Wild European hedgehog
Helping hedgehogs

Hedgehog metabolic bone disease

Treating a hedgehog with metabolic bone disease

Meet Benjamin. He is very poorly with metabolic bone disease.

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 a brilliant article here that tells you more about the calcium/phosphorus ratio and busts some of the myths about things you should and shouldn’t feed hedgehogs.

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.

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.

IMG_2412Rasputin 1Benjamin’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 run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. You can find out more about my work here and also how to support it.

I also make silver nature jewellery to raise funds for my hedgehog hospital and you can visit my jewellery shop here.

Silver wildlife jewellery
Silver wildlife jewellery



15 thoughts on “Hedgehog metabolic bone disease”

  1. you can get calcium deficiency supliments based on what they d use in the wild not just for hogs but most animals from the birdcare company you ring them ask for advice I get my stuff from them for bids to rescue goats ive got two hogs now one came 6 weeks ago a vet wanted to put down it better now ive fed it natural .and only stuff from my garden and ponds as pestacides are banned in my area im glad to say most of my garden herbs ect that heal .over my field is a ditch all overgrown with dead trees their natural foods are their ,slugs and snails are about bottom of their food chain they eat small mammals as well . I get rescues from vets but rare they go back for chemical poison treatment what I don’t know I google and research

  2. I care for hedgehogs, and have taken the advice about no fishy foods and no gravy. I feed a variety of wet cat foods and biscuits. I find they prefer chicken, duck and turkey, and don’t like the beef or lamb wet food. So, what is the truth about fishy foods.

  3. Have got a first draft of my hedgehog nutrition paper

    Can I send it for your thoughts/ comments/ suggestions?

    Many thanks


    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Hi Yvonne, I’m afraid that I have taken that advice about no gravy at face value being that it was made by larger and more experienced rescues. I’m not a scientist but would be interested to hear about any findings. I find that some hedgehogs prefer certain brands to others and have not been able to find one liked by all consistently. There are many factors that can cause diarrhoea in a rescue hedgehog including bacterial infection so it would make it hard to ascertain a particular cause unless comparing well hedgehogs I would presume? I have never fed gravy based food due to the wider advice so cannot comment on that in either unwell or (probably well) wild hedgehogs….

  5. I am doing a meta analysis of hedgehog rescue

    What I cannot find any evidence for is why ‘no fish’ and ‘no gravy’

    The no fish aspect has been retracted by people like Gill Lucraft but no one knows or can explain why no gravy

    I have been in contact with the vets at Pedigree foods and they are at a loss to explain this cascaded advice and BHPS have been also at a loss to find out the origins of this other than one carer said gravy causes sickness but had no science to back this up

    We have tried many different foods with our hogs and find wilko value chicken cat food loaf type is accepted by all hogs and they thrive on it plus go cat kitten biscuits

    We have tried all the special hedgehog foods and have had diahorrea in several hogs from various brands

    This is a personal project I have been working on for some time when I get a chance and not a criticism of any other research

    I am a BSc who loves to find answers!

    Any thoughts would be very welcome

  6. So sorry about the devastating loss of Benjamin that I have only read about now. I hope it brings some comfort to know that you gave him the best care possible and that under his sad circumstances your brave decision was an act of kindness. Thinking of you and the ongoing work you do and wishing you strength.

  7. I am devastated to have to tell you that he had to be put to sleep. His right leg was not improving with treatment and further x-rays showed damage to the elbow joint. He would have been in pain without constant pain relief so it was the only option. Devastated 😦 This job is very hard sometimes.

  8. Reblogged this on Ye Olde Rectory and commented:
    Please read this blog about hedgehogs and their diet and calcium deficiency, to give you some insight on feeding wild hedgehogs that come into your garden. And please click the link on the right of my blog page, to visit a wonderful and interesting site on hedgehogs. Thanks.

  9. Great news – thank you for caring for them so well. Fingers crossed that it hibernates well and lucky that it has you to make sure it has a post hibernation feast in the Spring! x

  10. With the one we have I did what our friends who are official Hedgehog carers told me,which was a mix of meaty cat or dog food mashed up with some meaty cat biscuits and a few meal worms sprinkled on top not to many,but he/she would eat the lot.he/she is hibernating at the moment so I just leave a bowl of the cat biscuits small sprinkle of meal worms on top and a fresh bowl of water so he/has something to if he/she wakes up at all then the tinned stuff will be put down again.I check the bowl everyday to see if its been touch but so far it hasn’t. its good to know that I was given the right info on the food.its favorite seems to be the duck & chicken biscuits a and pate cat or dog food in duck,chicken and turkey flavours. I shall be happy when he/she wakes up so I know the hedgehog is going to be alright come Spring but I have to wait and see.Thank you for all that you do for these wonderful creatures,xx Rachel and Speedy

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