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. 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.

I am also using e-mails to get quick answers and views on carers’ problems. Topics can then be included in later newsletters. The originator of any query receives comments as they come through.

Hedgehog Awareness Week
This year Hedgehog Awareness Week will run from 5th-11th May. If anyone would like an information pack please let me know.

The aims of the week are to highlight hedgehog dangers, particularly those in the garden, to encourage local carers to publicise their work and to fund raise. If you are going to organise an event please let me know as I often get enquiries from the general public and the media.

Pets at Home are inviting hedgehog carers to hold fund raising and awareness days at their stores – both during the week and after. Contact Laura Bendall, Pets at Home, on 0161 486 3574 to make a booking.

Fussy Feeders
In January’s newsletter I asked about this subject and the following are the comments received:

Reply 1 - In our experience fussy feeders are usually sick, and will go on to develop other symptoms within a few days. The first thing we do with a fussy-feeder is to separate it from other hogs.

Reply 2 - try Hills a/d with a bit of warm water - stir until pate consistency. Most animals cannot resist it.

Reply 3 - We have found that "fussy feeders" usually tuck straight into dead day old chicks or mice. We have radio tracked released hogs this year and the observations are fascinating. These animals are hunters usually eating insects and worms, but if they come across a dead bird or small mammal will eat these with relish.

Autumn Juveniles
In January’s newsletter I asked about this subject and the following are the comments received:

We have a (roughly) 60% success rate with autumn juveniles. The 40% we lose are either injured or invariably present the same symptoms, though no doubt from numerous different causes – they won’t eat, have diarrhoea, don’t respond to antibiotics, de-wormers or intensive care and usually die within 48 hours.

In January’s newsletter I asked about this subject and the following are the comments received:

In our area (East London bordering Epping Forest) about 50% of the hogs we get are flea-free. A minuscule amount of flea powder sprinkled between the hog’s shoulder blades will kill all fleas – but not immediately, it will take a few hours. It’s quite unnecessary to cover the animal in a cloud of dust, or to spray it from nose to tail, front and back, as some vets do.

Tea Tree Oils
The following web site has been suggested for those wanting to know about the effectiveness of tea tree oils.

Albino Hedgehog
Below is a background note and lab report on a tissue sample from a lump on an albino hedgehog. Has anyone seen anything similar - especially on blonde or albino hedgehogs?

Background – a tissue sample was taken from a female albino Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) – age about 18 months. Several uneven lumps had developed at the base of some prickles. They wept and were initially thought to be abscesses. Later other lumps developed one on centre right of the back, two by her ears, one on her skirt and a tag like lump under the skin.

Laboratory report from Greendale Veterinary Laboratories.

The section consists of well-preserved epidermis (including hair follicles), dermis and infiltrating lesion.

The infiltration is a carcinoma, which is forming rosettes, with an abundant central core of cellular debris but no evidence of keratinisation. The cells that make up the tumour are pale and vesicular: there is some pleomorphism and moderate numbers of mitoses are seen. Palisading is not clearly a feature.

Other changes are secondary to the carcinoma and include skin ulceration probable bacterial infection and acute inflammation.

This is probably a basal cell carcinoma but I should like to spend longer looking at the slide – and may ask a colleague for an opinion. The prognosis has to be guarded as we know little about the progression of such neoplasms in hedgehogs. Please would you let us know whether this is a European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) or an African hedgehog (Atelerix albivertris)? This is important because most of the published reports of tumours relate to the latter. I have some of the literature myself but the RCVS library could provide a list and do a literature search.

Prof J E Cooper DTVM, FRCPath, FIBiol, FRCVS

Note by Kay Bullen - below I have tried to provide definitions of some of the medical terms used in the above report:
Basel cell – foundation/base/fundamental cell.
Carcinoma – a malignant growth of epithelial (surface layer) tissue.
Dermis – the skin (particularly that under the epidermis).
Epidermis – the non-vascular outer layer of the skin.
Histopathology – study of the minute structure of tissues, changes to their structures and causes of those changes.
Keratinisation – horny tissue growth.
Mitoses – the usual method of multiplication of cells.
Neoplasms – a morbid new growth.
Palisading – distinct division between healthy tissue and non-healthy tissue.
Pleomorphism - occurring in more than one form.

Lab Reports
Does anyone have any laboratory reports either from post mortems or tissue samples etc. that relate to hedgehogs. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is compiling a library of scientific papers/studies and items such as these would be a helpful addition.

A carer has asked for suggestions on the following. A young hedgehog aged 3-4 months developed a swelling under its chin. This was diagnosed as oedema by a vet with the suggestion that it could be caused by liver or kidney problems. After an injection of Frusemide (a diuretic) it passed a large amount of urine. The treatment continued with ¼ of a 5mg Frusemide tablet daily (homoeopathic remedies were also used). One odd point was that the hedgehog was initially thought to be a female and turned out to be a male. A friend of the carer also had a similar case and again the sex was thought to be female and turned out to be a male. The carer wonders whether an immature urinary tract caused the problem.

Has anyone seen anything similar, how was it treated and what was thought to be the cause.

In January’s newsletter I asked about this subject and the following are the comments received:

Reply 1 - We’re fortunate in having a walled garden from which hedgehogs can’t escape. When they’re large enough we put them out and have several in our garden at the time of writing (January 2002). On many occasions we’ve observed these short hibernations (mentioned in the newsletter) of a few days to a few weeks, and true hibernations they are because the animals become cold, prickly and growl when disturbed, just like long-term hibernants.

One thing we’ve observed that gives cause for concern is that some hogs, particularly those that have been hand reared from very small, require a few days to get the hang of being outside in the ‘wild’. We find them running aimlessly round our garden in daylight hours, often carrying a mouthful of leaves, as if they know they should be nest-building but are not sure how, when or where to do it! They always settle down and become properly nocturnal good nest-builders within two or three days, but because of this initial disorientated behaviour, we’d be uneasy about taking a hedgehog straight out of a cage and releasing it into the countryside without an intermediate period in an outdoor run.

Reply 2 - Hogs over wintering here are always kept in outside runs with as much space as possible for exercise and a shelter for sleeping/hibernation. The runs are on grass or earth floor to enable natural foraging as well as eating the supplementary cat food, mealworms etc. We found hogs kept in pet voyagers for any length of time became stressed by the lack of freedom.

Carer’s skin problem

In January’s newsletter I asked about this subject and the following are the comments received:

Reply 1 - In nine years I’ve caught what sounds like exactly the same skin condition four times from handling hedgehogs and I’m pleased to say it’s easily treated. I’ve had it three times on my hands, and once on my foot – how I got the latter I’ll never know. The first time it appeared I was on holiday in Spain, and showed it to a chemist who sold me a tube of ointment called ‘Fungidermo’ – a fungal infection treatment. This cleared the infection in about ten days. Subsequently in this country I’ve used ‘Canestan fungicidal cream’ with such complete success every time that I have no worries about handling hedgehogs.

Reply 2 (from the Netherlands) - The skin problem described in issue 45 is all too familiar, it happened to me also. This for the first time in the years I work with Hedgehogs.

According to the doctor it's an animal fungus, which has entered the skin. The animal doesn't have to be a Hedgehog. The doctor told me he recently had to treat a whole family with the same problems. In their case it was caused by a Hamster or Guinea Pig they bought.

The treatment consisted of applying Daktacort (Janssen-Cilag B.V. - end of commercial) twice a day for two weeks on the affected skin. After a day or so the spreading of the blisters stopped. Full recovery of the skin took a couple of weeks. Continued daily care of the skin with a neutral cream is recommended.

When I handle Hedgehogs now I wear household gloves. They do not impair sensitivity too much yet do not give you the sweaty hands you get from medical rubber gloves. The latter are too thin to stop spines going through anyway. When I have to pick up heavy or curled up Hedgehogs I use leather gloves. You have little feeling in them but they will stop the spines.

Reply 3 - Zoonotic Disease - Hedgehogs can carry mites and ringworm asymtomatically. It is quite possible to catch these from seemingly healthy hedgehogs. Using a steroid cream will make both ringworm and a mite infestation WORSE. Steroids are for allergies. Unless you are allergic to hedgehogs, don't use steroids. Of course, steroids will reduce the inflammation and itching but steroids encourage fungi, mites and bacterial to reproduce plentifully. Treat the cause, not the symptom!! Tea tree oil washes, cholorohexidine (hibiscrub) daktarin - these sorts of things may be of more use for zoonotic skin conditions.

Reply 4 – the Manual of exotic pets BSAVA suggests "Trichophyton erinacei is carried by 25% of hedgehogs but they show little evidence of infection. occasionally it causes dermatitis in people. It is intensely irritating but usually heals spontaneously in 2-3 weeks. Canestan (clotrimazole) can be effective."

Obviously the use of disposable gloves is the best preventative treatment and possibly using an iodine based hand wash (such as Betadine) between handling may have some limited prophylactic affect.

Reply 5 – it could be that some mites have got underneath the skin and they are causing the irritation. If there is some fluid coming out of the sore area you could try looking at it under a microscope to see if there are any mites present.

Rat Problems
I was recently asked to make some suggestions after someone was requested to stop feeding hedgehogs because there were rats about. I e-mailed around as per usual and these are some of the responses.

There is legislation about the control of pests. One Act being the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 –this I understand (if it is still in being) requires landowners to notify their Local Authority (LA) if there are numbers of rats and mice on their property presumably so that the LA can take appropriate action.

There is also a requirement on the LA to take reasonable care to ensure it is only the targeted species that has access to any poison put down.

Cases have occurred where an LA has requested a homeowner to stop feeding the birds and hedgehogs. Removal of water dishes and hedgehog nest boxes has also been requested. This was when there was a rat problem in a field next door to a property.

The problem
Rats live to food availability so as long as there is a supply of any kind they will stay. This includes the neighbours feeding the visiting wildlife. If they are settled they breed at a rate of ten rats per litter and the females can start reproducing at three months old.

Rats can carry a number of diseases that humans and pets can also catch. Where there is a concentration of rats it makes a hostile environment for hedgehogs as well as humans.

An effort needs to be made to eradicate the rats from the area. This means that not just one property needs to take steps to eradicate them but adjoining properties as well.

Some suggested solutions

Restricting access to poisons
The Forestry Commission use specially designed Squirrel Boxes baited with rat poison. These are long tube boxes with too small a diameter for anything bigger than a rat (Squirrel), which have a top opening for the bait. They are attractive to rats because of the dark long tunnel (about 18inches to 2 feet). This type of box might be safe in a garden environment with hedgehogs about.

In one case up to 13 rats had been counted on and around a bird table. This was reported to the LA who referred the caller to a contracted-out pest controller. They wanted to scatter bait around the gardens which, of course was not desirable as there was other wildlife and children next door to think of. The pest controller suggested the purchase of their custom-built boxes at an extremely inflated price (about £40.00 each). Eventually some purpose-built, wildlife and children friendly boxes were designed. They consisted of large empty ice-cream containers with lids - a small hole, approximately 2" in diameter, was cut in the middle of either end - not at the bottom - so that only rodents could enter. The bait itself goes right inside, in the middle, and the whole thing was raised off the ground so that birds, hedgehogs etc couldn't reach inside - weigh the whole down with a brick on top of the lid. Each day the bait was checked and topped up if necessary. After about a week the rat problem seemed to have been solved. Now the box is checked every so often and topped up if empty. The rat problem doesn't seem to have returned. During all this time the birds, hedgehogs and fox were still fed and the watering holes and nest boxes stayed out in the garden.

In another case the rats were by putting poisoned rat grain in the roof of the shed and garage (obtained from local garden centre), where birds or hedgehogs cannot get but rats can. This got rid of them within three weeks and no other wildlife was killed.

Some rat-catching firms can issue a green box with a small rat sized hole and tunnel, where poison can be left safely. A big hedgehog would not get in but a baby might.

Methods of control other than poisons
A shotgun or a gun with telescopic sights was suggested but care must be taken that other laws eg those relating to firearms and their discharge are not broken. The rats are clever and soon learn about the gun and then only come out at night disappearing when a light comes on.

Cats and a ferret have also been suggested.
Other than poison the only sure way of getting rid of them is to remove the food supply. However hibernation boxes are accessible to rats so if their main source of food has been removed they could prey on hibernating hedgehogs.

Feeding Stations
Provide a feeding station that would prevent rats from reaching the food eg a box with a cat flap effect. The flap being too heavy for a rat to use but OK for a hedgehog (and too small for a cat of course).

Stop Putting out food
If all else fails then the best thing is to with hold food for a while and wait for the rats to disappear (or be poisoned). Loss of food shouldn't trouble hedgehogs in the winter or during damp weather when there are plenty of natural foods available. There will be problems however if there are small underweight hedgehogs that need a constant food supply throughout the winter or in times of a food shortage.

Private Members’ Bills
I understand the Bill has been dropped because of the Government’s proposed Animal Welfare Bill. A consultation paper asking what should be included in the Animal Welfare Bill has been circulated by DEFRA. One of the questions was whether animal sanctuaries should be licensed, so this issue has not gone away.

McDonald’s McFlurry
The Hedgehog Helpline recently received a call about a hedgehog trapped in a McFlurry container. In this instance the hedgehog had raided the bin bag and then become trapped, ie not through discarded litter.

Courses etc
Marion Horscroft from Spike's World Ltd and Carol Chittock from Diss Hedgehog Advisory Centre are hoping to organise a Carers Day. The provisional date is Sunday 20th October 2002; venue is somewhere in the Peterborough area; theme 'Ring, Ring' - "I have found this Hedgehog",

The event will be aimed at practical issues involved in rescuing, treating and rehabilitating hedgehogs. Please contact them for further information. Marion can be contacted on 01522 696467 e-mail Carol is on 01379 644988 e-mail

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 July 2002.

Please send any comments or contributions for the next newsletter to:
Kay Bullen, 5 Foreland Road, Whitchurch, Cardiff CF14 7AR tel 029 20623985.
web site at:
April 2002

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