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 continuing my notes on some of the parasites found on hedgehogs.


There are many types of flea of which around 60 are found in the UK, examples include cat, dog, rabbit, rat, human, bird and they are often host specific. Even the hedgehog has its own specific flea (Archaeopsylla erinacei) and luckily they do prefer to stay on the hedgehogs. However they may transfer to other species and if the hedgehog has moved away they cannot return to their original host.

Fleas can be vectors for disease eg plagues

Flea life cycle

The whole life cycle is spent on or near the host. The female flea lays her eggs either on the host, in its nest or immediate vicinity. The eggs are pearly white in colour and because they are not adhesive those laid on the host soon fall off. Each female lays several hundred eggs. They normally hatch in a week or two.

They hatch into worm like larvae that have neither legs nor eyes. These larvae feed on the detritus material in the nest they do not parasite the host – it is only the adult that does this. In this stage they moult several times. When fully grown they spin a cocoon in which they stay motionless for a few days before turning into a pupae. The length of pupae stage depends on a number of factors including temperature. Once they develop they need a mechanical stimulus, which is usually in the form of vibration. The host walking and moving about usually provides this. This means that if there is no hedgehog using a nest the fleas stay dormant; once the nest is in use then vibration causes the flea to emerge – this means the flea knows there is a host present on which it can live. They can survive for months even years waiting for their new host to appear.

Treatment Regimes

LEAVE ALONE - In recent years it seems that not all hedgehogs have fleas so there may not be any to treat. Some may only have a few and this would be normally and acceptable (to the hedgehog). If the hedgehog is crawling with fleas then they should be removed.

MANUALLY – in hedgehogs this is probably not an option.

CHEMICALLY - if you need to get rid of them than probably the best way is to use a mild powder similar to that used to remove lice from birds eg Johnson’s Rid-mite. The thought being that if the treatment is safe for birds it should be safe for hedgehogs. Sprays used to kill fleas on dogs and cats are usually more toxic and may cause problems. Frontline is used to remove ticks on hedgehogs and if used sparingly should do no harm, however it may cause hypothermia

PREVENTING REINFESTATION – if the hedgehog is treated immediately on arrival and does not mix with other new arrivals that have not be de-fleaed yet then reinfestation should not occur.

Having a few fleas is quite normal for a hedgehog; however, in some cases the hedgehog might be crawling with them. This could mean that the hedgehog is generally run down and may need some symptomatic care ie if thin fattened up.

TREATING SECONDARY PROBLEMS – a large number of fleas could leave the hedgehog anaemic and hypothermic so these problems will need to be addressed.


These are Ectoparasites but as far as I am aware they have never been found on hedgehogs.

There are two types of lice – biting lice and sucking lice. There are many different forms of lice that affect both birds and mammals but they are usually host specific and as such there is not a louse that frequents hedgehogs.

Life cycle

The whole life cycle tends takes place on the host. A mild flea treatment would be all that is required to get rid of the lice – repeat every 3-4 days until they are no longer seen. The repeat treatment is to catch any that were in the egg stage at the original treatment and have since hatched.

Trichomonas parasite

There have been a number of reports in the newspapers about this parasite affecting finches. The Hedgehog Helpline and BHPS have received calls from both the public and hedgehog rehabilitators about whether foraging hedgehogs picking up food from under bird tables might be affected.

We have sought further advice on this and understand that is a problem that only affects birds (including domestic and poultry) and will not pose a problem to humans, dogs, cats nor hedgehogs.


A carer has found that hedgehogs love avocado but is concerned that there may be toxins in the fruit that might have an effect on the hedgehogs kidneys or other organs. Any comments?


I was recently asked about a problem a hedgehog was displaying after it had suffered from frostbite, The hedgehog has been left with a piece of skin that flaps down from the front of the hedgehog and the hedgehog walks or stumbles on this piece of skin. Has anyone heard of anything similar following frostbite or any other trauma.

Whilst on the subject of frostbite I though a short article about it might be helpful. Hedgehogs most likely to suffer are autumn juveniles that are having problems and are out in the open on frosty nights. Another candidate could be some head trauma victims. Sometimes a hedgehog can be rendered blind by a blow to the head and also in some cases the hedgehog may appear a little simple ie brain damaged. Signs might be that it would be very placid and friendly and sometimes may topple or appear to lose its balance. These hedgehogs sometimes sleep partly out of the nest and may be prone to frostbite.

Frostbite is a term used to describe the damage to tissues due to an exposure to severely cold temperatures. Healthy animals can withstand sub-zero temperatures if they are dry and out of the wind. Frostbite is more likely to occur if an animal has no shelter, or is injured. The parts of the body most likely to be frozen are the ears and sometimes and feet.

Initially, areas damaged by frostbite appear normal. Within 48 hours, though, the damaged tissue will swell and become painful. Self mutilation may occur. Within 7 days, due to interruption of the blood flow and nerve supply, the affected tissue dries up and turns black, eventually falling off twenty to thirty days later.

Frostbite can be minor or severe. Minor cases involve only ear tips, whereas more extensive freezing causes the loss of appendages (toes and limbs). Death may result if the limbs are involved. Dying tissue attracts bacteria, and severe, life-threatening infections can result.

If frostbite is suspected, it is best to immediately, but slowly warm the animal. Warm (102-104° F) compresses often work well. Do not place the animal in hot water or other areas of extreme temperatures. Do NOT rub or massage the area. Dead tissue must be removed. Pain relief medication and antibiotics are usually prescribed.


To encourage a hedgehog to eat put 20 fennel seeds in a mug, add 1cm of boiling water and a pinch of turmeric. Steep until cold and give 0.1ml orally.

To encourage a hedgehog to take medication mix Golden Syrup with the medication plus a little of the above fennel liquor.

Disabled hedgehogs

A new rehabilitator has asked the following questions and I thought it might be a good time to see what the general thinking is with regards to the release of disabled hedgehogs. The most common would be amputees and blind ones. I will include an article in the next newsletter.

What is the current thinking on releasing disabled hedgehogs?
What type of disabilities are suitable for release?
What type of release sites are needed for them?
Do any disabled hedgehogs thrive in walled gardens; or is it cruel to contain them in this way?

Courses etc

British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council Symposium – Provisional Notice ‘Practicalities, Ethics and Welfare Issues from Admission to Release’

A lecture theatre at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge has been booked for this event on Saturday, 28th October, it will probably run from 10am-5pm. Parking at the hospital is difficult, so delegates will be advised to use the Park and Ride facilities. There is a Travelodge approx. 2 miles down the road

The provisional programme is as follows:

The morning and first part of the afternoon will be talks and then a round table discussion on the Animal Welfare Bill for the last hour. Round table members would hopefully include someone from DEFRA and also the RSPCA’s legal department.

Provisionally the talks will include the following subjects:
BWRC wildlife module
Hedgehogs – Janet Peto
Veterinary osteopathy
Garden Bird Initiative
Surveillance Further information will be provided in a separate mailing.

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 2007.

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:
October 2006

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