Which hedgehogs are in need of help?
Those that need help are:
- Injured hedgehogs:
Often the place and circumstances (road, construction site) in which the hedgehog is
found will alert you to its injuries. Animals which have been trapped possibly for days
in trenches, light wells etc without food and water are also in need of help.
- Sick hedgehogs:
You can recognise sick hedgehogs in that they walk or stagger around foraging or lying out of their
nests in daytime. In warm weather swarms of flies lay their eggs on sick, injured and baby hedgehogs.
Sick hedgehogs are sluggish and can barely roll up, they are often very thin (they go in behind the
head and their hip bones stick out). Their eyes are not prominent and bright but are sunken in and
- Orphaned baby hedgehogs (hoglets):
Baby hedgehogs found out of their nest in the daytime, with their eyes and ears still shut, possibly
feeling cool to the touch, have lost their mother and are in urgent need of help
- Hedgehogs walking around in winter when it is freezing hard
and/or there is snow on the ground:
You will also usually find these hedgehogs out in daytime. They can be sick or weak adults, more often
they are juveniles which were born late in the year and are sick and/or because of the lack of food in
the late autumn could not put on enough fat for hibernation.
Exceptions are usually hedgehogs whose nests have been disturbed. Hedgehog nests can be destroyed
if piles of leaves or branches are removed, log piles dismantled, work done in parks and gardens,
construction work started, or dogs allowed to rummage around. Then even a healthy animal will go
looking for a new hiding place during the day. Sometimes during the day, lactating hedgehogs will
move between the breeding nest and another separate day nest.
In Germany, it is generally prohibited to remove from the wild, animals belonging to specially protected
species - and this includes hedgehogs. The relevant German
however, permit hedgehogs in need of help to be properly reared or nursed back to health.
The aim of every hedgehog rescue must be to release the animal as soon as it is healthy again.
First aid checklist
Basically, treatment of any sick hedgehog will only be successful once it has regained its
normal body temperature (approx. 36° C).
- Start a record sheet!
Date found, time found, weight found and exact details of the place where found So begins the
Record sheet (German version) on which
are entered: further weight gains, visits to the vet, treatments given etc.
- Sexing hedgehogs!
This is very important in mature animals in the summer, because it could be a nursing mother.
To sex a hedgehog, gently stroke its back until it unrolls, then (on a table) slowly roll it
onto its side with the flat of the hand, so that the underside is visible.
- Males have a knob of skin (penis sheath) in the middle of their tummies, towards the rear end.
- Females: the vulva is immediately in front of the anus.
- Looking for injuries!
You must inspect the head, underside and legs.
- Warming up hypothermic hedgehogs!
The animal is hypothermic when its underside feels considerably cooler than your hand. Fill a
hot water bottle with hand-hot water and wrap it in a towel (without loops, loose threads or
holes which could injure the patient) and put it in a deep-sided box of suitable size. Put
the hedgehog on the covered hot water bottle and place another hand towel over it.
- Removal of ectoparasites!
In summer, fly eggs and maggots are often found in wounds, as well as in the ears, mouth or anus
of uninjured but ill and weak hedgehogs. Fly eggs must be removed at once. Fly eggs are whitish
and rod-shaped, about 1.5 mm in length and usually clumped together; maggots resemble little
white worms. They must be picked off carefully with tweezers. Hedgehog fleas are killed with a
special spray (do not use powder) available from the vet or pet shop. Don't treat ticks with
oil, nail varnish or glue! Grip the tick with tweezers, as close to the hedgehog's skin as
possible and pull it out with a twist. These hedgehogs should only be bathed in very exceptional
circumstances as this will cause them additional stress.
- Consult a vet or a hedgehog rescue centre!
You should call a hedgehog rescue centre and/or a vet as soon as possible. Treatment for
injuries must be left to the vet. He (and any rescue centre) will help with the treatment
of ecto- and endoparasites and he will also prescribe the right treatment for weakened animals.
A sick or injured hedgehog is in urgent need of expert help -board and lodging on their own will
not put him right!
- Hedgehog enclosure and nest box!
Hedgehogs are solitary animals. So each hedgehog patient will need his own enclosure with
sufficient space and a nest box for properly equipped
Tinned cat or dog food or minced meat (briefly cooked, never feed it raw) or scrambled egg
(cooked with a little oil but no seasoning and mashed with a fork). Provide a bowl of water
to drink (never milk). Weak animals are given sips of tepid, unsweetened fennel or camomile
tea through a plastic syringe (with no needle!)
If the hedgehog does not eat for
himself on the first night in care, you must inform the vet or the rescue centre immediately,
as he will need fluid by injection or "hand feeding". Apart from medical provision, the be-all
and end-all of hedgehog care is correct Feeding.
- Collect droppings for examination!
Vets, hedgehog rescue centres, and the communal veterinary department will
have addresses, but often do some examinations themselves
- Release healthy hedgehogs immediately!
If the vet or hedgehog rescue centre decides that the rescued animal is not in need of human help, it must
be returned at once to the place where it was found, or to the immediate vicinity.
Hedgehogs are solitary animals. Each hedgehog patient needs his own accommodation of about
2 square metres floor space and 50cm in height and a nestbox. Read more about properly
Apart from medical provision and correct housing, the right nutrition is the be-all and
end-all of hedgehog care. Learn all about the
Feeding of hedgehogs patients.
Orphaned baby hedgehogs (hoglets)
Tiny hoglets, with eyes and ears still shut, present the animal lover with a difficult task.
You need specialist knowledge, time, patience and lots of commitment! Detailed information can be
found under Rearing orphaned hoglets.
Hibernation in human custody
If a hedgehog in care reaches an adequate weight for hibernation (600-700g) just before or
after winter sets in, you must wait until spring before releasing him. But even a hedgehog who
has to over-winter with humans, should hibernate. Read more about
Hibernation in human custody.
Most hedgehogs in need of help that have no external injuries, are not just underweight, they are sick too.
Don't put off going to the vet or to a hedgehog rescue centre. Warmth and food alone cannot cure diseases!
Make sure you observe the basic rules of hygiene when dealing with hedgehogs in care! Wash your hands
thoroughly every time after you handle them! Advice on hedgehog diseases and information on first aid for
prickly patients can be found under Diseases.
We refer experienced carers and vets to our German booklet
"Igel in der Tierarztpraxis" ("Hedgehog in the vets' practice")
written by a vet who is very experienced with hedgehog patients. The booklet is revised with each new edition.
The newest edition, which is made available here, was published in December 2005.
After getting fit again and/or over-wintering in care, it is time to release the hedgehog.
Read how best to do this under Release.
If you see albinotic hedgehogs or baby hedgehogs (hoglets) with mother or if you find
orphaned hedgehogs: Please support hedgehog research and complete our (German)