August 25, 2014
Gray Squirrel Regains Use of Hind Legs with Innovative Treatment at the SFWC
A gray squirrel makes a full recovery at the SFWC after the use of K-Laser therapy to heal her injured hind legs.
Squirrels are known for their impressive climbing ability, thanks in part to their powerful hind legs. They use this talent to gather and store food, as well as avoid predators. Losing the use of their hind legs can prove life-threatening, as was the case for one squirrel who was rescued by a good Samaritan in South Florida.
In late May, a local resident found an injured gray squirrel in his backyard. The squirrel appeared to have lost the use of her hind legs and looked very thin and malnourished. Thankfully for her, she was brought to the South Florida Wildlife Center where she was immediately evaluated by our veterinarians.
The veterinarians began by taking digital X-rays of the squirrel’s hind legs to determine what was causing the lameness. Her left hip appeared abnormal, most likely from a recent trauma or infection that affected the bone. But what was more concerning was that she was very thin and dehydrated and had very little interest in food. So the first course of action was to give her fluids and antibiotics, to combat the dehydration and any possible infection and hopefully to improve her appetite.
The first few days of treatment were difficult, as the squirrel wouldn’t eat much on her own, which really hampered her chances of recovery. The vet staff worked very hard to get her to eat by offering her a variety of foods and continuing to hand-feed her with a syringe. In addition they continued to administer antibiotics in the hope that it would clear up any infection that could be causing the lameness.
But the squirrel just wasn’t getting better. She would show mild improvement but was still very reluctant to put weight on her hind legs, and she still would not eat on her own. Luckily for her, the SFWC had a secret weapon—laser therapy.
K-Laser has generously given SFWC the opportunity to use one of its lasers in our treatment of injured wildlife. Without K-Laser USA, SFWC would not have access to this innovative therapy as it is very expensive.
Laser therapy works by improving the blood flow to the muscles, which then replenishes the oxygen levels and leads to muscle growth and sometimes even nerve regeneration. Because the squirrel’s muscles in her hind legs had atrophied, she didn’t have the muscle strength to use them, and it was also possible that the trauma or infection that caused the lameness had also caused nerve damage. The laser therapy could possibly help with both these issues.
After about two weeks of laser therapy, the squirrel finally started to show improvement. She placed all her limbs on the ground and even ran around a bit. This was a huge leap from where she started out, and she just kept getting better.
Three weeks into treatment, we were able to move her to an outdoor habitat to increase her exercise and give her the opportunity to climb, which she did with gusto. And after a month of hand feeding twice daily, she finally started to eat on her own. Once she got her appetite back, there was no stopping her.
After about two months of care, we could barely even catch her, which meant she was ready to go back to the wild. Thanks to K-Laser USA and the expert, and innovative, care she received from our team at SFWC, this little squirrel is back to climbing, foraging for food, and other natural behaviors in the wild.