Hedgehog leg amputation – three legged hedgehog


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.


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.


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.

You can also make a donation here.

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.


Rupert on his release day



5 thoughts on “Hedgehog leg amputation – three legged hedgehog

  1. I think you did the right thing,and a enclosed garden where he can live out the rest of his life safely but still being able to live a relatively wild life is probably the right way to go.I am surprised that you will have to pay for the stitches to be removed,at my vet that is normally covered buy the surgery fee as post op care.
    Pity you are so far away.As we would make room for him here.I know that we have Reggie who is over wintering in our garden but that will be temporary,anyway we are to far away so no matter.As for Reggie he /she has moved under the garden shed now and is currently hibernating,He/she was on and off for the last couple of weeks but looks like Reggie is in snooze land,xx Rachel and Speedy

  2. I am behind you 100% with the amputation, though I am sorry the vet is charging you. My vet, while I pay for meds, offers her services free of charge as it is wildlife, but I do know that some vets do charge to perform operationss. I would certainly question being charged for the stitches to be removed though. If he were a cat or a dog, that would be covered by the fee for the op.

    I have Lilly, who was attacked by a dog which left her with a broken front leg. The leg was splinted, but the wound was badly infected and her foot died, so she had to have her front leg amputated. I was told by a well-known rescue that she should be put to sleep since she cannot be returned to the wild or contribute to the hedgehog population. She may not be a ‘fit-for-purpose’ hedgehog, but she is still a living animal. She survived an horrific dog attack and being shut in a shed for 2 days, so I believe she deserves a chance of life. I was made to feel that I was doing the wrong thing by Lilly, but I have received a lot of support from other rescues and not one has suggested she be euthanised. It was another rescue that convinced me that I was doing the right thing as they had a boy with a back leg missing and he was quite happy living in an enclosed garden. His stump hardened so wasn’t a problem like Rupert’s.

    There’s still a chance that Lilly will not fair well in a more natural environment and if I feel she does not have a good quality of life, then we will have to make the difficult decision, but like Lilly, Rupert has come a long way and he deserves a chance.

    Hedgehogs are amazing at adapting. Rupert is young too, so has probably lived longer without his back leg than with it.

    Hedgehogs need their front legs for digging to find food, so Lilly can never be released, so she will be living out her days at my home in an escape-proof garden. Rupert could possibly be released if he finds an enclosed garden too stressful.

    If Rupert was in my care, I would release him in the spring into an enclosed garden and see how he gets on.

    Thank you for being so caring about the hedgehogs in your care. I wish Rupert a speedy recovery.

    Best wishes Monique x

  3. Hi Emma you’ve done really well with Rupert. In the past I have released three legged hedgehogs back to supported areas but would now only release to an enclosed garden where they can be monitored. The problems that face such amputees are not, as I see it, an inability to groom, or the ability to forage, but rather the fact that they are less able to get out of any hole they may find themselves in. Grooming is not a problem. I have footage showing one of my amputees Grooming. Let me know if you need an enclosed garden for Rupert when he is ready.

  4. Whatever you end up doing, Rupert has been given a second chance thanks to your care. As Monique pointed out, the individual hog is only going to be concerned about their own well being, not whether they will be a productive member of society! I hope all goes well for him.

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