Sunflower seeds are inexpensive and easy to buy in bulk, but they do not provide the proper nutrition to account for 100 percent of your squirrel's diet. You may observe squirrels stealing seeds from your bird feeder, but in the wild, they have a wide-ranging diet consisting of bark, fungi, fruit, nuts and even bones. Your pet squirrel's diet should imitate that as closely as possible.
Consequences of Sunflower Diet
In mammals, a proper calcium to phosphorous ratio is crucial to maintaining proper bone strength. Without this, squirrels can develop metabolic bone disease, which is caused by a calcium deficiency. Sunflower seeds, and other nuts, have lots of phosphorous and little, if any, calcium. Calcium is not just used for strong bones. It is also important for all organic functions, such as blood circulation and respiration. This can leave squirrels weakened or paralyzed and can lead to seizures.
Feeding Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds and other nuts should make up only about 5 percent of your squirrel's diet. Native nuts are actually a better source of phosphorous than sunflower seeds, so if you can afford it, stick with nuts native to your area that can be more healthy for your squirrel.
Proper Nutrition for Squirrels
Squirrel rehabilitation centers recommend making sure at least 80 percent of your squirrel's diet should include foods that are high in calcium and other nutrients. This can come from bones, which can be purchased for rodents at pet stores or "rodent blocks," which can be purchased at pet stores and contain a variety of ingredients, such as corn, soybeans and oats. Another 15 percent should come from fruits. Though your squirrel may love nuts and seeds, they should be a small portion of the diet.