What should I do if I find a sick or injured hedgehog?
You should think carefully about deciding what to do next after coming across a hedgehog which you suspect is sick. Unless it is severely injured, you should not take a hedgehog too far away from where you originally discovered it. If severely injured, you should take it to a local hedgehog rescue centre or the vets in a sturdy, high-sided cardboard box lined with a sheet, towel without holes or ripped up newspaper. You should move it to a safe location nearby to where you found it if you find a hedgehog alive and in a dangerous place such as near a busy road.
How do I decide whether a hedgehog is sick or not?
If you suspect a hedgehog is sick, you should visually examine it in order to gage an understanding as to whether or not it may need medical attention. Things you can look out for are:
- Does the hedgehog look thin? It could be malnourished and will need a nutritious food source in order to build up its weight.
- Does its skin spring back when you pull up a couple of spines? If the skin appears to stay in place, the hedgehog could be dehydrated. Ensure the hedgehog has access to plenty of water if you suspect dehydration.
- Does the hedgehog have a funny smell? It could have an infection somewhere on its body, meaning it will more than likely need professional medical attention.
What steps can I take to care for a sick hedgehog?
If you are caring for a sick hedgehog, it is important that they have a good heat source from, for example, a heat lamp or well-wrapped hot water bottle (to avoid burning the hedgehog). The hedgehog will also need to be kept clean, meaning its ‘bedding’ (i.e. the towel, sheet or ripped up newspaper) will need to be changed daily.
Sick or injured hedgehogs are susceptible to hypothermia. You can look out for symptoms such as the hedgehog staggering around or ‘sunbathing’ (spreading themselves out on the floor in an attempt to quickly get some heat into their bodies). If you suspect that a hedgehog has hypothermia, again, take it inside placed in a high-sided cardboard box lined with a sheet, towel without holes or ripped up newspaper and ensure that the hog has heat by placing a well-wrapped hot water bottle inside the box. If you are placing a hot water bottle in the box, make sure that the hedgehog has enough room to move away from the hot water bottle to avoid overheating. It is vital to keep this hot water bottle warm, as letting it go cold will do more harm than good. Ensure that you check the temperature of the hot water bottle very frequently and change the water if necessary.
Once you have taken all of the advised steps stated above, you can contact The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) on 01584 890 801 who will further assist you on next steps. If you think that the hedgehog needs urgent or professional medical attention, you can take it to your local veterinary practice or hedgehog rescue centre.