Wives’ tale busted – Cow milk does NOT kill baby squirrels

I’ve heard this ridiculous wives’ tale for the past 20 years. People on the Internet will show you photos of dead baby squirrels. They will tell you that cow milk killed the babies. Cow milk did not kill the babies. The babies were fed improperly or died of some other illness or injury.

The people telling you that cow milk kills squirrel babies will tell you to buy Petag’s Esbilac puppy milk instead. Guess what the main ingredients are in Esbilac? You guessed it, cow milk. Below are the ingredients.

Esbilac Powder for Puppies Ingredients: Vegetable Oil, Casein, Whey Protein Concentrate, Dried Skimmed Milk, Butter Fat, Monocalcium Phosphate, Egg Yolk, Calcium Carbonate, L-arginine , DL-methionine, Sodium Silico Aluminate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Lechithin, Monopotassium Phosphate, Magnesium Carbonate, Ferrous Sulfate, Salt, Dipotassium Phosphate, Calcium Pantothenate, Ascorbic Acid, Niacin Supplement, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Folic Acid, Vitamin E Supplement, Silicon Dioxide, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Citrate, Potassium Iodide, Biotin.

The ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Here oil is the main ingredient. Number two ingredient is “casein” which is from cow milk. Number three ingredient is “whey” which is from cow milk. Number four ingredient is “dried skimmed milk” which is from cow milk. Number five ingredient is “butter fat” which is the fat from cow milk. You can clearly see that cow milk is the main ingredient in animal and human baby formulas. (I just noticed they spelled “lecithin” wrong) 

How did those babies in the  photos die? They did not die from cow milk, that’s for sure. They most likely died because they were not warmed or hydrated before being fed. They were not fed enough formula or were fed too much. The formula was not introduced slowly which caused diarrhea which caused death. They were aspirated because they were fed improperly. The milk was not warmed, mixed properly or was rancid. Baby died from some other illness or injury. In one photo I could tell the babies died from squirrel pox which has nothing to do with formula. It’s a virus.

People have been feeding orphaned baby wildlife and humans cow milk probably since they first started milking cows and goats around 9,000 to 7,000 BC. If cow milk killed babies, we’d have a ton of dead human and animal babies. In the UK they feed endangered orphan red squirrels cow or goat milk with honey and sometimes add an egg. They don’t feed commercial formulas most likely because they don’t care for the additives, preservatives, coloring agents, anti-clumping chemicals…

Who is behind this wives’ tale? I personally feel commercial formula producers are behind this ridiculous story. People who tell you that cow milk kills babies generally recommend Petag Esbilac or kitten formula. Petag probably spread this rumor to sell more product and why not. Eight ounces of liquid Esbilac costs $2.78. A quart of cow milk (32 ounces) costs $2.60. Esbilac is four times as expensive as cow milk. They’re making money telling this ridiculous story.

Two years ago I wrote this comparison chart of the various puppy, kitten formulas. As you can see Esbilac is the most expensive by far. They are the biggest selling puppy, kitten formula in the world. They seem to have a monopoly in the pet stores. http://www.animaladvocates.us/formulacomparison.pdf

Based on my years of experience I personally recommend Fox Valley. It is a much higher quality product, smells/tastes better and is cheaper. The only downfall is you have to order it online but it’s well worth it. 


Composition of Petag Esbilac verses average cow milk. When I sent samples of Esbilac to the lab the amount of protein, fat, fiber and calories were way off what was written on the package. As you can see based on the labels Esbilac has a little more calories, fat and protein than regular cow milk. If you look at a breakdown of the ingredients, they have the same vitamins and minerals.  

Petag liquid Esbilac

protein 4.5% min

fat 6% min

water 85%

900 kcal/kg


Whole cow milk

protein 3.5% min

fat 3.4-4% min

water 87%

730 kcal/kg

I personally no longer use any Petag products because they do not recall their product when it’s tainted or rancid. Legally FDA can’t force them to recall their product. There have been at least three instances when their formula was killing babies and they refused to recall it. They kept selling the product even when they knew it was killing babies. I will never support a company that does that. More info on their tainted formula here http://www.animaladvocates.us/petagesbilac.htm


About Mary Cummins Animal Advocates Real Estate Appraiser

Mary Cummins is President of Animal Advocates. She is licensed with the California Department of Fish & Game, USDA and the City of Los Angeles to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife. Cummins speaks to local community groups and students about respecting wildlife and humane wildlife control. She is also a Humane Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator. She has written manuals on small mammal rehabilitation besides numerous articles. She was born and raised in Southern California. She attended Beverly Hills Good Shepherd Catholic School and Beverly Hills High School. Besides being a member of Junior Mensa and on the Dean's list, she was a top ten national swimmer and competed on the men's water polo team. She began college at the age of 15 attending the University of Southern California on scholarship, majoring in Psychology/Sociology. After college Cummins became a licensed real estate agent specializing in income property in Los Angeles. She obtained her real estate appraisal license, real estate brokerage license and currently does real estate consulting, expert witness testimony and review appraisals at Cummins Real Estate Services.
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