How to tell if a hedgehog is too thin or too fat – the importance of a rounded bottom

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How can you tell if a hedgehog is a healthy weight? Thin underweight hedgehogs are likely to be sick and will need specialist treatment.

Hedgehogs being kept in captivity (because they have been sick or were too small to survive hibernation) can also get too fat. For optimum health and survival chances, it is important that hedgehogs are neither too thin or too fat.

Hedgehogs need to be over 650g to have a good chance of surviving hibernation but, like in people, the right weight depends on their size and will vary between individual hedgehogs.

Firstly, whatever its weight, any hedgehog found out in the day is likely to be poorly. This is unusual behaviour for a nocturnal animal and is usually a warning that something is wrong. Always seek advice from a hedgehog rescue.

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You can see that this hedgehog is underweight for his size. His rear end is tapered and a ‘v-shape’.

You can tell if a hedgehog is too thin by holding it on its back (wearing thick gloves) and looking at its rear end. A hedgehog that is underweight for its size will have a tapered ‘v-shaped’ rear end like in the picture above. It may also appear ‘baggy’. A healthy hedgehog should have a nice firm rounded end like in the picture below.

You can read more about the importance of the size/weight ratio here.

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Healthy hedgehog with a nice round rear end.

Being too fat can also cause problems. If a hedgehog gets so fat that it cannot curl up fully into a ball, it will be vulnerable to predation and other problems. Sadly, it is not unknown for hedgehogs that have been kept in captivity for Winter to end up being too fat. Fed on a high fat diet (especially meaty dog or cat food), if the carer does not carefully monitor the hedgehog’s weight, it can end up so obese that it cannot fully curl up into a ball. You can read about an obese wild hedgehog here.

It is much easier to prevent this happening than to put the hedgehog on a diet. It can take many weeks for the hedgehog to lose the weight and they will get stressed being kept in captivity for so long. This in itself can cause more problems. Ringworm, for example, is often triggered by stress, along with the bacterial infection Coccidiosis.

If a hedgehog in captivity is getting so fat that it can no longer fully curl, its food needs to be restricted until it starts losing weight.

This is also where the size/weight ratio is important. For some hedgehogs, 900g may be too fat. For others, they could be well over 1kg and still the right size for their weight. Being able to curl fully into a ball is critical.

The picture below is of a wild hedgehog from my garden. This weight would be too heavy for some hedgehogs but you can see that he can still fully curl into a tight ball.

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Wild hedgehog that I named ‘Whopper’. Despite being heavy at over 1.3kg, he can still fully curl into a tight ball.

The importance of making sure the hedgehog is a healthy weight means you should always seek guidance from an expert wildlife rescue if you are considering looking after a hedgehog. A thin, underweight hedgehog is likely to be very sick and in need of urgent specialist treatment.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about my work here and also how to support it. I also make silver jewellery to raise funds for my hedgehog hospital and you can visit my shop here.

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Octavia’s story – a hedgehog miracle!

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I wanted to share this video with you all – Octavia’s story. She came into my hedgehog hospital as a tiny hoglet only 153g. She had a terrible infected bite wound. It took weeks to treat the injury. Then she lost all her fur and most of her spines due to ringworm. This is common when a hedgehog is run down or sick. It has been a long journey to recovery but she is now over 650g and ready for hibernation.

 

You can read more about Octavia’s injury was treated here.

UPDATE MAY 2018.

I am so proud to say that Octavia was released back to the wild on 6 May 2018. Stay safe miracle girl!

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Octavia upon her release in May 2018

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Octavia on release evening. See how well this side of her face (which was injured) has healed

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

Hedgehog with metabolic bone disease – why mealworms, peanuts and sunflower seeds are bad for hedgehogs

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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 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.

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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 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.

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Hedgehog leg amputation – three legged 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.

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.

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Rupert on his release day

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Hedgehog hydrotherapy – hedgehogs can swim well but they can’t swim forever

Hedgehog hydrotherapy
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Here is Honey – a wild European hedgehog in my rescue centre – having hydrotherapy.

When Honey arrived with me two weeks ago she would not eat and could hardly walk. She was pulling herself along with her front legs with her nose touching the ground.

The x-rays show nothing obviously wrong but it looks as if the muscles in her front legs could be weak. She walks with an odd gait with her front legs. She is receiving hydrotherapy to help build up the muscle strength.

She swims in a bath of warm water. She can just touch the bottom of the bath, which helps to stop her getting too stressed. She is only in the bath for a brief period as she is weak and can quickly tire with the exercise. She has already improved with her walking after only 5 hydrotherapy sessions.

 

Hedgehogs are actually great swimmers and can cross ponds and even rivers. However, like humans they cannot swim forever. Many hedgehogs drown in garden ponds if they cannot easily find an escape route and get tired. Please make sure you provide easy escape routes from all garden ponds – there need to be many escape options. If there is only one escape option, they won’t necessarily find it.

Honey will carry on with the hydrotherapy until hopefully she improves in her walking.

UPDATE: Honey eventually made a good recovery and was released back to the wild.

I run a hedgehog hospital in York. My work is entirely self-funded. You can support my work by perusing my handmade silver jewellery or making a donation. You can also read more about my hedgehog rescue work here.

 

The cost of hedgehog rescue – what is involved with running a wildlife hospital

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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!