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Aspiration pneumonia is a pulmonary (respiratory) infection caused by the inhalation of foreign material and
results in inflammation of the lungs and eventually the death of lung cells. It is most commonly associated
with young squirrels who have developed the infection because of the inhalation of formula while being fed;
however, any squirrel at any age can develop aspiration pneumonia.
Inhaled formula is probably the leading cause; however, improper bedding such as sawdust, mist from aerosol
sprays, powders, the squirrel being housed in a dusty environment, smoke and gases--just about anything in
the squirrel’s environment that causes a foreign substance to be inhaled, particularly on a regular basis, can
cause aspiration pneumonia, as can inhaled vomit, even saliva.
1. Lethargic (inactive)
2. Difficult/labored breathing (dyspnea) or rapid breathing
3. Rapid heartbeat
5. Pale, bluish to dark purple skin (cyanosis) from a lack of oxygen (Look at lips and pads of feet)
6. Nasal discharge, possibly white or pus-like, sometimes tinged red or green (Merck)
7. Sweet or foul smelling breath (Merck)
8. Wheezing, crackling, or clicking sounds when inhaling and/or exhaling
1. A broad spectrum antibiotic such as Baytril or Bactrim (SulfaTrim, SMZ-TMP). (Note: Penicillin-based
antibiotics such as Clavamox, Amoxycillin, and so forth are not recommended for squirrels. While some
debate exists on this issue, squirrels are partial hind-gut fermenters, and with related species,
veterinarians are cautioned to use the PLACE rule when determining which antibiotics to avoid:
PLACE -- penicillin, lincomycin, ampicillin, amoxicillin, cephalosporins, clindamycin, erythromycin
(Brown and Rosenthal)).
2. Oxygen therapy
1. Keep the squirrel quiet
2. Keep squirrel in a clean, smoke-free, dust-free environment.
3. Try to keep squirrel well hydrated.
1. Place a vaporizer in the room (preferably cool mist) with a few drops of eucalyptus oil in it.
2. Administer Vitamin E (an antioxidant) (Merck)
Brown, Susan A. and Karen Rosenthal. Self-Assessment Colour Review of Small Mammals.
Harkness, et. al. Biology and Medicine of Rabbits and Rodents, 5th ed.
Merck Veterinary Manual, 10th ed.
Tabor’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 20th ed.