside to the cage and he had hurt his paw. It wasnít broke but it was swollen and release was off. I needed my outside cage to acclimate my other squirrels in rehab so Benny went back in the house.

With all the work Benny and I put into his recovery, he was not going to be released until everything was just perfect. That didnít happen until September, when it was a tad cooler and the trees were blooming with food.

I used stuffed animals to play with Benny while he was recovering because I was concerned about him growing to close to me during his time. I try never to raise a squirrel alone but this was one time that I had to. When it was time for release I was very concerned about how he would react.

My concerns werenít necessary, Benny was the best release ever. I hand carried him up the ladder to where I put his box. He was not afraid at all and started checking out his new place. Looking over his shoulder every so often to make sure I was still there.

Benny continued to come every morning and evening for food, housing supplies and mostly attention. It was a thrill for me to see him thrive and enjoy his life so much. Benny continued this routine for a few weeks and then he was gone. Iím not sure what happened to him but I think it was the end of his journey. I just donít think he would have stop coming to see me unless something bad happened.

I have absolutely no regrets on not euthanizing him. He was the happiest squirrel I had the pleasure of rehabbing. He never seemed to be in any pain from the lesions, Frank and I agree that because this happened to him at such a young age he probably thought it was normal. I do think he was in pain when they started to shrink and the wounds were open but you would have never known it by the way he played.

I was hesitant about writing about this because I am in no way in any position to tell anyone what should be done with this virus. I have no way of knowing if any of the things I did helped him or not. I just remember how nice it was to hear from someone with information of the progression of this virus.

Frank said he should be the poster boy for why not to euthinize. I do know that my experience with him has made other rehabber that I know, now consider rehabbing squirrels with pox.

I was very proud of Benny for all he went through with this illness. I was glad to share this journey with him and he will remain in a very special place in my heart.

06-21-2008, 07:22 PM
Hello Girl Squirrel~
I'm new to the board, and don't really post a lot.
But, I sat here this evening....reading all your detailed posts......and went with you as you told of your remarkable journey with Benny. I looked at the pictures, and his poor little body....How brave he was.

Then I got to the last post.
You made me cry.

You're truly an amazing person.....and to have this opportunity to have helped that baby.......and have him thrive...it's a miracle. And a blessing.

I know your heart must have hurt when he never came back......but you gave him so much love...and LIFE. Without you, he surely would have died.
As you said.......he'll always be in your heart.

Bless you for all you did for him.

06-21-2008, 07:25 PM
:bowdown :bowdown :bowdown

06-21-2008, 08:42 PM
:grouphug :thankyou for sharing this with us girl squirrel...my heart just broke when i saw the pics.. reading about his recovery and seeing those pics were awesome...i am sure benny is so grateful for your love and kindness...:grouphug

06-21-2008, 09:05 PM
WOW! I'm speechless!

What dedication you showed a squirrel in such desperate need!
You were truly his blessing, his miracle worker!

This whole story is incredible....a inspiration for anybody looking for help with this horrible illness.

The story made me cry to, very touching :Love_Icon

Alaskan Squirrel Cam
06-21-2008, 09:19 PM


06-21-2008, 10:18 PM
Thank you for all you did for Benny and giving him a chance at life. Your story and the pictures of Benny with all the pox on him made me cry. His recovery was a miracle and a tribute to you and your love.His life and his story will always live in all of our hearts.:grouphug :grouphug

06-21-2008, 11:25 PM
WOW this is truly amazing Bless you for all you did for this little guy. Thanks so much for sharing his story with us. God Bless :grouphug

06-22-2008, 12:06 AM
WOW! You and Benny and your story are just amazing!

island rehabber
06-22-2008, 06:12 AM
Girl Squirrel, it's an honor to know you. Benny's story is so valuable in terms of what can be accomplished in the face of squirrel pox that I am going to put a copy of it in the Specific Ailments section, ok? Bless you for what you've done! :bowdown:bowdown:bowdown

Girl Squirrel
06-22-2008, 12:03 PM
Thank you all for your kind words. I'm very proud of my boy and enjoyed passing on his story of determination. I'm sorry if Benny's story made some of you cry because itís not a sad story. I would have preferred that he lived many years in my yard like some of my other rehab babies, but the almost 2 years I had him were good ones.

The pictures I used were ones to show off his lesions. I usually had to give him a piece of food to make him stop running around and stand still for 2 seconds. He was constantly running around and playing. The photos I used didnít show off his personality at all.

As other squirrel rehabbers or owners, you know if your animal is happy or not. Benny didnít know he was sick, he just enjoyed his life. He was a happy go lucky boy. That was an important part of rehabbing him. If he had been in a lot of pain or just seemed miserable, I probably would have put him down. Benny had a strong spirit and a wonderful personality. I think we were both lucky that Bennyís rescuer selected my name off the list on the internet.

Iím looking forward to reading other pox stories on this site, thanks for adding the URL in this post.

06-22-2008, 07:22 PM
That is fantastic. Squirrel pox used to be considered a death sentence. We sure have had gained good survival stories with it lately. Thanks so much for sharing.

06-22-2008, 08:50 PM
WOW! You and Benny are both truly remarkable !

06-24-2008, 08:49 PM
What a remarkable story! :thumbsup Thank you so much for caring for Benny:grouphug ; your sharing of his journey has enlightened us all. I would've never thought a squirrel could survive such a terrible case of Pox....

06-24-2008, 09:35 PM
I don't know how I missed this story. I have been waiting for it ever since I saw Benny on the June photo contest:)

Words can't say what a truly incredible story this is. You and Benny were brought together for a reason. He found you because not many could have done what you did:bowdown

I chose to think since he was fully mature that a girl squirrel got his attention and off he went....even though the reality is he still would have continued to see you:tilt So even though his life was cut short is wasn't until he experience unconditional love from you and to be a free squirrel something that never would have happened...without you:grouphug :grouphug

I think this would be a great story for adults and kids a like. It says so much on many levels. Helps with being different, never giving up and love:alright.gif

07-05-2008, 02:11 AM
This is one horrendous thing he went through. Amazing story, and an recovery, considering the severity of this case! I was wondering how long did it take for it to reach the height of the infection, from the appearance of the first pox. And how much time till the last one was gone? Thanks.

11-24-2008, 01:38 PM
Poor little baby.:Love_Icon I hope he feels better.:squirrel1

11-24-2008, 06:07 PM
What a hero you truly are for seeing this animal through his ordeal with so much love and caring. :bowdown People like you help me bear thoughts of the cruel ones who are so ignorant and uncaring of our fellow creatures and are even happy to hurt them. I hope you still see Benny once in a while.