Squirrels lose hair for a variety of reasons. Many people assume that when they see a squirrel with missing tufts of hair, it has contracted scabies. Mange in squirrels is caused by a small mite called Notoedres douglasi. They are similar to the mites that cause scabies in humans in that they cause intense itching, but there are no reports that squirrel scabies has been transmitted to humans! Healthy squirrels can usually recover from a scabies infestation, but it can take a considerable amount of time, and a lack of hair coverage can leave squirrels at the mercy of the weather, especially in winter!
Another cause of hair loss in squirrels is a fungal infection called dermatophytosis. The squirrel doesn’t actually lose its hair, it’s just that the fungus causes its skin to break off. Most fungi like a warm, humid environment to grow, therefore dermatophytoses are seen in hot, humid climates and during unusually humid periods. A squirrel can recover from this fungal hair loss as long as its immune system is in good shape. A sick or immunocompromised squirrel may not be so lucky!
Dietary insufficiency, or a poor diet, is another cause of hair loss in squirrels. A severe lack of Calcium will cause poor hair growth and / or hair loss. This is especially true of squirrels that are kept in captivity! Particular attention should be paid to food, as well as to daily exposure to natural light or the sun.
Closely following poor diet is the condition called Metabolic Bone Disease. Hair loss and loss of calcium from the bones are the hallmarks of a severe calcium deficiency. Squirrels quickly develop a condition called rickets and lose the use of their hind legs. This causes them to crawl when they try to walk and their bones become quite brittle and prone to breaking. If left untreated, metabolic bone disease will progress to permanent nerve and bone damage and heart failure. Poor diet and metabolic bone disease are treatable as long as they are caught in the early stages. Calcium-rich foods and calcium supplements are a must for all captive squirrels!
The last potential cause of hair loss, especially in Gray or Fox Squirrels, is a hereditary defect. There are some hatched squirrels that are missing the hair growth chromosome, just like there are some hatched squirrels that are missing the pigmentation chromosome (albino squirrels). These hairless squirrels never develop hair. It is rare that they survive in colder climates and at best it is difficult to survive even in hot climates due to the fact that they are not recognized for their species and are often rejected and even attacked or killed.
All dietary causes of hair loss in squirrels are very easily treated by proper diet and ensuring that there are sufficient amounts of calcium and essential vitamins in their diet. Through working with squirrels and researching natural products, I have been able to improve on some tried and true recipes for squirrel food supplements. One major improvement I found was the addition of organic raw coconut oil.
Raw coconut oil is rich in a substance called lauric acid, which is a naturally occurring antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral substance. You can read about the effect of this amazing substance on Candida Albicans, a common yeast-like organism at: http://www.candida-albicans-cure.com/coconut-oil.html # R2. Since adding raw coconut oil to my squirrel supplements, my squirrels have grown hair that feels as soft as mink!
Squirrel hair loss can be a problem! But I have found that improving the diet of affected squirrels and adding the right natural products to what they eat goes a long way towards solving most problems!