American Fancy Rat & Mouse Association

This article is from the WSSF 2015 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.

Breeding & Stuff

Orphan Diarrhea

By Karen Robbins

Q Last week I started fostering some abandoned wild mice babies I guess to have been around 10 days old at that time. I want to release them to the wild since they are wild, and I have never touched them other than with gloves. I have been feeding them kitten formula mixed with almond milk (seemed to take to this much better than when mixed with water) via paint brush and recently switched to a one cc syringe. They now all have their eyes open and are starting to eat baby cereal mixed with distilled water and Ryvita® mixed grain crackers. I ran into some dehydration issues yesterday (saw their tails were getting bony looking) so made up some more Pedialyte® and increased my frequency of feeding. They look better today. They also had some messy looking bottoms which I thought might have come from the baby cereal. I have watered down the cereal even more and replace it every 2–3 hours and I do add formula to the top of it as well. It is in a bottle cap. I have a bottle cap of water there too but I don’t think they are too skilled in that regard yet, and I have read that mice don’t need water in the wild anyway as they get enough from their food? I also attributed the dehydration to drinking less formula but they seem less interested in it and I often see at least one of them eating the mush. I was wondering what stage do I start to take the heating pad away and when can I stop cleaning their behinds for them as this would also mean not touching them. I know the cleaning is still a necessity at this point, I was just looking for a guesstimate or what I should be looking for to tell me I can stop now? I know release will mean likely a short lifespan but keeping them would be torture for them and I guess I feel letting them go when they are ready is what nature intended. They are little fighters who I felt deserved a chance as leaving them for two days to see if mom would take them back didn’t pan out and they lasted til I took over.

A You can also add oatmeal (whole rather than quick or instant) to the mix and leave dry oatmeal in the bedding for them to start nibbling on. They should also have other dry foods available to them all the time such as millet, whole grain seeded bread (this can also be added to the gruel mix), simple rat/mouse grain mix, dog/cat kibble, bird seed, shelled sunflower seeds, whole oats/oat groats, etc. Also, you can give healthy cereals such as shredded wheat (Trader Joe’s has one in a red box Shredded Bite Size Wheat that is just wheat and vitamin E), oats kinds, puffed kinds, etc. At 3–4 weeks you can also add such things as pesticide-free dandelion greens, meal worms, etc., to give a more natural diet and get them started towards release.

Since they are about 2 weeks old they should be fully furred so wouldn’t need a heating pad (just some nesting material such as shredded napkins and clean hay). Eyes open around 12 days. If they are eating well from the gruel mix, then syringe feeding can be reduced and may be eliminated by 3 weeks since they should be eating mainly from the mixture and the dry foods. The gruel/formula mix can be continued for another week until they are 4 weeks. They do get a certain amount of moisture from their food but should still have access to water so have it there if they want it. Once you stop the syringe feeding then cleaning them shouldn’t be necessary.

We’ve had several other postings on raising orphans on our facebook page from Kimberly Martin DeVolld (10-13-11, 10-15-11, 12-30-11) who raised a couple field mice; and from Esha Vogel (5-3-12, 5-9-12, 6-2-12, 6-30-12) on raising a domestic mouse, and 9-6-13 from Charlotte Cracknell, England, you might want to check out.

2 Days Later: They seem a bit better since this A.M. and I’m wondering if my picking them up is stressful enough to cause the messy behind on one of them. They did take some formula from the syringe at noon without my touching them but they wanted no part of that mid afternoon for the next time. All 3 of them were feeding from the cereal cap though so I’m going to assume they are getting enough formula that way from the cereal mix. I also did a mix of crushed Cheerios with distilled water and a bit of rice milk to see if that would appeal but I can’t say they totally de- voured it. They are all starting to look better though and it’s harder to tell them apart as they are more similar in size and coat condition. I’m hoping this all works out. Thanks again.

A The diarrhea could be from several things. They are at the age (approximately 18 days) that syringe feeding shouldn’t be necessary (at least when I have fed domestic mice they would be eating well from the dish and dry foods left in the cage so I would stop with the syringe about this time). It sounds like they are getting enough from the dish and that is why they are not wanting to take from the syringe. You may also be able to cut back to 3–4 feeding times with the dish mix as long as they have lots of dry food and water available. Also, keep some of what you mix in the dish with liquids, as dry form in the cage.

Update: I haven’t seen anyone touch any dry food yet at all but that’s not to say they haven’t. I have the bottom of the aquarium littered with newspaper and timothy hay from my rabbit’s stash. I threw in a few dry leaves as well. I went out to change food over about 9 P.M. and they were a mess. They all have feces caked over their butts, legs, and tails. I must have gone through 15 Q-Tips between the 3 of them to get them cleaned up and they were none too happy about it either. I came back in and mixed up more Pedialyte® to go that route again and took the cereal out of the cage altogether. I left a piece of cracker sitting in a dish of Pedialyte® for them along with the dry stuff on the cage bottom but that is it. I was hoping they would be eating better by now too. I dosed with Pedialyte® and I will go back out in 2 more hours. I still have the heat blanket under the tank as with the mess they have been in and since they are not awesome groomers in general, I did not want to see them chilled. They are OK at it but they sure can’t get to the back end. From the shoulders up they look great, from there down, not so much!! I was hoping to wean off the heater this weekend too. I know every day they are still alive when I check in the A.M., is that much better for them but I’m not sure how long they can go on with these ups and downs. I know their chances of survival in the wild are slim but if they are sick now, how do I know if and when euthanizing them is the kindest option? I will go out again in a couple of hours around midnight and try to get some more Pedialyte® into them and then worry all night if they will still be alive in the A.M. just like I’ve done every night since I started. Thank you again for your help.

A They shouldn’t be having diarrhea like this as this can be bacterial, viral, coccidiosis, possibly from the food, too many changes, etc. Have you tried giving any kaolin-pectin?

Next Day: Just came from the shed. They look much cleaner this A.M. and I saw one guy working on back there so they can do it I guess when they are not overloaded. I’m assuming if it was the bacterial, etc., things you mentioned that the problem would still be there this A.M. so I’m going to assume there must be an issue with the food at this point? I did not feed anyone by syringe, not even Pedialyte® this A.M. I gave them a clean water dish with distilled water and a bit more Pedialyte® in it and I mixed up a bit of mixed cereal with Pedialyte® and put that there too but nothing else. I’m hoping this can tell me it’s either the formula or the mixed cereal that is the root cause and since the diarrhea thing was not there like this before, I’m leaning towards the cereal. Guess I’ll know by a process of elimination what happens if they take the cereal. I want to get this worked out as I’d like to release them before the females (if there even are any) are pregnant as I figure they will have enough on their plates those first hours with- out adding pregnancy or motherhood to the mix. If I do feel it’s the cereal, is there another kind I should offer? I know some sug- gestions are oat and rice cereal? I did put a few drops of rice milk in the food at one point too and I wonder now if that was the cause so I’m not using that again. If that is the case, maybe oat and rice cereal is not the best choice? Thank you!

A When I’ve fed orphan domestic mice, I never used the baby cereal in the formula mix, instead I would put in lab block powder, oatmeal, whole grain bread, and then have the same foods available as dry along with millet, dry cereals (whole wheat, oat Cherrios type), dog biscuits, dog/cat kibble, whole lab blocks, oat groats, and plain filtered water where they could get to it (keeping the dry foods available all the time). They will also eat whole kernel wheat and barley, canary grass seed, shelled plain pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, and bits of nuts such as walnuts. The sooner you can get them eating the dry foods, the better. Also, I only used one formula/milk so I’m wondering if the many changes/types are the problem with yours. Are you giving them some of the cereal dry along with other dry foods? I wouldn’t think the baby cereal (the kind with no dry milk as an ingredient) would be the problem as mice will eat those grains whole.

Domestic mice can get bred as soon as 4 weeks (if dad is in with them) but usually not until around 8 weeks; not sure on wild. *

December 30, 2018