Hedgehogs found with tiny grey or white blobs – ticks – between their spines are one of the most common ailments that people contact me about. They are often seen on poorly hedgehogs found out in the day and they are also frequently spotted by people using night cameras to spy on their visiting hedgehogs.
Ticks are found in the natural environment and, worryingly, their numbers are growing – see the UK Tick Threat Map. It is completely normal for a hedgehog to pick up a few ticks. Anything more than a few though, could possibly be a sign of illness.
Ticks insert their mouth-parts into their host and suck their blood. They can carry all sorts of nasties and, if a tick regurgitates its stomach contents into a host, it can cause all kinds of problems from blood poisoning through to Lyme Disease, Bordetalla or Encephalitis. They can also cause their host to become anaemic if there are multiple ticks sucking their blood.
Ticks will naturally fall off when they are full (of blood) and should only be removed if you are certain that you can remove them correctly to ensure that the tick does not regurgitate its stomach contents.
I use a tick removal tool (tick lasso) that has a special loop and is designed for the correct removal of ticks.
You must NEVER
- Burn off a tick
- Use cream, oils or other varnish
- Pull them off
- Use flat bladed tweezers as these can squash the body but leave the mouth parts in the host
If you are in any doubt, please contact a hedgehog rescue for advice.
If you are a hedgehog rescue or help with hedgehogs, there is a risk that ticks could pass onto you from a hedgehog in care. Please always check your skin thoroughly after handling any hedgehogs. You can read more about Lyme Disease, passed on via tick bites, here.
Along with ticks, hedgehogs can occasionally be found with fleas although this is very rare and may also be a sign of illness. I have also noticed fleas this Summer on very young hoglets that have been orphaned and have been struggling in the hot weather.