HEDGEHOG NEWSLETTER - NUMBER 40
Please let me have any tips, comments, ideas, problems or information that I can pass on to other hedgehog rehabilitators by way of this newsletter. Do try to send any information that may be of interest to other carers and if you are a beginner then feel free to ask any questions. If you are anywhere other than in the UK please remember this newsletter is about the European Hedgehog and that drugs and legal implications may be different in other countries.
Please note that I receive comments from other rehabilitators so when I use the word "I" this is not necessarily referring to me personally but rather the original author.
I am also using e-mails to get quick answers and views on carers' problems. Topics can then be included in later newsletters - in this newsletters are views on Frontline, self-mutilation and poisoning. The originator of the query receives comments as they come through.
The Welsh Hedgehog Hospital's FAQ page can be found at http://www.whh.org/treatments/faq/
A carer has provided the following suggestion: "I fed Sonic Iams both dry and tinned, along with Spike's Banquet. I also found Vitakraft Hedgehog food.
I found that if I mixed the Vitakraft food with the tinned Iams Sonic would sneak out and eat the lot. I came across this when I took some of my baby Hamsters to a pet shop the cost of this was quite cheap (£2.99). I hope that this feeding idea can be passed on to other carers as I found it helped with the hedgehog I looked after. You can also mix in the Spike Hedgehog food. I did find that the Iams was the popular food and it is easy to get hold of as well as most pet shops do supply it."
Note - I believe that in the USA they have had problems with prolonged use of dried Iams for their pet African Pigmy Hedgehogs. See News from Overseas below.
I was asked for comments on the use of Frontline because a carer's vet was using it to treat fleas. These are the comments I received:
1) I have had no problems with Frontline. I use it only on ticks. I dip a cotton wool bud in it and apply to tick not touching the hog at all. The vets have a neat little spray attachment to their bottles of Frontline and apply to hoglets of 300g at the rate of one puff each side. One vet assured me that half a puff each side is okay on smaller hoglets. I said not to bother as if there are only a few fleas I find that washing bedding at 95deg C. will get rid of them in less than a week. I believe that moderation and sparing are the two words. One vet tried to deal with mange mite using Frontline, it was unsuccessful and the injections succeeded.
2) Very few cases of poisoning, none with Frontline.
3) Yes, we have had 2 hedgehogs die after use of frontline last year, this year we have not had any hedgehogs so far admitted with fleas, and we always advise only the use of Johnson's Ridmite.
4) We recently had an email about a 150gm that was treated with a drop of Frontline; it was covered in fly eggs and maggots but still able to curl. The patient is apparently doing well with no adverse effects.
5) Any books that I have read about hedgehogs with fleas state NEVER to use any sort of spray, as it is so easy for the hedgehogs to inhale it. If something must be used to kill fleas, only use pyrethrum-based powder.
6) Why would anyone need to use such a strong chemical on small creatures such as Hedgehogs? I use the safe and proven Johnson's rid-mite powder. I have no flea problems. For mass tick infestation I use an injection of Ivomec.
7) Yes I have found Frontline has caused deaths in a few of my hedgehogs, I was amazed as I had thought it was ok! but it certainly has killed them, I put it down to the fact that it wets the animal too much and because it was sick anyway, it may have got cold and died because of that, but I'm not sure now. I have told people not to use it after my experiences; we only use Johnson's
Rid-mite powder, that is safe.
8) We've experienced no problems using Frontline - even on small hogs of 100g. We use just a tiny smidge, sucking a bit out with a syringe and dropping it on is easier than spraying and avoids the eyes.
9) This comment comes from a vet - Frontline - We have limited experience but no adverse effects. The active ingredient - fipronil- is considered to be of very low toxicity to mammals. I have used it in reptiles and birds, especially raptors and pigeons, with no problems at all.
10) This comment is from a vet nurse - I haven't heard of any problems. We have often used IVOMEC injections for hedgehogs but that is systemic and a lot less safe than Frontline. The only
complication I can think of is that the alcohol base is very chilling and can lead to hypothermia if the animal is already weak/shocked. Frontline is not advised for use in rabbits but can be used on puppies and kittens as young as three days old. (The pump spray, not the spot on.) The technical advisors I
have spoken to have advised me that Frontline is the safest flea product to use with geriatric pets and pets with compromised kidney and liver function - and this advice came from Frontline's competitors.
11) I've had no problems with Frontline that I know of. I only use it sparingly around the back end, and would make sure the hog didn't roll up until the fumes had dispersed, and dab a little on cotton buds if I needed to use it around the ears or face.
12) Another comment from a vet - No I have not had any deaths or adverse reactions due to Frontline.
13) I sometimes use frontline if I get a hog with clusters of very small ticks, usually around the bottom area. I have never had any problems with this.
14) Both my vet and an RSPCA Chief Inspector have had problems with Frontline. I myself use it regularly but I think the way it is used is the important factor. I follow the same basic rules as for any sprays with hedgehogs.
a) I never spray near the face or the under belly (incase they curl into the spray).
b) I ensure that they are not caged or boxed for at least 5 minutes after spraying.
c) If I require to use it on face or under belly I spray some into a small pot and paint it on the effected areas, ensuring the hedgehog never breaths in the Frontline straight after it has been sprayed to allow the gases to be released.
d) I only use the amount of pumps allowed according to the weight of the animal.
I must admit a lot of my carers and others who I have instructed use it, but following the above instructions and never have had any problems. I only use it on animals over 175gms and only on animals with Ticks as I have found it too expensive to use as a flea spray.
NOTE: on the container of Frontline it tells you how much is delivered with each spray (the one I have is 0.5ml). I understand the max dose rate for hedgehogs is 3mls per kilo.
The problem with knowing whether a treatment has killed an animal is that it may have died anyway and unless comprehensive tests are carried out the true cause of death will not be know.
Another query but this time about a litter of 4 hoglets that had been separated and then started to self mutilate their feet. These are the comments I received:
1) Never had this problem, I have had them try to commit suicide by deliberately crawling off heat pad, trying to drown themselves and rolling on their backs. These hoglets usually succeed in the end as well.
2) With regards to self mutilation a lady who no longer cares for hogs once told us that sometimes hogs that are quite greedy will suck on themselves or other hogs until they make wounds on each other in one case she said they had removed toes from there own feet. We now always put in a fluffy toy or something as a substitute mum and have seen hoglets sucking them could it be like a baby with a dummy and they do it for comfort.
3) I have seen dogs chew at skin to the stage where it is eaten away when there has been a mite infestation but nothing like that in hedgehogs, and as you say I have heard of animals chewing off limbs when trapped or snared.
4) Perhaps some sort of skin irritation could be the cause. Maybe mites or other skin infection that is not immediately obvious. I know parrots can self mutilate for this reason, as the irritation causes them distress.
5) Guinea pigs self mutilate when they have a mite infestation. As mites can be very difficult to see, unlike fleas, perhaps that can be the problem. Ivomec or Stronghold would take care of mites.
6) As I have seen it, it is always associated with pain (usually in feet) or lack of sensation, esp. in toes. Most commonly it is a wound or sore feet from running around.
7) Have not had this problem, if there was pain in the joints I would try Rimadyl it is a painkiller and is prescribed for animals with arthritis. Why were they separated? Could this be the key as you say they started to self mutilate after they were separated. Are they very stressed or bored as some animals such as birds pluck themselves through boredom.
8) I have never seen this, but I do know that if you put any injury in with other hogs they will attack it and even eat it! I believe they think as it is cold or bleeding they think its food or dead meat and chew it We keep all injuries very separate, but if one hog dies in the box overnight, sometimes I find the others have attempted to eat it!
9) I think you're right about the loss of feeling if a leg etc has been tied tightly, then it seems very possible that the hog may try to bite it off. We used to keep chickens and one got an air gun pellet in its leg, and we found it had bitten off the damaged leg by the morning!
10) I have seen hogs chew their toes off in response to nail bed infection. This can occur due to build up of dirt on the toes, especially the base of the nail, and/or abrasion. Don't know if this is a possibility in this case?
11) Unfortunately we have had three cases of sibling attacks - always on the smallest of the litter. One had to be put to sleep as both back legs were mutilated and beyond help. The other two are doing well.
12) Other possibilities could be an irritation from the bedding eg if sawdust or shavings are used, or perhaps a reaction to a different washing powder. I have seen it in hedgehogs that have had netting wrapped around limbs. I guess when the tingling sensation returns they find this irritating or perhaps they get phantom feelings in nerve-damaged legs.
I have been asked to request information about poisoning and this request and the replies I received follow. However I would like to say that I suspect that many cases of poisoning in wildlife go unreported. This could be because there are many different symptoms and these symptoms can also be signs of other diseases or traumas. On the other hand it should not be assumed that all hedgehogs presenting with some of these symptoms have been poisoned. As well as the poisons being lethal there is also the way they are used that is harmful. I wonder how many users of slug pellets actually read the literature to see the recommended "dose" to use - most just scatter and overdose the area.
I have tried to make a list of some of the symptoms associated with certain poisons - I have read various bits of literature to get as much detail as possible. However I had a confirmed case of metaldehyde poisoning that was just depressed and off its food.
Metaldehyde - coma, convulsions, bluish tinge to mucus membranes, dilation of pupils, difficult or laboured breathing, excitement, incoordination, muscle tremors, salivation. Also look for blue powder on the prickles from self-anointing. Treatment - if recent induce vomiting and administer liquid paraffin. Sedate for convulsions. Calcium borogluconate may help and fluid therapy. Sadly many will arrive some time after eating the poison and treatment will be too late.
Methiocarb (I understand that this is more likely used for slug control in crops). Abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, salivation, sweating (may notice they have damp pads to their feet) difficult or laboured breathing, blue tinge to mucus membranes, incoordination, twitching, hyperactivity, followed by weakness and paralysis, convulsions, coma. Treatment - atropine sulphate.
Warfarin (works by preventing the blood from clotting so the animal bleeding to death) - abdominal pain, bleeding from nose, pale mucus membranes, vomiting (may be blood in vomit), diarrhoea, difficult or laboured breathing, blood in urine, lameness. Again a blue powder may be noticed on the prickles but the poison can also be mixed with oatmeal. Treatment - transfuse whole blood and injections of Vitamin K.
Some Warfarin poisons can last in the system for 2-4 weeks so treatment may need to continue for some time. Clotting time should be checked to see when the effects of the poison are no longer present.
Suspected cases of deliberate poisoning can be reported by telephoning 0800 321 600. Sometimes MAFF/ADAS will carry out tests to see if an animal or bird has been poisoned but often this needs to be an incident where more than one casualty is found in a particular area.
Anne and Garth Mayfield have requested information as follows:
"The MAFF Vet has asked if any other people have had poison cases, resulting in no energy, extreme muscle wastage and vomiting blood before dying. Any with these problems can contact me by email and I will pass them on to her.
Do you know of any vets that might have had these problems as well or might be willing to do a post mortem on any hogs dying from it."
I have received the following replies:
1) From "Hedgehog-Friends in Denmark" - We have this year had troubles with ant-poison (the stuff people water with). Moms drag their belly over the poison, and the babies get a slow death
after drinking at the Mother. We also have problems with rat poison we give the bigger (over 200 grams) hedgies two drops of K. vitamin in 2 ml. Chamomile tea worked. At the same time I was giving them plenty of herb tea (a mix of Chamomile, Elderberry flowers and Stinging nettle, 40%, 40 %, 20 %) to "flush" them good out. The bigger ones (over 450 gr.) got an Atropine shot the following day.
2) At last it's getting noticed! We have had a good number of cases poisoned by either slug pellets or rat poison here, it can't be mistaken! I see around 2000 hogs a year, and have witnessed this first hand, the hogs that have come from a garden with slug pellets admittedly used, start with reluctance to eat, very sensitive to noise, they flinch with every sound, excitable, sometimes if they try to stand they will shake and wobble rapidly, its different from the wobbling you get from just a weak cold hog, then they twitch violently as if in extreme pain, pulling themselves in tight for a second then letting go again. In the later stages they scream, then blood comes from the anus, and then death.
Warfarin seems to work differently, these hogs are quiet, wont eat, weak, and usually blood can be seen from early on. I have no doubts at all that these hogs have been poisoned, this area uses slug pellets in abundance, and the councils have put rat poison down on every supermarket and buildings, the boxes have holes large enough for a small hog to get in and they are placed in the most likely position for a hedgehog to stubble upon. I have tried to get the message across to garden centres, we do talks at schools, gardening clubs etc, but it's like banging your head against a brick wall! One of our hospital cats died from poisoning in the same horrific manner from eating a poisoned bird or mouse, he died in my arms screaming and thrashing about at 3 am. We must stop this happening!
3) I am veterinary surgeon to Greendale Laboratories Ltd., Lansbury Estate, Knaphill, Woking, Surrey GU21 2EW, a veterinary diagnostic laboratory with special interests in wildlife and exotic species.
I would be very happy to discuss our involvement in post mortem and other diagnostic testing of hedgehogs (at charity rates which we can talk about) so please give me a call on 07768 006935.
I hope we can help. Stephen W. Cooke BVSc, MRCVS
4) The following article was in a local (Cleveland) newspaper and was also followed up by TV and radio. Unfortunately I don't know the person concerned and they appear to be ex directory.
"Concern as mystery illness hits hedgehogs
A MYSTERY illness which has killed dozens of hedgehogs in a North-East village has baffled animal lovers. Brenda Angus says at least 24 of the prickly creatures have fallen ill and died in the past month at the haven she runs from her home in Woodham, Newton Aycliffe, County Durham. She is concerned that the creatures, which are being found in and around a wooded area, have been exposed to some form of poison, possibly laid down for rats. The hedgehogs, which have been brought to her by concerned residents, have all shown the same symptoms. They want to eat and drink, but are unable to do so, and after a few days they begin haemorrhaging, before dying.
Mrs Angus said: "These poor creatures are dying a horrific death and I just cannot fathom out what is going wrong. Since April, I have seen at least two dozen hedgehogs die, and if we cannot get to the bottom of this soon the entire population in that area will be wiped out." Mrs Angus has been able to save a few of the hedgehogs, by taking them to vets, who have provided a poison antidote. "I have heard that there has been a rat infestation in the area and I just wonder whether it is this that is killing the hedgehogs," said Mrs Angus. "One thing is for sure, I am not going to release any more in the area until we find out what is killing them."
Eric Beevers, an environmental health officer at Sedgefield Borough Council, said that the council does not put rat poison outdoors for such a reason. "It is something we do not do, but we have suggested that Mrs Angus gets an autopsy done on one of the creatures to find out what is wrong."
Mrs Angus, who says her winter budget has already been stretched to breaking point by the hedgehog deaths, is now planning to have a post-mortem examination carried out on one of the dead animals."
5) I have had quite a lot of (what I think have been) poisoned Hedgehogs this year. Although most of mine, I think, have been from rat poison, as they have been bleeding from the rear end. (Vet also thought rat poison). The Mayfield's first two symptoms are similar but not the third.
6) We have had numbers of hogs like this, usually the information to us is that either they or the neighbours use slug pellets, occasionally the hog has been seen eating slugs that have died after eating the pellets. None of our admissions like this have survived. A few years ago a visiting professor asked if he could have some of the carcasses to examine, he said the poison in the pellets is lethal and he was trying to get government to ban one of the substances in them. That probably accounts for the loss of the garden thrush too.
Mange could kill off hedgehog population
Much to my surprise I did not receive any comments on this item from the last newsletter!
Loss of Pigment
"Re: pink blotches on nose - I have seen many hedgehogs with pink or partially pink noses and I think that this is just a natural variation in how much pigment they have. It is unlikely to be due to wear and tear because the melanin in the skin is below the top layer of skin. Pigmentation could potentially change with age but I strongly doubt that this could be consistent enough to be useful in age-determination.
Re: pink noses I have noticed my older hogs have a continuing loss of pigmentation."
Loss of Prickles
"On the subject on loss of prickles we have never had any trouble with Esbilac and babies and have used it for all our babies."
News from Overseas
The diets that are fed to APH (African Pygmy Hedgehogs) are varied in the US and Canada. The theory that most people believe is that no single food made here for hedgehogs is complete; a mixed diet of commercially available foods is necessary plus vitamin supplements, human food, crickets and mealworms.
Some cat foods sold in the US and CA are *very* bad for hedgehogs, Iams Kitten food in particular. The Science Diet Cat maintenance and 'light' kibbles are very popular. Many people use this kibble cat food as the main part of their hedgehog diet, and then add eggs, cooked chicken, baby foods like green beans or fruits, cottage cheese or whatever else is on hand. There are several commercially available hedgehog foods that are pretty good...but then again, they are just 1 part of the whole hedgehog diet.
L'Avian, 8 in 1, and Select Diet are all very good. I use Select Diet plus the Hills Science Diet cat maintenance. Brisky's and Pretty Pets are also commercial hedgehog foods, but it's hit and miss whether your animal will eat it or not...mine HATED both kinds and would pick all other kibble out of the bowl and leave Briskys and Pretty Pets behind.
The Hills Science Diet wet canine/feline A/D food is a good wet food to use with sick hedgehogs. It's high in fat and protein, it boosts the appetite, and most hedgehogs will eat it. It is not a good long-term food to use because of the high fat content but the moisture and other goodies in this food make this my first choice for sick animals.
Crickets and mealworms are available at most pet shops, and people do grow their own. I don't but others do.
Vitamin Supplements are usually in powder form and are added to the kibble. JuicePlus is one I use there are others available on the Internet, or through members of the hedgehog help list.
Others are responding to my note about a drop in numbers and many are finding the same. Some of you are putting it down to slug pellets/pesticides and the increase in the badger population.
Many carers in regular contact with the BHPS have said that their hedgehog numbers are down.
There are a multitude of reasons for this. It could be that numbers of hedgehogs have dropped, it could be that the poor weather is keeping the gardeners indoors so they create less mayhem or people stay indoors and the injured hedgehogs pass by un-noticed. I think it is very unlikely that people are not bothering to help any injured/orphaned hedgehogs they find and this is keeping numbers down.
"Another tip I was given regarding maggots in ears and other difficult places to extract them from - is to put a hair dryer on a low gentle heat as this will bring the maggots out to the surface. I have done this on two occasions with great success! Both hedgehogs are now maggot-free."
"I have always worried about pus coming from the penis, they've been very poorly chaps, but my vet always assured me that it is natural semen."
Several people have spoken to me and also written about the lack of fleas - both last year and this year.
If you are organising a course or know of one please let me know and I can include it in the next newsletter, the next issue will be out towards the end of January.
A one-day conference will be held at Hadlow College, nr Tonbridge, Kent on 24th February 2001. The conference is about the re-introduction of native species. The opening address will be given by Lee Durrell (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust). Tickets cost £26 for individuals and £39.50 for professionals. All refreshments and a buffet lunch are included in the price. Telephone 020 7498 4533 for further details and tickets.
Please send any comments or contributions for the next newsletter to:
Kay Bullen, 5 Foreland Road, Whitchurch, Cardiff CF14 7AR tel 029 20623985.
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org web site at: http://www.hedgehg.dircon.co.uk/hedgehogs
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