Is a Squirrel Not Moving But Breathing? Find Out What’s Wrong & What to Do

As an experienced squirrel watcher, I know how to identify when a squirrel is unwell. If you’ve noticed that a squirrel is not moving but breathing heavily, there could be something wrong. Or, do squirrels play dead? To help you determine whether the squirrel needs your help, and what to do if it does, read on.

It is possible that a squirrel is not moving but breathing heavily due to illness, injury, or simply taking a break. If the squirrel appears lethargic and lacks energy, it could be suffering from a disease or have been poisoned. Signs of injury include limping, swelling or bruises on the body. If the squirrel does not show any signs of being ill or injured, it may just be taking a rest after foraging for food or playing.

What To Do When You Find a Squirrel Not Moving But Breathing?

Baby squirrel not moving but breathing? As you’re out for a stroll, your attention turns to an immobile squirrel that is nevertheless still breathing. Puzzled by the creature’s uncharacteristic lack of movement, you take a closer look and observe its slow respiration. You wonder what might be causing such strange behavior from the small animal.

When a squirrel is not moving but respiring, it may be in shock due to injury or fear response. Fear conditioning can be triggered by predators, loud noises, electric shock or other changes in its environment.

The fear, especially for baby squirrels, could also be caused by a fall down from a tree. The amygdala is responsible for emotional responses and plays an important role in fear conditioning, stress response and memory formation.

Reconsolidation is the process by which memories are updated and modified as they are recalled or stored again. The hippocampus is also responsible for long-term spatial memories.

Is The Squirrel In Shock, Dying or Paralyzed?

Did you find a squirrel laying on ground not moving? If you observe a squirrel laying on its back and it is unresponsive to your touch or presence, with wide eyes that are not moving and it is breathing, this likely indicates the animal is in shock. It is atypical for a squirrel to lie on its back as they usually sleep on their stomachs like cats and dogs do.

If its limbs are cold, along with visible blood around the nose and mouth, and if it does not move for some time then there may be cause for concern. Furthermore, some squirrels may show signs of shock by wandering in circles or walking lopsidedly.

  • Shock: A traumatic experience such as being hit by a car can cause shock. What are the symptoms of a squirrel in shock? Symptoms of shock include trembling, lack of responsiveness to stimuli or no movement at all.
  • Dying: A falling body temperature indicates death is near; other symptoms include difficulty breathing or gasping breath.
  • Paralyzed: Severe injury due to accident or disease can lead to paralysis in animals including squirrels; paralyzed animals cannot move any part of their body.

How to tell if a squirrel is in shock?

How to know if a squirrel is in shock? When you suspect a squirrel may be in shock, there are a few signs to look out for:

  • Lethargy: A squirrel in shock may appear weak, disoriented, and less active than usual. They may have a limp posture and appear listless.
  • Rapid Breathing: Shock can cause an increased heart rate and respiratory distress. Watch for quick, shallow breaths or a rapid rise and fall of the chest.
  • Pale or Bluish Gums: Check the squirrel’s gums or inside its mouth. If they appear pale or bluish instead of pink, it may indicate poor blood circulation, which can be a sign of shock.
  • Dilated Pupils: Widened pupils that don’t constrict in response to light can suggest shock and distress.
  • Cool Extremities: Shock can cause a decrease in blood flow to the outer parts of the body. Check the squirrel’s paws or tail; if they feel cool to the touch, it may indicate shock.

If you suspect a squirrel is in shock, it’s important to handle them carefully and contact a local wildlife rehabilitation center for further guidance. They can provide proper care and assistance to the squirrel in need.

How long does a squirrel stay in shock?

The duration of shock in squirrels can vary depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the situation. In some cases, a squirrel may recover from shock relatively quickly, within a matter of minutes to hours, especially if the trigger was a brief and non-life-threatening event.

However, in more severe cases or if there are underlying injuries or health issues, the squirrel’s shock response may last longer, potentially even several hours or more.

Signs of a dying squirrel

Signs that a squirrel may be dying include:

  • Lack of movement: A dying squirrel may become extremely lethargic and have difficulty moving. They may appear weak and unable to engage in normal activities.
  • Rapid or shallow breathing: Dying squirrels may have irregular or labored breathing. They might take quick, shallow breaths or observe panting or gasping.
  • Unresponsiveness: A dying squirrel might not respond to external stimuli or attempts to interact with it. It may seem unresponsive to touch or sound.
  • Loss of appetite and dehydration: Squirrels nearing death may lose interest in food and water, leading to significant weight loss. They might have dry or sunken eyes, as well as appear dehydrated with dry skin and mouth.
  • Pale or discolored gums: As a squirrel’s health declines, their gums may turn pale, indicating poor circulation.
  • Tremors or convulsions: In severe cases, a dying squirrel may experience muscle spasms, shaking, or even seizures.

These signs can also be indicative of other health issues, so if you encounter a squirrel displaying these symptoms, it is recommended to contact a wildlife rehabilitation professional or veterinarian for proper assessment and care.

Do squirrels play dead?

Yes, squirrels do play dead sometimes! When squirrels feel threatened or sense danger, they may exhibit a behavior known as “playing dead” as a defense mechanism. This means they’ll go completely limp, lie motionless on the ground, and close their eyes, making them appear lifeless.

It’s a clever trick to fool potential predators into thinking they’re no longer a threat. Once they believe the danger has passed, they’ll quickly jump up and scurry away to safety. It’s quite fascinating to see how squirrels adapt to different situations in the wild!

For example, here’s a video of a pet flying squirrel playing dead that went viral:

Play Video

So, if you spot a squirrel lying down not moving, stop for a minute and observe carefully if he is just playing dead because it could be that the squirrel is not moving but alive.

Signs of Injury or Pregnancy in a Squirrel

It is important to note that serious problems beyond injury or illness can affect the health of an animal such as dehydration resulting from overheating or an influx of cold air from underground burrows which could lead to hypoglycaemia.

Moreover, if after closely examining them no visible signs of injury are found try looking for signs of pregnancy like bloating around the tummy area, refusals to feed, smelly urine etc. Fly eggs and maggots should also be observed if present as these may be lethal if ingested.

How Does A Stunned Squirrel Look Like?

A stunned squirrel will often remain still, taking slow and shallow breaths. If they are touched they may twitch slightly. Their eyes will be unable to focus and may move erratically if disturbed. In some cases they may lose consciousness entirely, waking up later on with recovery time differing from animal to animal.

How To Recognize If A Squirrel Is Dying?

If you come across an injured or pregnant squirrel, it is best to seek help from a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center. These experts have the knowledge and experience to provide the best care for the affected animal and increase its chances of survival.

They are licensed professionals who know how to provide basic life support nursing techniques in such cases. Moreover, they make sure that the creature is successfully treated and released back into the wild, minimizing human contact as much as possible.

How Long Can A Squirrel Be In Shock?

The length and severity of shock experienced by mammals differ depending on the species and severity of the trauma experienced. Generally speaking however although shorter episodes usually last only minutes longer more severe experiences will take up much more time with recovery ranging up to several hours.

Can A Paralyzed Squirrel Move?

In some cases, a squirrel may appear to be paralyzed and unable to move, but they may still be able to breathe. This could be due to an injury or it might indicate that the squirrel is pregnant. If you find a squirrel in this condition, it’s important to act quickly and take appropriate steps to ensure the animal‘s safety.

If the squirrel is not moving but breathing, there are some key signs to look for that can help you identify whether it has been injured or if it is pregnant. These include changes in its behavior, physical condition, and any visible wounds. It’s also important to monitor its breathing rate and keep it safe from predators.

What Should You Do If You Find an Injured or Pregnant Squirrel?

If you find an injured or pregnant squirrel, the first thing to do is to observe the squirrel from a safe distance. If it appears to be in distress and not moving, it’s essential to act quickly. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator right away to determine if the animal needs help or can be left where it is. When handling the squirrel, be sure to wear gloves and use a thick cloth as a barrier between your hands and the animal.

You should also provide shelter for the squirrel by placing a box or container with leaves and sticks near the spot where you found it. Next, contact your local veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator in order to get advice on how best to care for the animal. They may also be able to provide food and water if necessary. Finally, keep people and pets away from the area until help arrives.

Call For Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

If you notice an injured or gravid squirrel lying idle, the optimum decision is to reach out to a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center. They will be able to give the most helpful advice and medical attention to the animal and nurse it back to health. Depending on the situation it might be appropriate to provide fundamental care such as appropriate bedding, water, snacks and a safe haven for the squirrel until professional help arrives. In every case, bear in mind that caution should always be exercised when taking action and you should obey directions from qualified professionals.

Tips To Care For An Injured Or Pregnant Squirrel

  • When attending to injured wildlife, it’s paramount that you stay composed. Panicking animals can lead to dangerous situations, so try to create a calming atmosphere for both you and the animal to ensure safety. Remember, a little calmness goes a long way when working with wild creatures such as mice, rabbits, and birds.
  • Rescuing wild animals involves potential dangers, so it’s important to have the right protective gear. This helps rescuers stay safe while navigating unpredictable risks and prevents dangerous situations from escalating due to carelessness.
  • Providing Shelter
  • Secure Support: Utilizing specialized equipment securing injured limbs neck helps prevent further damage reduce pain levels improving overall condition making easier transport towards treatment center ensuring improved results.


How should one provide care for an injured or weakened squirrel?

If you come across an injured or fallen squirrel, the most important thing is to keep it safe and make sure it cannot escape. To do this, try to move slowly and quietly, blending in with your environment to not startle the squirrel. Additionally, use a towel or blanket to cover the animal before attempting to pick it up. Once covered and secured, place the squirrel in a cardboard box with some soft bedding materials such as a cloth or towel.

Is it advisable to apply Neosporin to a squirrel?

It is not recommended to put Neosporin or any other ointment on a squirrel. If necessary, it is best to speak to a licensed veterinarian for advice before trying any home remedies. Squirrels have delicate skin, and many topical treatments may be too strong or could cause irritation or infection.

What signs can indicate that a squirrel is experiencing pain?

Squirrels are generally very active, so it is important to be aware of any changes in their behavior. Signs that a squirrel may be in pain include refusing to eat, appearing lethargic or listless, limping, having difficulty moving and convulsing. If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to contact a wildlife specialist for assistance.

What causes squirrels to stop moving?

Squirrels often stop moving when they sense danger. This is typically because their natural instinct to flee or hide from predators kicks in. They will often remain still and silent to try and avoid detection, relying on their ability to blend into the environment for protection.

What are the indicators of ill health in a squirrel?

A sick squirrel may display several signs of distress or illness. These include: lethargy, poor grooming habits, erratic behavior, weight loss, labored breathing, and difficulty walking. Additionally, you may notice infection or injuries on the animal’s fur or skin. If a squirrel is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it should be monitored and looked after by a wildlife professional.

Should I rescue a hurt squirrel?

It is best to not pick up an injured squirrel, as it can cause stress and trauma for the animal. If you come across an injured squirrel, the best thing to do is observe from a distance and ensure that the animal has not been in danger. Additionally, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center for advice on next steps.

What is the best way to handle a squirrel that has been stunned?

When you encounter a stunned squirrel, the best way to treat them is with care. First, ensure the area around the squirrel is safe and that you are not in danger of being harmed by other animals or traffic. Then, gently pick up the squirrel and place it in an enclosed space such as a cardboard box or a large bucket with air holes.

  1. Check for immediate dangers and make sure the surrounding area is secure.
  2. Using protective gloves and appropriate clothing, carefully lift up the squirrel.
  3. Place the squirrel in an enclosed space.
  4. Keep your distance; do not attempt to handle the animal if it has regained consciousness.


If you find a squirrel not moving but breathing heavily, it is possible that the animal may be injured, ill, or simply taking a break. It is important to observe the squirrel from a distance and if there are any signs of illness or injury, contact a wildlife veterinarian or rehabilitation center for proper treatment. If the squirrel appears healthy, it is likely just resting from its activities.

Therefore, when observing a squirrel not moving but breathing, check for any unusual physical signs and monitor its behavior to determine if more help is needed. If you cannot identify any issues with the animal, then it is safe to assume that the critter is either exhausted or recuperating and should be left alone.

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