I love dogs and I love hedgehogs but sadly I am seeing an increasing number of hedgehogs coming into rescue after being attacked by dogs.
Many hedgehogs are injured by dogs in private gardens and in parks and countryside when out on walks. A number of hedgehogs I have admitted with bite wounds have been from gardens on the edge of city parks. Hedgehogs love to live in the piles of leaves that dogs love sniffing through.
The problem is that dog canines bite deep into the hedgehog. The wound then quickly seals over and can then be hard to spot. Many people let the hedgehog go again thinking that it is okay. Then, up to several weeks later, abscesses appear when the deep wounds get infected.
A hedgehog with an abscess will struggle due to the infection and then often succumb to other problems, such as an increased parasite burden and it is a downward spiral, ending up with the hedgehog struggling and then being seen in daylight (when they are nocturnal).
There is also usually more than one infected wound – all four canines will normally puncture the hedgehog.
Hedgehog with an infected abscess on its face caused by a bite wound
Hedgehog with a burst abscess. This hedgehog had 8 abscesses caused by individual puncture wounds from teeth.
Treating abscesses requires a lot of TLC. The abscesses will have to be cleaned daily. Deep abscesses may also have to be drained by a vet. The hedgehog will have to be put on a strong antibiotic.
Although dogs are a major cause of bite wounds, there are also other animals that can attack them, including foxes and rats, although rat attacks are rare. Cats don’t tend to cause problems for hedgehogs.
The best way to prevent dog attacks and dog bite wounds in your garden is to ideally keep the dog out of the garden at night. If you do need to let it out, then keep it on a lead. Always check for hedgehogs first. Turn an outside light on before you go out, which will also help to encourage any hedgehogs to move away.
You need to be particularly vigilant if your dog has attacked a hedgehog before. It will likely do so again.
If your dog does pick up a hedgehog when you are out on a walk, it is always best to get the hedgehog checked over by a rescue, particularly if you see any blood on the dog or hedgehog.
As well as attacking adult hedgehogs, dogs can also disturb hedgehog nests so it is particularly important to be vigilant around the breeding season from May to September. You may have a hedgehog nest in the garden that may be disturbed by a dog even during the daytime….
If you have an injured hedgehog, there is information about what to do here
I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can support my work by making a donation or purchasing my handmade silver jewellery that raises funds for my hedgehog work.
I am pleased to say that both the hedgehogs featured in these images have made a good recovery.