Dogs attacking hedgehogs

Wild hedgehog abscess
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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.

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Hedgehog with an infected abscess on its face caused by a bite wound

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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.

Hedgehog with metabolic bone disease

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Meet Benjamin. He is very poorly.

Benjamin was admitted to my rescue at only 330g. He has been surviving by eating bird seed over the Winter.

Benjamin has metabolic bone disease. Basically, his bones are very thin due to calcium deficiency. This is why he has problems walking. He will be in a lot of pain – it is like a human who has rickets or osteoporosis.

He was fed on a mix of sunflower hearts, mealworms and hedgehog biscuits but he has been seen picking out his favourite bits and leaving the hedgehog biscuits. This means that he will not have got enough calcium in his diet. Mealworms actively strip bones of calcium and sunflower hearts also have a calcium/phosphorus ratio that is too high.

There is little natural food around at this time of year and so his diet will not have been enriched by natural foods, such as the exoskeletons of beetles, that hedgehogs eat in the summer.

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The wild hedgehog diet. They will get calcium from the exoskeletons of beetles

Benjamin is receiving calcium injections and a high calcium diet. He has to be handled very carefully because his bones are so brittle, they can break easily. The thinnest bone is on his front right leg and this is the one that he struggles most to walk on.

It will be a long road to recovery for Benjamin – for the nutrients to build up in his bones. He will also require extensive hydrotherapy to build the strength in his bones and muscles.

As well as metabolic bone disease, he also has a high burden of internal parasites – fluke and roundworm which he also needs to fight but his immunity will be low due to his poor nutrition.

To avoid problems like this, please feed wild hedgehogs only cat/kitten biscuits, meaty cat or dog food (not gravy or fish flavours) or specialist hedgehog food. This diet will contain all the nutrients they need to supplement wild food.

Benjamin’s problems were diagnosed by a vet following an x-ray. It is vital not to self-diagnose or give hedgehogs supplements without a professional diagnosis. Giving too much vitamin D or calcium can cause many problems in wild hedgehogs that do not have metabolic bone disease.

I will keep you posted on his progress.

You can support my hedgehog rescue work at 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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Strimmed hedgehog

Hedgehog with strimmer injury
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The sound of people people using a strimmer sets my teeth on edge. I hate them! They do so much damage to wildlife including hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

This is the story of Holly and her journey to recovery from a terrible strimmer wound. She was found at the end of July with her head sliced open, underneath a Holly bush. You can see from the pictures where the strimmer blade has cut deep into her head.

Holly is lucky – a few mm closer and the blade would have entered her skull.

When Holly was found, it was Summer and flies had laid eggs in the wound and hatched into maggots. These had to be painstakingly removed one by one and then the wound washed out with antimicrobial wound treatment and saline.

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You can see where the blade has cut across Holly’s head

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Flies had laid eggs in the open wound, which had hatched into maggots

Holly was put on a course of antibiotics and pain relief. The wound was cleaned daily to stop infection and a special wound gel was added to aid healing.

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Holly’s wound after around 10 days of treatment. It has scabbed over but needs cleaning daily to prevent infection.

Eventually, the wound healed and new spines started to grow through where the wound was.

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New spines starting to grow though – around a month after treatment started

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Holly fit and well and ready to go back to the wild.

Holly is incredibly lucky. Sadly, injuries like Holly’s are far from uncommon. Many hedgehogs are not so fortunate and strimmer and mowing injuries are a major cause of suffering and death. It also took me 6 weeks of intensive care to nurse her back to health. To help prevent injuries and suffering please:

  • Check all areas of long grass carefully before mowing or strimming. Hedgehogs nest in long grass.
  • Ideally keep areas of grass long for wildlife and don’t strim at all.
  • Encourage everyone you know to check before they mow – a simple check can save hedgehogs as well as frogs, toads and other wildlife that loves to nest or forage in long grass.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England and have nursed hundreds of hedgehogs back to health. You can support my work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

My blog is full of tips and advice on helping wild hedgehogs – please take a look around my other blog posts and see what you can do to help our spiky friends.

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How to sex a hedgehog

male wild hedgehog
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Is my visiting hedgehog a girl or a boy? I’m often asked this question. The challenge of working it out often leads to many just being called ‘Spike’, which I guess works for either…..

There are a few ways you can tell what sex your hedgehog is. The first does depend on the hedgehog being cooperative and uncurling for you. You could also pop it into a see-through box so that you can take a sneaky look from underneath.

A male hedgehog has a large ‘belly-button’ about halfway up its tummy. This isn’t really a belly button but is actually his penile sheath. You can see this clearly in the pic below.

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Alex with his manhood proudly on display

You can tell a female hedgehog because her vulva is directly above her anus. You can see this in the pic below. Although it looks as if she has a protruding part, you will see that there is no gap between it and her anus. If she were a boy, she would have a ‘belly button’ like Alex a couple of cm up in the area of belly that you can see exposed and a gap between that and the anus.

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Female hedgehog

Another way of identifying the sex of your visiting hedgehogs is to observe their behavior. If you aren’t able to catch your visiting hedgehogs physically ‘in the act’ (which makes it very clear which is which!), you are more likely to see hedgehog courtship behaviour. You will certainly hear it! The male will chase and circle the female. The female will be the one being circled around and making the ‘huffing’ sound. This brilliant film featuring David Attenborough shows you everything you need to know and more!

 

Many people wonder if male and female hedgehogs can be identified by their size. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible because there are so many other factors influencing the size of a hedgehog including age, nutrition and whether females are pregnant. Like humans, some hedgehogs will naturally be smaller or larger than others and some will eat more or less than others!

Good luck and do let me know how you get on!

Hydrotherapy for hedgehogs

Hedgehog hydrotherapy
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Here is Honey – a wild European hedgehog in my rescue centre – having hydrotherapy.

When Honey arrived with me two weeks ago she would not eat and could hardly walk. She was pulling herself along with her front legs with her nose touching the ground.

The x-rays show nothing obviously wrong but it looks as if the muscles in her front legs could be weak. She walks with an odd gait with her front legs. She is receiving hydrotherapy to help build up the muscle strength.

She swims in a bath of warm water. She can just touch the bottom of the bath, which helps to stop her getting too stressed. She is only in the bath for a brief period as she is weak and can quickly tire with the exercise. She has already improved with her walking after only 5 hydrotherapy sessions.

 

Hedgehogs are actually great swimmers and can cross ponds and even rivers. However, like humans they cannot swim forever. Many hedgehogs drown in garden ponds if they cannot easily find an escape route and get tired. Please make sure you provide easy escape routes from all garden ponds – there need to be many escape options. If there is only one escape option, they won’t necessarily find it.

Honey will carry on with the hydrotherapy until hopefully she improves in her walking.

 

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!