Squashing the myth – hedgehogs are full of fleas….

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The phone rings. “Help, I have found a baby hedgehog but I can’t pick it up to put it in a box because it is full of fleas. The fleas will get onto my dog and I have a baby and the baby will catch fleas.”

It’s a myth that all hedgehogs are covered in fleas. I’ve been running a hedgehog rescue for over 5 years and I have seen around 6 hedgehogs in that time that have had fleas. That is out of over 350 hedgehogs admitted. Yet, you’d be surprised how many people say that they cannot help rescue a hedgehog due to the risk of fleas.

The very few hedgehogs that have had fleas have either been incredibly poorly or have been young hoglets that were orphaned some time ago and have been struggling on their own.

In the very rare instance that a hedgehog has fleas, the fleas will not infest your dog, your cat, your house, your baby….. The hedgehog flea (scientific name: Archaeopsylla erinacei) is host specific. That means that it can only live on hedgehogs. It cannot live on anything else.

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The hedgehog flea

“But” I hear you say, “I’ve got a resident hedgehog who visits every night and I often see it scratching….” Well, itches can be caused by many things, just like they can in humans. It is nothing to worry about unless the hedgehog is found out in the day, which is a sign that is is unwell. If it is only seen at night, leave it alone.

What you are more likely to see on a hedgehog, are ticks. These blood-sucking critters also affect other animals and there are many species of them. Hedgehogs are affected by the hedgehog tick (scientific name: Ixodes Heagonus).

Increasingly mild winters mean that ticks are not being killed off and it is quite common and normal to see a hedgehog with a few ticks. One or two will not cause any harm and will drop off naturally once they’ve had their feast.

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Ticks removed from a hedgehog. Notice the variety of sizes and colours – they are all the same species.

Sometimes a hedgehog is found that is absolutely covered in ticks. The ticks can cause anaemia and pass on other infections. Sometimes this is an indication that the hedgehog is sick, likely to be the case if the hedgehog is found out in the day. But lots of ticks don’t necessarily mean that the hedgehog is sick because milder winters mean that fewer ticks are being killed off. The unlucky hedgehog may just have slept in a tick nest and been targeted. But, the ticks will need to be removed to prevent anaemia.

The treatment of fleas and ticks is a specialist job and you can do more harm than good if you try to treat them yourselves. Flea treatments for cats and dogs will kill hedgehogs. If you remove ticks the wrong way, it can lead to infection and disease.

if you find a hedgehog that you suspect to be ill, follow the advice here and remember that a few ticks are absolutely normal and fine…..

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can help me continue my work by supporting me via www.littlesilverhedgehog.com

 

 

Poo glorious hedgehog poo!

Hedgehog poo
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Hedgehog poo

Hedgehog poo – the morning after the night before!

Many people get excited about the first signs of Spring – daffodils raising their sunny heads and delicate snowdrops swaying in the breeze…. But for me, poo is the most exciting sign of Spring….

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and, unless you plan to spend endless hours camped out by your patio doors or invest in a wildlife camera, you are more likely to see hedgehog excrement than the creature that left it.

Hedgehogs emerge from hibernation any time from March onwards and the sign of fresh black droppings on the lawn is a wonderful sign that my spiky friends have emerged safely from their deep sleep. The ‘poo calendar’ reminds me that it is time to leave out fresh water and food every day to help my prickly guests.

Top tip: If you want to know if you have a hedgehog visitor, go on a poo hunt around your garden!

Healthy hedgehog droppings are black or dark brown in colour, solid and usually oval or tapered. They can be up to 5cm long. Stools also provide a vital insight into the hedgehog diet. Hedgehog poo will often ‘glisten’ due to being packed with the remains of invertebrates, such as beetle wings and other body parts. Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t just eat slugs. Beetles are their favourite foods and eating too many slugs can actually be bad for them as they are an intermediate host for lungworm. This horrid parasite can cause weight loss, breathing problems and ultimately death.

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Top tip: Help your hedgehogs to have lovely healthy shiny black poo by packing your garden with native plants and log piles to attract beetles. There more plants the better!

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Flowers in my wildlife garden

Hedgehog poo is also a vital indicator of health in other ways. Green slimy poo can be a sign that a hedgehog is poorly and in need of rescue, so keep a close eye on your hedgehogs if you see any dodgy poo around your feeding stations.

Hedgehog rescuers like myself also love looking at poo under the microscope. Parasites can be identified under the microscope that can then be treated, with the most common being lungworm (from slugs) and roundworm (from earthworms). Bacterial infections can also be identified. Studying poo is one of my favourite passtimes…

Looking at hedgehog poo through the microscope

Studying poo under the microscope

Roundworm in hedgehog poo under microsope credit Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Roundworm eggs under the microscope: courtesy Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Lungworm in hedgehog poo under microscope credit Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Lungworm under the microscope: courtesy Whitby Wildlife Rescue

So, poo glorious poo, my favourite sign of Spring!

I’d love to know when you spot the first hedgehog poo in your garden….

My hedgehog rescue is entirely self-funded. To support my rescue work please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

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Amputee hedgehog

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Meet Rupert. He arrived with me a couple of months ago as a small hoglet. He was only 300g. When I inspected him I could smell that something wasn’t right. Wildlife rescuers go a lot by smell – you get to know the smell of infection and poo that is not normal. I often know something is wrong before I see it. On closer inspection I could see that Rupert was missing half of his rear back leg and it was infected.

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Gorgeous Rupert has such a lovely nature despite the challenges posed by his stump leg

I’ll never know what caused Rupert to lose his leg but it is possible that it was a fox or dog attack. I have been caring for him for several months to get him fit and healthy. As well as a stump leg, he was also full of internal parasites, like many Autumn juvenile hedgehogs.

Despite intensive treatment, Rupert’s stump did not heal fully (although the infection cleared) and it opened up whenever he tried to walk any distance. It was impossible for him to return to the wild in this state. The stump would get infected and cause pain and suffering.

Once he got to a good weight and parasite free, I took him for an amputation to remove the remaining stump.

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The stump has never fully healed and opens up when he walks any distance

Rupert is now on bed rest whilst he recovers from the operation and will return in two weeks to have the stitches removed.

What next for Rupert? Well, assuming there are no complications, the next stage will be the difficult bit. There are mixed views about returning 3 legged hedgehogs to the wild. Some say they can survive okay. They can certainly still move fast with 3 legs. Others say that they cannot groom properly and will be more susceptible to things like ticks. So…. next for me will be to find my personal resolution for the dilemma of whether to release him fully back to the wild or to an enclosed garden where he will be safe but will not be able to contribute towards maintaining the hedgehog population.

What would you do?

My work is entirely self-funded and I have to pay for operations like amputations as well as antibiotics and pain relief post operation. I will also have to pay again for him to have the stitches removed. I believe it is worth it to give him a second chance of life. You can support my work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

I’ll share more news about Rupert as he hopefully recovers….

Update May 2017

Rupert’s wound got infected not long after his operation. After a course of antibiotics, he was eventually well enough to return to nature. Due to the amount of intensive care during his rehabilitation, I decided to release him to an enclosed garden. He is now safe in a half acre garden where he can be monitored.

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Rupert on his release day

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The cost of hedgehog rescue

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European hedgehog

Andy, a rescued wild hedgehog

Of course you cannot put a price on the life of a hedgehog like Andy. Hedgehog numbers are in sharp decline and every prickly life is precious. But did you know that the vast majority of wildlife rescues are entirely self-funded and do it just for love?

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to look back over the past 12 months and see what supplies I’ve needed to keep rescuing hedgehogs. Bear in mind that I am a very small rescue, with 50 admitted over 2015. Larger rescues will have much higher costs.

My  shopping list excludes food (except for the baby hoglets). It may surprise you that one hedgehog alone can consume two trays of cat food a day. Where they put it I have no idea! So, on top of this you need to add cat biscuits, hedgehog food, cat/dog meat and more for 50 hedgehogs (many of whom are with me for up to 6 months and may not hibernate) – at least £1,000.

The list also excludes vet bills for worming treatments, x-rays and antibiotics plus diesel for driving round to pick up hedgehogs, to check up on hedgehogs out with foster carers and to release hedgehogs when they have been rehabilitated. Then there is the electric bill for all the piles of washing to keep all the hedgehog blankets clean and the heat pads on.

Add at least another £500 (more if amputations are required or significant additional vet intervention).

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You need a lot of bowls to feed a lot of hedgehogs!

So, here is the list of what I have needed over the past 12 months.

  • 8  bottles of hutch cleaner
  • 140 cans of puppy mousse
  • 20 cans of critical care mousse
  • 150 microscope slides and covers
  • 6 bottles of anti-bacterial spray
  • 3 heat pads
  • 1 microwave heat pad
  • 100 pods of saline
  • 1 bottle of hand sanitiser foam
  • 1 hand sanitiser foam dispenser
  • 3 tubs of critical care formula
  • 1 chick brooder
  • 10 large bags of hay
  • 3 bags of cotton wool buds
  • 1 bottle of sweet almond oil
  • 100 10ml syringes
  • 50 1 ml syringes
  • 2 packets of vitamin supplement
  • 4 tubs of lactose-free puppy milk
  • 1 bottle of Hibiscrub
  • 400 sterilising tablets
  • 2 bottles of germicidal wound spray
  • 2 bottles of mite drops
  • 3 bottles of wound cleaner
  • 1 bag of pipettes
  • 1 bag of feeding tips
  • 1 bottle of aloe vera spray
  • 6 fleece blankets
  • 14 packets/tubes of worming treatment
  • 2 tubes of tea tree cream
  • 2 bottles of ringworm treatment
  • 5 tubes of athlete’s foot cream (for ringworm)
  • 20 packets of spot on fluke treatment
  • 3 fly mesh screens
  • 1 fly catcher
  • 1 set of digital scales
  • 10 cleaning cloths
  • 6 clipboards for recording vital statistics in the hospital
  • 10 ceramic feeding bowls
  • 2 pairs of thick rubber gloves
  • 2 boxes of disposable plastic gloves
  • 4 bottles of washing up liquid

Cost = £1500

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The washing machine is on constantly to wash all the hedgehog blankets

So…. please remember when you find wildlife in need that the rescue that takes it in won’t receive any funding and will be running on nothing but love. Check out your nearest rescue and see what you can do to help.

I am so lucky to be supported by so many hedgehog lovers who have donated many of the items on my list above and continue to support my work. I could not do it without them.

If you would like to support my work and you shop online, you can make a donation every time you shop at absolutely no cost to you – just sign up through this site and click through before you shop Easy Fundraising for Little Silver Hedgehog Rescue Centre

I also make silver jewellery to support my rescue work Little Silver Hedgehog

Thank you on behalf of me, all the wildlife rescues and, of course, all the hedgehogs!