Wildlives Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre
If you find a hedgehog that seems to be sick or injured - or suffering from any of the problems mentioned in these pages - please go to our How Can I Help page for information on what to do and who to call for advice.
A word also about health and safety issues. Hedgehogs very, very rarely bite. Their main defence is their prickles and so, providing you wear gloves - which you should always do if you have to handle a hedgehog - you are not in any risk of being hurt. All hedgehog diseases are indigenous to hedgehogs: you will not catch anything from them. Further, contrary to popular belief, fleas are not common to hedgehogs.
It should go without saying that a hedgehog that falls prey to any of the hazards mentioned on the 'Garden Hazards' page - if it survives the experience - will need help. However, below is a list of the most common problems found in hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs are naturally nocturnal creatures. Any hedgehog out in daylight will need help - even if there is nothing visibly wrong.
Hedgehogs get mange - a condition which is both painful and potentially life-threatening for them. The most obvious signs will be loss of prickles, scaly, flaky skin or sometimes a very thick 'crust' of skin that builds up along their sides.
The food shown here is a mixture of AD and special formulae milk substitute -
Lung worm is a parasite that occurs naturally in hedgehogs but, in a healthy hog, it will be kept to a manageable level. It is when the hedgehog's immunity is low - due to disease, injury, or dangerous weight loss - that the lung worm will take hold. Lung worm can be fatal if it gets out of control and goes untreated. The surest sign of lung worm is coughing - but it is not always easy to distinguish hedgehog coughing from other noises it may make.
Often though, a hedgehog with a lung worm problem will be brought in, either because somebody finds it out during the day, or because it has other, more visible, problems.
Hedgehogs also suffer from tics - an external parasite which vaguely resembles a small grey jellybean. Again, tics and hedgehogs go hand in hand. Many hedgehogs - admitted for other reasons - have tics behind their ears, perhaps because this is one of the few places where the hedgehog cannot remove them himself. Usually, tics will just drop off once they have had their fill. However, like lung worm, they may build up on a hedgehog that is sick or has low immunity - and heavy infestations can kill. As always with tics, they cannot be simply pulled off, for this would leave the teeth imbedded in the hedgehog's flesh. Tics are dealt with by treating the hedgehog itself.
Come October and the Wildlives hospital starts filling up with underweight hedgehogs that need to be prevented from going into hibernation. These are either hedgehogs born late in the year, as part of a second brood, that have not had sufficient opportunity to put on weight - or they are hedgehogs that were unable to find food during the summer. As it gets colder and food gets scarce, these hedgehogs succomb to disease and parasites and become more susceptible to injury to boot. If they were to go into hibernation at this stage, they would not wake up again.
Injuries caused by lawn mowers and strimmers are one of the most common type of injuries we see in hedgehogs at Wildlives. The photo on the right shows one of the luckier hedgehogs - he just had his prickles shorn. At the other end of the scale, hedgehogs are admitted with horrific wounds or missing limbs. Unfortunately, there is not always a lot that can be done in such circumstances.
During the spring and summer months, the hospital is full up with orphaned baby hedgehogs. Baby hedgehogs may need help if something happens to the mother, if she abandons them, or if they themselves have fallen victim to some predator or hazard. However, if you find a nest of hedgehogs, you
should be careful not to disturb it and you should never intervene unless you are sure that some-thing is wrong. On the other hand, if you see a baby hedgehog out and about, and it is still there after an hour or so, it will need your assistance. Please do not leave it there for a couple of days! See the Emergency Help pages for more information on what to do and who to call.
Occasionally, people bring in a nest of hedgehogs - complete with mother hog. This may be because the nest is situated in an inconvenient place, or because there is something wrong with the mother. If you find a hedgehog nest when doing building work or something, the best thing to do is to postpone the work for a little while. If this is not practical, you should seek professional advice. If there is something wrong with the mother hog, the whole nest will need to be taken into care. However, you must wear gloves when handling hedgehog babies. If the mother suspects any interference with her nest, she may abandon the babies, or even eat them!
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