Like humans, hedgehogs can contract pneumonia. Often it is linked to having a high lungworm burden. As the name suggests, this parasite lives in the lungs and can cause severe breathing problems and secondary infections.
Pneumonia can be incredibly challenging to treat. Not all hedgehogs that are treated will make a full recovery. Pneumonia can leave hedgehogs with short or long term scarring of the lungs. Some will always be weaker as a result and more prone to future infections.
Last year I was kindly donated a nebuliser. It helps to treat breathing problems, including those linked to pneumonia. It is an ordinary human nebuliser but I have built a plastic tank to hold the hedgehog and into which the nebuliser tubes are inserted.
The hedgehog will spend a few minutes receiving the nebuliser treatment, several times each day. I use an antiseptic treatment in the nebuliser called F10.
Alongside the nebuliser treatment, the hedgehog will also receive a number of other medications and treatments depending upon the nature of its breathing problems. If it has a high burden of lung parasites, those will be treated. A long course of antibiotics may be required for pneumonia and other infections. Decongestant/expectorant drugs may also be used to help the hedgehog breathe more easily, along with pain relief.
A few drops of olbas oil on bedding can also help hedgehogs with minor breathing problems.
Sadly the hedgehog in this video did not survive but I have successfully rehabilitated another hedgehog with pneumonia. Following a very long course of treatment, she was eventually released to a secure garden (due to having suffered a number of other issues and therefore being very vulnerable if released fully to the wild) where she has thrived.
If you find a hedgehog that is having breathing problems, it is vital to get it to a vet or hedgehog rescue urgently. Breathing problems can be caused by a range of things including lungworm, pneumonia and also injuries, such as punctured/collapsed lungs. Urgent medication and pain relief is vital along with x-rays to check for injuries.
I run a hedgehog hospital in York. Equipment like this nebuliser is vital to help sick and injured hedgehogs but can be very costly. You can find out more about what running a hedgehog rescue involves and how to support my work here.