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.

New disease in hedgehogs?

The following has been received from Gower Bird Hospital.

In 2005 we saw hedgehogs exhibiting neurological symptoms that we had not seen at our centre in 16 years of admitting hedgehogs. We have seen this problem again in 2006 and 2007.
The symptoms are weakness in the legs (front or rear or combination of all limbs) with varying degree of tremor visible when trying to walk.
All the hedgehogs that have developed these nervous signs have been admitted as physically normal dependant hoglets weighing on average 100 grams on admission. They initially develop well, increasing weight progressively until they reach around 300 grams, then fail to gain weight and develop tremors with loss of mobility.
It can affect individuals from the same litter, whilst other siblings grow normally and are unaffected.
This is not a common problem, occurring in 5 out of 73 dependent in 2005, 8 out of 61 in 2006 and 1 out of 141 in 2007.
No hedgehogs have been brought to Gower Bird Hospital with these symptoms. This may be because the hedgehogs are unable to walk and die in the nest where they are unlikely to be found.
We are investigating the cause of this disease with the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and extensive post mortem examinations and tests have not produced a clear answer yet.
We thought we were the only centre to have recorded these symptoms as a canvass of other centres returned no results until a centre north of London reported recording the same scenario in dependant admissions in 2005 and subsequent years.
We are collecting as much information as possible about this disease.
If you have seen these symptoms please contact Simon Allen or call 01792 371630

Rats killing hoglets
Has anyone heard or had problems with rats attacking litters of hoglets. Please let me know what sorts of injuries were inflicted.

The following was received from a carer in New Zealand:
I found hedgehog tapeworms, in a very fat three-week-old baby, which I called "Hot Lips" as his lips were very pink from suckling. He passed a very clear egg shaped jelly sack, of which I was worried about .The vet decided worming the next day the little chap passed the biggest tape worm, Just one long mass of jelly segments in which could be seen to have small veins running through the segments. Nothing like dog, cat or bird tapeworm. This may be another type to add on your list.

Thorny Headed Worms

Comment 1
Thorny-headed worms:
These are not uncommon in hedgehogs in the east of England, and I see them quite often as incidental findings at post-mortem. They are usually present in smallish numbers (less than a dozen) and are usually present in the mesentery. They rarely seem to cause disease unless present in large numbers where they can cause significant tissue damage and anaemia. However, this is unusual, and usually secondary to some other chronic debility or immunosuppression. Diagnosis is difficult in the live animal as they rarely appear in the droppings.

Comment 2 - I read your newsletter on the hedgehog forum. I am up in the South of Scotland and we have lost lots of juveniles due to thorny headed worms and we are treating all incomers with levamisol as a precaution. Our vet confirmed the worms.

Comment 3 - I have found thorny headed worms in hogs from various regions in S. Wales including the Gower, also from various species of bird. In hogs I have seen them in faeces and on post mortem in the body cavity after they have presumably perforated the intestinal wall. We have never found them in great numbers in any one individual so their pathogenicity here seems to have been negligible.

Comment 4 - I quite regularly come across thorny-headed worms. They are in our garden and seem to be widespread across Darlington, Co Durham. I will attach an article I wrote a few years ago for our Cleveland group quarterly newsletter (see at end of newsletter). This article is understandably very simple rather than scientific as it was meant to interest rather than educate our readers.

If you know what they look like, thorny-headed worms are very easy to spot if they are actually on the droppings mainly because they are white. Sometimes there is a trace of blood on the dropping as well, which might alert you to rake through the dropping to see if any are inside.

This year I had a hedgehog that had 21 thorny-headed worms in the first dropping it passed (no wormer had yet been given.) I definitely think they were the cause of his problem.

I've also seen my first young juvenile with thorny-headed worm this year. It was not in the usual form, and only my interest in microscopy made me open up a small suspicious-looking 'capsule' I had spotted in her dropping, and I was quite surprised when a thorny-headed worm unfolded. I would never have known otherwise that she had one inside her. A few days later another young juvenile also had thorny-headed worms.

I often wonder if these particular worms make the hedgehog unwell. Most of them that pass a thorny-headed worm are very unsettled, often have blood on the droppings and are not eating very much. It would be difficult to prove as there usually are other worms present. I run a hedgehog sanctuary as well, and this August had to admit one of my big amputees as he was losing weight. He was very unsettled and off his food until he passed a thorny-headed worm, and then he settled down and began eating well again.

Lastly, I have found a big increase in the number of fluke in hedgehogs of all ages this year. I have put it down to the wet summer. I wonder if other carers have also noticed this? The main symptom in all the affected hedgehogs was that they were not eating, and once they had been given droncit, their appetite came back. I always checked after worming to see if they had indeed passed dead flukes.

Ringworm Treatments
Comment 1 - Topical treatment is currently the method of choice for ringworm in hedgehogs using either Mycozole, Imaverol, or antifungal suspensions made from other preparations. However, there are several drawbacks to topical treatment:
a) Repeated treatments are necessary which is very time-consuming
b) It is difficult to get adequate coverage because the hedgehogs often curl-up
c) Sensitive areas such as the nose and eyes must be avoided, but this is often where the lesions are
d) There is a risk of hypothermia especially in smaller patients

For the homeopaths out there the remedy of choice is Bacillinum 200c. I have experienced some apparent success with this remedy
Another carer has had success treating a case of mange/ringworm with Thuja 30 – 2 tablets in food daily for 5 days.
Comment 2 - other carers have also commented about the larger than usual numbers of hedgehogs with ringworm this year
Loss of prickles
I have received this from one of the hedgehog rehabilitators:
I know we have spoken about this before but the problem of spine loss will not go away.
Many rescues in this area are saying that they are getting lots more hogs coming in with spine loss. All known and trusted treatments seem to fail. (i.e. Mite treatment, ringworm treatment, tea tree, etc.,). Some hogs have had thickening of nails and some have had skin thickening as well. Many are now bald and some have died. I sent some spines and flaky skin to St Tiggs and they came back with no evidence of mite. We are giving them Vet-amin + zinc, which St Tiggs recommended and although it has improved the quality of condition in all the other hogs, it seems to do nothing for the spine loss ones.

Any ideas ?? Apart from knitting lots of little coats....
Am I missing something obvious is there something (?) going around this year, have you had any other rescues reporting this?

Comment 1:
I have often had this problem after long wet and then long dry periods, I think it is a diet problem. The Vit-amin + Zinc does work but it takes months, but great care is required in feeding as the extra vitamins make the hogs excessive in weight, so much smaller amounts of food need to be given.

In fact I have over the last three years given all hogs about one eighth of a flat teaspoon of Vitamin + zinc to ever hog every other day for two weeks (if they stay that long), and then twice a week for the rest of their stay, as it does really help keep the food bill down and make the hogs in a better condition without giving them unnatural larger amounts of food, making them much better able to cope with the wild when released. I have also found that mixing raw minced turkey, Spikes Wildthings dried food and Spikes biscuits a much better food than cat food mixed with insect mix. I also do not use bowls but put tiny amounts around the cage, run and scatter the biscuits so that they have to move around to find the food.

Comment 2:
We have had a larger number than usual of ringworm cases this year. We have tried several treatments for this but found the best to be Imaverol, which we dilute in a small hand sprayer (5mls Imaverol / 250mls warm water), drench the hog and leave him to 'drip dry'. This is repeated every 3 days until 4 treatments have been given. We have had an excellent success rate with this. We test for ringworm using the Dermafyt test kits, but we don't wait for the result before starting the Imaverol treatment if we suspect ringworm as this can delay the start of treatment for several days.

Comment 3:
A couple of years ago I had a hedgehog in with spine loss (but not severe), I tried the usual treatments also but I stopped feeding tinned food and started digging up worms in the garden and feeding on these as well as mealworms and snails (not keen on slugs though) and the spines did grow back after time. Don't know if there is a connection or not. Might just be coincidence.

Comment 4:
We had a problem hog not responding to tea tree oil etc in September and I had something called Panomec directly from our vet, treatment worked brilliantly and only involved dropping 0.1ml to the neck on a weekly basis.

Comment 5:
I had a little one in the summer who developed very dry skin and his spines would literally come out if they were pulled. It looked initially like ringworm but was so widespread and came on quite suddenly so I'm not convinced it was.

I treated him with Thuja 30c homeopathic caplets from boots, twice a day for one week and the results were quite amazing and very instant. Within a couple of days his hair was growing back.

I used this remedy from the Natural Hedgehog book and it was very successful, so thought it was worth mentioning.

Comment 6:
A key issue is whether it is just the spines or are they also losing their hair. I know that thickened nails was mentioned, so it may be something affecting all keratin tissue - but if hair is unaffected then it would be very odd indeed. I won't be able to come up with an answer on this – but knowing about the hair is an important bit of the jigsaw.

Comment 7:
As these hedgehogs were obviously tested on skin problems, particularly on mites or fungi and it wasn’t spoken about a bacteriological infection, in my opinion there is only one other possibility – poison?

The finders of these poorly spined hedgehogs should be asked if the finding place or the surroundings of it have been treated with insecticides. For a toxicological analysis you have to know which agent or substance has been used.

Asking around in this area there may be hints with reference to finding other animals with unusual skin problems or if an increasing number of dead animals have been found (rodents, squirrels etc.) Furthermore postmortem examination should be carried out on hedgehogs with either no or only a few spines that died to find out commonalities (liver or kidney damages, for example). Just as no treatment has helped up to now, no supporting dose of zinc, this problem seems to be more complex. The loss of spines might as well only be the top of an iceberg.

Comment 8:
I have not had this problem of spine loss once grown, but one of the tiny hogs [80g]brought in from the Barry floods end of July, his spines grew very sparsely, in fact, hardly any at all. I was quite concerned about the lack of spines[22.09.07 weighing 395 g] but he was eating and drinking and gaining weight steadily. I used Frontline pump carefully in case there were anything untoward lurking. I then used my favourite product [ both for myself and my charges] Johnson’s Tea Tree Skin Calm. The spines grew back normally with no bare patches. He is currently 530 g and a beautifully spined hog!

Nutritional supplement for cats and dogs which speeds up the recovery of damaged hair, coat and nails associated with methionine deficiency.
Methionine can also act as a urinary acidifier and help in the management of urinary tract disorders.

Usage guidelines:
Cats & small dogs: 1 tablet daily
Dogs up to 10kg: 1-2 tablets daily
Dogs up to 30kg: 3-5 tablets daily
Size: 250 x 250mg Tablets Size: 250 x 250mg Tablets
Price - £37.11 (Incl. VAT)

Comment 9:
I have been using sunflower oil and 100% tee tree oil....I am not very good with the hogs with skin conditions, but it keeps the keep moist and the tee tree oil really is brill for human skin conditions too... I normally saturate the area and wrap in cloth for it to seep in and keep warm... I did this on a hog before and when sue took over she said the spines were growing back - so I must have been doing something right...but it was a long process so get knitting.

Comment 10
I've had a similar problem with 2 or 3 of the hogs I've had in over the last 2 months. All responded very well to daily doses of Sulphur 30c for a week and then 6c daily dose after that for 2 weeks. I also sprayed the hogs all over with a mix of 20ml cooled boiled water and 3 drops tea tree oil, 3 drops lavender and 2 drops cedarwood.

Comment 11
If mites and ringworm are ruled out then nutritional problems do seem the most likely. An Omega 3 / Omega 6 supplement might be worth a try but I would suggest getting some skin biopsies might help.

Comment 12:
Has the carer tried honey I find it cures so many things?

Comment 13
My advice would be for them to try to get a diagnosis for the cause of the spine loss. In these cases there are several potential causes of the symptoms described, and blanket symptomatic treatment is rarely successful. A proper diagnosis allows more specific treatment to be given and improves the chances of recovery. Having said that, it isn't always possible to get to the bottom of every skin case.

The most likely cause of the symptoms described is of course ringworm, but a definitive diagnosis can only be made by submitting suitable samples to a laboratory for culture. Methods other than culture, for example UV fluorescence, direct microscopy for spores, skin biopsy etc. are, in my experience, of little or no value in confirming hedgehog ringworm cases. If ringworm is indeed responsible for the cases described, then thickening of the claws might indicate that the fungus is invading deeply. Such cases require prolonged aggressive parenteral antifungal treatment and carry a guarded prognosis. It is also likely that there are concurrent infections (by bacteria or yeasts) which further complicate matters. Most importantly, it should be remembered that clinical ringworm in hedgehogs is probably stress-related, and therefore affected animals usually have other problems which are lowering their resistance to disease. It is important, therefore, to consider the whole hedgehog and not just treat the skin if recovery is to be achieved.

Remember too that Trichophyton erinacei (the fungus which most commonly causes hedgehog ringworm) is zoonotic and can affect man. Always wear gloves and wash the hands after handling all hedgehogs. Affected hedgehogs can infect other hedgehogs, so barrier nursing is important to prevent cross-infection. Fungal spores can remain viable for a long time in the environment so hedgehog containers must be thoroughly cleaned out daily and all bedding discarded. This prevents continual re-infection of the hedgehog from its environment.

Comment 14:
I’m certainly no expert but have St Tiggs checked for other things other than mites? It could well be fungal (all the damp weather) or bacterial. They would need to culture some of the skin/hair cells on plates to see. Microbiologist needed to interpret though. Fungal infections of human nails can result in thickening and bacterial skin infections make hair fall out….just an idea…but they may have checked that already?

Can get creams that have antifungal plus antibacterial…could try some and see if works?

Reference to the spine loss in hogs, I had some very useful information from St Tigs which we have tried out, they recommended to use Nisoral shampoo. (anti fungicidal) Shampoo weekly, (Tesco do it and most chemists), very expensive at around £6 for a small container, but we are getting quite good results, but early days, I checked with our vet as he obviously treats our hogs, and he was in approval as well.

Just a reply for newsletter over problem I have had this year with small hedgies coming in. I have lost probably 70% of my ones between 200 and 300gms. They will not eat or drink but accept syringed fluids for a couple of days then even that becomes a problem. I had a postmortem on last one I lost and not very conclusive. No worms, all internal organs appear o.k. My vet thinks it’s a virus. It is not usual at this time of year to loose hedgies and two other carers have had the same problem, they do not even look that ill just brought in because they are O.D.D. and a bit wobbly. Anyone else having the same trouble, I am in Midlands and would welcome some input.

Mites (from Newsletter 62)
Comment 1 - Just a few comments on this - we have found that cheyletiella can live in the environment for up to 30 days so if you have an infested animal, it is a good idea to treat the environment as well to prevent re-infestation.

Stronghold (selamectin) is also effective for sarcoptoid mites. The puppy or kitten formula could be titrated down to treat hedgehogs. Sarcoptes is quite zoonotic.
Advocate is a new formula for treatment of demodectic mange.

Chest Problems

Notes from a carer:

Received from a carer:

I think last autumn/winter saw a high level of lungworm in the hedgehog populations. Has anyone else experienced the same problem? My theory is the juveniles have a heavier stress load than the summer juveniles as not only are they lost but also they know they are underweight. The other factor I think is that the slugs, snails etc carry a higher level of the lungworm by the autumn time. (A vet did say that cows seem to have a higher level at this time of year too).

I am not a believer in plying wild animals with drugs but after such a loss I will lungworm all my juveniles next year.
Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS)
This scheme investigates suspected incidents of wildlife being poisoned. It is run through I believe the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) an executive agency of DEFRA.

In England and Wales you can call WIIS free 0800 321 600 where they quiz you to identify if there is indeed a case for investigation. You can also ring either DEFRA or the Welsh Assembly. If you can build up a good of a relationship with the WIIS they should normally issue you with a wildlife incident number. You need the number to give to the VLA when submitting the specimen. You can also submit directly to the central science laboratory (CSL) again as long as you have the incident number. The WIIS will also send your attending vet info on how to prepare samples for submission to the CSL.

The advantage of sending bodies to the VLA is you will also get a gross PM.
If you do have a cause of suspected poisoning confirmed the British Hedgehog preservation Society would like to hear from you. Contact them direct on 01584 890801 or through myself.

Wheat intolerance
Comment 1 - I have just come across what seems to be a case of wheat intolerance in a baby hedgehog (the first time it has ever happened.) It might be something interesting for the newsletter. Now that I have finally twigged what was wrong with him and stopped giving him wheat ie rusk and crushed weetabix, he is gaining weight rapidly for the first time since weaning. It happened to the male of two orphaned siblings that had been attacked by a cat which I hand-reared in September. The female was OK and now weighs over 640g, while little Jack is 230g, but thankfully eating now and putting on 20+ grams a day. I wondered if you or any other

Flaps of skin
I'm replying to one of your questions about the 'Frostbite' article. You asked if any carers had come across a piece of skin that flaps down in front of a hedgehog which prevents it walking.

Yes I have!
It happened to a disabled young male at the end of last November.
I had managed to save two of four midget babies that were brought to me in August 2004, but as they eventually grew, one of them could not walk properly. The vet thinks this is due to a deformity in the radius and ulna bones of his front limbs - one has either grown too long or the other is too short - making his fore feet turn inwards, so that he has difficulty in walking and climbing (it took him ages to start walking as his front feet nearly cross!)

He obviously wasn't releasable, and I had him castrated so he could live in my hedgehog sanctuary. He got quite fat after his operation, and then lost weight in the autumn. When I discovered that he had this flap of skin hanging down from his chest area, almost completely stopping him walking, I put it down to him having lost weight and his feet continually catching in the loose skin and stretching it even more.

The vet had to operate in December and successfully removed a lot of the offending skin, so that Thomas could move again.
The reason for that loose skin has always been a bit of a mystery, so I was intrigued to read that another carer had come across a similar problem and was attributing it to frostbite. I therefore checked Thomas' notes and found an entry on 22.11.05 which read 'walking round garden (frosty.)' A few days later I had to bring him inside as he was having even greater difficulty in walking, and it was then I noticed the loose skin.

I'm not sure whether he suffered from frostbite. I've certainly got entries in my notes from 5.10.05 which comment on his reduced mobility, so I was monitoring him carefully. I'm not sure when we had our first frosts in Darlington last year - it could have been in October.

Courses etc
If you are organising a course or know of one please let me know and I can include it in the next newsletter due out April 2008.
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:

January 2008


Thorny-headed worms can parasitize many animals including pigs, fish, birds and humans. They are only very occasionally found in hedgehog droppings, and it is thought that the Western European hedgehog* is a false host (a host in which the parasite does not stay long or cannot develop.)
In September last year I cared for a small female hedgehog which passed twelve thorny-headed worms over a three week period – some were still alive! They were white and measured between 6 – 12 mm.

Thorny-headed worms are made up of two parts – a hooked proboscis (which varies in shape from cylindrical to spherical depending on the species) and a long main body. They have no digestive system, but absorb nourishment through the body wall.

Thorny-headed worm x 10
Research on how the hedgehog becomes infected by the thorny-headed worm is currently being done in Germany. Several different development cycles are proposed (but not yet proved) for the species that have been found in our British hedgehogs.
The eggs are eaten by woodlice (the intermediate host.) After hatching, the hooked larvae penetrate the gut and begin to grow and develop and eventually become encapsulated. When the woodlouse is eaten by the ultimate host (for example a starling), the larvae attach themselves to the gut wall, where they develop and mature and are then capable of reproduction.

Proboscis of thorny-headed worm x 100
Alternatively it is thought that shrews can act as transport hosts by eating the infected woodlice. If the shrew is then eaten by a large owl, it will become parasitized by the thorny-headed worms and the cycle is complete.

The hedgehog, which is related to the shrew, could also serve as a transport host. But as hedgehogs are hardly ever eaten by birds of prey, it is probably a false host. As the worms cannot mature in the hedgehog, they will remain in the gut for a while, and eventually are passed out in droppings. Some worms will penetrate the gut wall and cause secondary bacterial infections, which can be fatal especially to youngsters.

Live thorny-headed worm – the proboscis moved in and out of the body.
Fortunately the hedgehog I looked after did very well and was released after bonfire night weighing 844 gms.

Iris Davison
* The brown-breasted Western European hedgehog is our native hedgehog.

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