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….

 

 

 

Hedgehogs ‘born free’!

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It has been a very busy few weeks as the over-wintered hedgehogs are returned to the wild. I’ve released 38 so far since the start of Spring!

It has been late releasing them this year due to the cold night time temperatures until May. It has to be 5 degrees or above at night for at least 5 days in a row after release for them to be able to go. If it is too cold and frosty, there wont be enough insects around for them to eat.

Where possible, the hedgehogs are returned to where they came from. They will remember the area and the food sources and nest sites. Sometimes this isn’t possible though if the area has dangers – for example, if a hedgehog has been attacked by a dog in the garden or if it was found in a pond. I have strict criteria for new sites.

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Derek was found in early Spring struggling after hibernation. He had a high worm burden and ringworm.

To give them the best start back in the wild, the hedgehogs are all supported for at least the first few weeks. They are provided with food and water daily and they are given nest boxes filled with hay to give them shelter whilst they seek their own homes.

It is a bittersweet time because they have been cared for over winter for many months and I will miss them deeply but it is what hedgehog rescue is all about – getting them back to the wild to play their part in maintaining the wild population. Keeping them too long can cause them to get stressed, particularly males so, as soon as they are fit and well and the temperatures are okay, they are off!

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Autumn was found out in daylight – which 99% of the time means there is a problem. She had a wound, was missing an eye and had a high roundworm burden.

People often ask me if rehabilitation is successful. Well, I mark them all with a tiny bit of nail varnish which should last at least 12 months. So far, not a single hedgehog has come back to me poorly. Beyond the 12 months though is unknown….

Good luck out there hedgehogs!

I run a hedgehog hospital in York – to support my work please visit Little Silver Hedgehog jewellery

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How to sex a 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!

The cost of hedgehog rescue

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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!

 

Help – I’ve found a hedgehog

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Hedgehogs out in the day are in need of help

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and should not be out in the day. A hedgehog out in the day is in urgent need of rescue. Hedgehogs never sunbathe.

Don’t delay, the faster you act, the greater the chance of saving the hedgehog. Speed in getting help is particularly important if the hedgehog is collapsed/not moving or is shaking/wobbling when walking.

What to do.

  1. Pick it up with thick gloves on.
  2. Contain the hedgehog in something with very high sides. Plastic recycling boxes from the Council are excellent. It may climb out of anything with lower sides.
  3. Place it somewhere warm. This is vital if the hedgehog feels cold to the touch or is shaking/wobbling.
  4. Fill a hot water bottle or a leak-proof drinks bottle with hot water.

Don’t use boiling water. Wrap the bottle in an old towel and place it at the bottom of the box. Then place the hedgehog onto the heat and cover it with an old towel or fleece. It is vital to make sure that there is room for the hedgehog to move away from the heat source. Keep checking on the bottle to make sure it is warm – if it gets too cold it will take heat away from the hedgehog.

5. Offer a little dish of meaty cat/dog food and a shallow dish of water.

6. Get some help. Caring for poorly hedgehogs is a specialist task. Don’t be tempted to try and care for it yourself without seeking advice.

If you have found a baby hedgehog/nest of baby hedgehogs do not touch them with bare hands. Always wear gloves. Seek urgent advice before picking up the babies – a hedgehog rescue can advise whether they are likely to have been abandoned or whether mum may come back.

Finding a hedgehog rescue

You can find details of hedgehog/wildlife rescues from the following:

www.helpwildlife.co.uk – the site also has more useful advice on what to do if you find sick/injured wildlife.

Top tip – put the above number into your phone NOW! Do it before you forget – then you will have the number handy if you ever need to find a hedgehog rescue.

A specialist hedgehog rescue is the best option but if you cannot find anyone else and especially if the hedgehog looks to be in pain/injured or is shaking/wobbling, take it to a vet. Most vets will treat wildlife for free.

Hedgehogs feeding in garden

Healthy hedgehogs will only be seen at night

 

WANTED – homes for hedgehogs!

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“I want a garden hedgehog!” If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that, I would be a rich woman!

I’m on the lookout for suitable release sites for 30+ hedgehogs that have spent the Winter in care. I want the best of the best for these rehabilitated hedgehogs so please let me know if you can offer the perfect des-res. Below are the minimum requirements that all homes must meet. I am looking for homes within 5 miles of York but other hedgehog rescues will have similar criteria.

1.. You must already have hedgehogs regularly visiting your garden. This is the only way to know that the habitat is suitable and that the hedgehogs will find a mate. You can’t just release one or two hedgehogs and hope they will colonize an area. If hedgehogs aren’t in the area, sadly, there is a reason…..

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You must already have hedgehogs regularly visiting your garden

2. You must be well away from busy main roads – hazardous to hedgehogs.

3. You and your neighbours must not use slug pellets, pesticides or herbicides – all of these can cause poisoning and death. You must also avoid use of garden netting, check carefully before strimming and forking (and ideally not strim your garden at all)

4. Your garden must be linked to at least 10 large gardens via hedgehog holes/hedges/open fencing. The ideal garden will offer plenty of ground cover for foraging and nest sites.

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The perfect garden will offer wild areas for foraging and shelter

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The best release sites will be packed with native plants to attract insects – beetles and caterpillars are the top two foods for hedgehogs

5. You must provide a suitable escape route from any ponds.

6. You must provide some form of shelter. This can be anything from a homemade house  under a log pile, to a specially purchased hedgehog box. This will give your new resident a helping hand to set up home.

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A hedgehog house made under our log store from bricks, twigs and leaves. It provides great shelter from the elements and also a home for insects.

7. You must leave food and water out daily for at least the first month and ideally forever. For advice about feeding hedgehogs, read my blog

8. Not near badger sites. Badgers will predate hedgehogs where they live in close proximity.

If you didn’t get past the first essential requirement, many people find that if they leave food and water out regularly, they discover they do have hedgehog visitors!

If you are interested in being a release site, drop me a line via my Facebook page

My work rehabilitating hedgehogs is entirely self funded. I raise funds for medicines, food and equipment by making silver jewellery inspired by nature – great ethical gifts!