Hedgehog Health Problems & Diseases
There are a number of common problems and diseases that us hedgehogs face, over and above all the manmade threats we face; sometimes we need some help to overcome these. As we are nocturnal, and come out at night, if you see us out in daylight, the likelihood is that we are not very well and need some help. Below are some of the common health issues we face;
Us hedgehogs can be host to a number of different parasitic worms, with lungworm being especially common. Lungworm infection can result in a cough (likely the most common sign of the issue) and can prove fatal if left untreated.
Lung worm is a parasite that occurs naturally in hedgehogs but, in a fit and healthy hog, it will be kept under control. It is when we're not well for another reason - disease, injury, or weight loss - that lungworm can become a dangerous issue.
Because signs of lungworm can be fairly hard to distinguish, often a hedgehog with a lung worm problem will be taken to a rescue centre either because somebody finds it out during the day, or because it has other, more visible, problems.
Ringworm is another issue that can be quite common in us hedgehogs, with around a quarter of the national population thought to be affected. Most hedgehogs show few or no visible symptoms, in fact even those with severe infections can still show little sign of skin infection and can feed normally. One of the most common symptoms of a ringworm infection is dry, crusty ears.
Us hedgehogs can get mange, which is a condition which is both painful and potentially life-threatening . The most obvious signs of a hog suffering from mange will be loss of prickles, scaly, flaky skin or sometimes a very thick 'crust' of skin that builds up along their sides. If you see a hog in such a state, please see the Helping Hedgehogs page for details on what to do.
Hedgehogs are renowned for having fleas, however, the fleas found on hedgehogs are actually specific to us prickly people. This means that even if they do migrate to others (you people or your pets) they will not survive for long. Occasionally hedgehogs can become infested with fleas (normally when they are unwell) but usually they will only have a few resident fleas which will cause them no harm.
Ticks are another common external parasite often found on us hedgehogs. Normally we will have a couple of ticks on us, though occasionally some hedgehogs seem more attractive to the little blood-suckers. Ticks are most commonly found attached to our underside, behind our ears or on our flanks, but of course they can occur elsewhere as well. Ticks are in general harmless to us, however, if we are carrying a lot of ticks, it can be a sign of illness.
Like all animals we need to drink water. This can be particularly difficult for urban hogs in dry spells as natural water sources are less common. Hedgehogs coming out of hibernation are often already dehydrated so finding water is a priority. There are no specific symptoms of dehydration, but often dehydration is an additional problem on top of other issues and diseases. Unsteady hogs, or hogs out during the day may well be suffering from dehydration. You can help us avoid dehydration by either have a pond with safe sides that we can get out of (in case we fall in), or leaving a shallow dish of water out.
Lack of Weight
Due to a number of issues including lack of available food, other illnesses and diseases and injury, us hedgehogs may lose weight. Whilst this presents an issue at any time of year as it makes us more prone to illness, it is even more dangerous in the winter months.
Hedgehogs hibernate from about November to March (this can vary), through what are usually the coldest months of the year. If we are not healthy and have enough weight, we may not be able to survive.
If you do come across a hedgehog that is out in daylight or has a visible condition please don't just leave it, help it - our numbers are falling, every hog is precious! For information on how to help, visit Helping Hedgehogs.
An excellent resource providing additional information on possible hedgehog issues and illnesses is presented by one of The Al-liance partners Hedgehog Bottom Rescue Centre - click here to visit their additional information page.