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Thread: The cause of sudden squirrel deaths?

  1. #1
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    Default The cause of sudden squirrel deaths?

    Encephalomyocarditis:
    originally posted by Loopy Squirrel, this mystery ailment may be the underlying cause of sudden squirrel deaths:


    Recently I had a squirrel that I had raised and released come home with a very unusual illness. When she first came home I noticed that she had difficulty moving her limbs. She had blisters on the heels of her back feet. Her paws were swollen ( all 4) and she was breathing heavily and had a very rapid heart beat. It almost looked as though her heart was beating out of her chest. I first suspected MBD because I have had in the past a squirrel that I had raised and released come home w/ it. It was confirmed w/ x-rays. This looked similar so I began treatment for MBD. I assummed that the breathing was due to pain. On the second day of treatment I noticed that she was becoming raspy so I started a course of baytril thinking that she was compromised and may have pneumonia setting in. She really did not show any inprovement by the end of the second day. I lost her on the third day. I still wasn't sure what I was dealing with at the time. About 2 days later I noticed that my seizure squirrel Oliver seemed a little listless. I wasn't overly concerned because he does get like this way sometimes. By the 4th day Oliver began the rapid breathing/heartbeat like the other squirrel. I realized that I had cross contaminated and passed this to Oliver assuming that the other squirrel had MBD. I was treating her and then w/out changing clothes I held and fed Oliver. I immediately took him up to the hospital and got a chest x-ray. It comfirmed what I had suspected, his lungs had congestion and his heart was enlarged. The vet feels that this is viral in nature but could have bacterial secondary infections. This "unknown" virus was listed in an old manual back in early 2000. The main symptom in their experience was the difficulty breathing. They used a course of Bactrim and the squirrels responded to it. This was the course I used with Oliver and he has recovered. In babies it can present itself with difficulty breating, rapid heartbeat, overall body pain (squirrel cannot get comfortable), possible vomiting. In adults it presents itself as MBD. The squirrel has the difficulty breathing and very rapid hearbeat, edema in paws, stiffness, painful to touch, uncoordinated, blisters on heels, & very reluctant to move. It can kill very fast. If it truely is encephalomyocarditis it is spread through urine & feces in rodents. However, many of the sites I found info on did not consider squirrels as a primary rodent host. This virus has been recovered in squirrels, cotton rats, and raccoons. It is very common in swine. No one really knows if this is truely viral or bacterial but it seems that antibiotics can be of some value. Please be on the look out especially if a squirrel comes in w/ rapid breathing/heartbeat.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: The cause of sudden squirrel deaths?

    was oliver ok after getting to the vet?


  3. #3
    Kristi S Guest

    Default Re: The cause of sudden squirrel deaths?

    I'm guessing they've determined this since the thread was written, but Encephalomyocarditis is a virus. There is no known treatment except being in a calm, stress-free environment. The vomiting might be fluid from the lungs; foaming from the mouth is one symptom.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: The cause of sudden squirrel deaths?

    When you see swollen extremities, think "heart involvement ". This is quite common in congestive heart failure.

    This is one scary sounding disease. Thanks for posting this. I hope none of us ever has to see it.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: The cause of sudden squirrel deaths?

    ABs might help by dealing with bacterial infections secondary to Encephalomyocarditis.
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  6. #6
    Kristi S Guest

    Default Re: The cause of sudden squirrel deaths?

    Quote Originally Posted by TubeDriver View Post
    ABs might help by dealing with bacterial infections secondary to Encephalomyocarditis.
    Yes, true. However, given the speed with which this attacks and its high mortality rate it's hard to imagine the system is compromised long enough for bacterial infections to be a significant factor. Evidently ABs help, though, so there must be something going on there. I suppose any sort of help to the body is worth trying. I wonder how it was positively diagnosed.

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