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Mice/Sick Momma Mouse



My doe gave birth to 7 babies 19 days ago. The babies are all energetic and look very healthy (like mini adults) but Mamma recently (the past day and a half) has become very thin, not eating or drinking, her breathing is labored, and she barely moves. the babies are still trying to nurse, but I get the feeling mamma won't last the day. My question is, will the babies survive? they are nibbling solid food I dampened for them. I'm hoping that they will survive mamma's passing. Would you say they are old enough to make it?

Hi A.J.,

It's possible the doe had complications from the pregnancy, such as an infection.  Nursing does cannot be given antibiotics, but if you are going to separate them anyways, you might consider rushing her to a vet to see if treatment is a possibility.  Of course, if you think she may not make it until tomorrow, the point might be moot, in which case you could consider whether or not you wanted to put her down or simply make her comfortable until the time comes.  Either way, I am so sorry that she is doing so poorly.

But on to your actual question - yes, provided there was not a hereditary health problem, the pups can certainly survive at this point.  They will still need your help, however.  Until they can drink on their own from a water bottle, they will need hydration and supplementary nutrition from kitten milk replacement (KMR) that you can provide.  Since they haven't been raised on it, and they are probably in that lovely popcorn stage right now, this might take a little figuring out on your part and theirs.  I would strongly recommend picking up or locating the following supplies:

-A food scale (extremely helpful, and can be found affordably at most supermarkets and health food stores)
-Fruit baby food
-A medicine dropper (particularly if you can find one with a small tip - check a local feed store, not just a pharmacy)
-A small paintbrush
-Pedialyte (flavor-free)

Continue to offer mouse food for them to explore, as well as pieces of stale bread, and the occasional treat of baby food (can be spread on crackers or stale bread), scrambled eggs made with KMR instead of milk, or other mouse-safe treats like millet sprays.  Avoid seeds for the time being.

Make sure the water bottle is at a level they can reach but that will not contact the bedding and flood the cage.  When you see them all drinking regularly from the bottle successfully (usually around 3.5 to 5 weeks of age), you can stop giving the KMR.  Use the food scale to weigh them at least once a day, but preferably at several points during the day (before a feeding is a great time, so you can get each baby's weight).  Place a tall-sided container on the scale, tare it back to 0 grams, then add the mouse - this way you won't lose them, since young mice do not sit still!  You want each mouse to gain weight consistently at least a little each day, though the first day on KMR might see less gain if they have trouble figuring it out at first or if it gives them diarrhea.  It's important that you never see weight loss, as this could be an early sign of decline that needs correcting with hydration and extra feeding, as well as close monitoring.

Offer the KMR every 4-5 hours at first, in an area where they will not be injured or get lost if they jump away from you.  They will let you know how often they are hungry, and will need more feedings if they are not eating the mouse food or snacks.  If they are eating a lot of solid foods, they may need formula a little less often (I would offer at least 4 good formula feedings every 24 hours, however, until they start using the water bottle).  Try offering the formula by dropper (let them lick it - do NOT force the formula into their mouth or they could breathe it in), or by paintbrush (they will lick the drops off the tip).  The pedialyte is in case they become dehydrated, and can be mixed in with the KMR to help them reestablish their electrolytes.  You do not need to use it at every feeding, nor do you have to use it at all if they take to the formula right away and are eating well.

Check the cage for poops and pees.  Even if they are already pottying on their own, it can sometimes help stimulate them to eat the KMR if you use a warm, damp cloth or cotton ball to dab gently at the anal/genital region.  Be sure to dab dry again afterwards, and never wipe, as you can chafe the skin.  You may not need to do this at all if they are all already pottying in the cage, since they are almost three weeks old.  Sometimes the sudden switch to KMR can cause intestinal upset - a day or two of diarrhea is okay, but if the changes in stool persist beyond that you may need to address dehydration as a result.  Keep a close eye on their waste.

If the mom had something contagious, instead of a pregnancy complication, the pups may be at risk, too.  Watch them over the next three weeks for signs of lethargy, low appetite, dull eyes, greasy fur, loose skin, or hunching posture.  Although the timing makes me think this isn't the case, it would be best to catch any possible signs of trouble well in advance so you can get them to a veterinarian.

Hopefully this helped, but please let me know if you need any further help or have questions.  Best of luck to the little dudes!  They have a great shot, now that they are this far along already.  :)



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I can answer questions regarding mice as pets, mouse behavior, color and coat genetics, breeding techniques, and general health questions. I can help with caging and setup, nutrition, social issues, and what to do in most mouse emergencies (such as unplanned litters, injuries, fighting, etc.). I can also assist with questions pertaining to orphaned mouse pups, weaning litters, and questions of mating and birthing. I cannot answer questions about exotic or wild varieties of mice such as spiny or pygmy mice. *****FOR EMERGENCIES, anything requiring immediate medical intervention, PLEASE take your mouse to a professional veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator who works with mice as soon as possible! IMPORTANT RESOURCES: Raising Orphaned Mice: Orphaned Mice Videos: Natasha's Your First Mouse: General Mouse Help: Mouse Info and Exotic Breeds:


I have enjoyed the companionship of mice nonstop since 2004, and spent a year caring for them in a lab where I learned a great deal about their breeding, social needs, and health. I spent a few years breeding them, specifically working with albinos, marked mice, angora mice, and satins. My education never stopped - I am learning something new every day from current and well-established research thanks to the wonderful folks at the Jackson Laboratory, as well as from my wonderful mousey friends online. I also love learning from my terrific questioners here on AllExperts - you folks keep my passion for these amazing animals alive and well!

East Coast Mouse Association - expired, American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association - expired

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