Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Control / Techniques & Protocols:
Management / Husbandry of the West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus

Introduction and General Information

Various aspects of hedgehog management are indicated below with links to Individual Technique pages designed specifically for Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog

The principles of many of these topics have also been discussed in detail within general Technique Overview ages written for other volumes of Wildpro; we suggest that these pages should also be consulted as appropriate (e.g. when considering housing requirements then the page Wildlife Casualty Accommodation (with special reference to UK Wildlife) should be read as well as the page Accommodation of Casualty Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog). 

Many of the individual techniques described and linked below are generally relevant to hedgehogs, particularly the veterinary technique pages. However it is important remember that these pages were written specifically for the care of Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog and some aspects will be different for other species of hedgehog (e.g. suggested food volumes would be grossly excessive for Atelerix albiventris - Four-toed hedgehog, a species which is commonly kept a pet in North America and which is much smaller than Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog.

Some guidance on legal and ethical aspects of treatment and care has been provided in these pages. Where specific legislation is referred to every effort has been made to ensure that this is up-to-date at the time of writing and with reference to the UK. It is the responsibility of the individual using the information to ensure that they follow current guidelines and comply with current legislation for their country or state

Information to assist with specific diagnosis of hedgehog diseases is provided in:

Additional information on assessment of wildlife casualties, including TRIAGE and FIRST AID: Emergency care is provided in: 

Published Guidelines linked in Wildpro

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Catching and Handling

Catching and handling of non-domestic animals requires an understanding of general principles as well as a recognition of the difficulties and problems which may be associated with the species in question.

It is always important to consider the risk of injury to humans and to the animal which is being caught or held in order to reduce the risk of injuries to humans or animals. 

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Accommodation

Accommodation requirements vary between different species, although there are principles which apply generally to animals and to non-domestic animals in particular.

Incorrect housing is likely to increase the stress experienced by a non-domestic animal while it is in care and may result in injury to the animal. A knowledge of natural history is beneficial when designing accommodation, in order to understand the physical and social requirements of the species.

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Feeding

There are obviously wide variations between diets suitable for different species. Diets fed to non-domestic animals must meet their nutritional needs and should be presented in a manner such that they are recognised as food. Incorrect diets may delay wound healing and cause illness. Knowledge of the natural diet of the species is useful when designing diets.

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Hand-Rearing

Successful hand-rearing requires provision of appropriate heated accommodation, the right type and quantity of milk, fed at the right intervals, assistance with urination and defecation in the very young, weaning, and preparation for release.

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Overwintering Juveniles and Long Term Care Considerations

Hedgehogs which may have to be cared for for some time include juveniles which are found in autumn and do not weigh enough to survive hibernation, and individuals with injuries such that they cannot be released into the wild, but are considered likely to have a reasonable quality of life in sheltered accommodation. 
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Euthanasia

Euthanasia is sometimes the most humane option for a wild animal. It is important to consider first whether euthanasia should be carried out and second what method of euthanasia is most appropriate for the individual animal and circumstances.

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Release

Releasing a wild animal after it has been in care should not just be a matter of opening a door or window and letting the individual go. There are many factors which should be considered when releasing an animal. Some of these factors are related to the individual and others to the habitat into which it will be released.

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Marking and Tracking

Studies on many aspects of wild animal behaviour require that individuals can be repeatedly identified. This is very important in research regarding the survival of wild animal casualties after they have been rehabilitated and released. Marking may also be important for individuals in care, in order to identify group-maintained individuals (e.g. litter mates). More detailed studies of animals in the wild often require that individual animals can be tracked over a period of time. 

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Record Keeping

Record keeping fulfils two main functions:

  1. It assists with the care of an individual animal by providing an objective measure of its progress and by notes indicating specific care and treatment procedures (e.g. feeding, medicating) which have been carried out.

  2. It assists with the development of future improved care protocols, by comparing treatment regimes and their outcomes.

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Legislation

When caring for and treating wild animals it is important to be aware of their legal status and the possible legal protections for the animal in question, in order to avoid accidentally breaking the law while trying to assist the animal. 

Note: Legislation changes between countries and over time. Wildlife Information Network has made every effort to ensure that the legislative information referred to in Wildpro is correct at the time of publication of a given volume, however it is the responsibility of the individual using the information to ensure that they follow current guidelines and comply with current legislation for their country or state.

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Diagnosis

Diagnosis of disease in hedgehogs requires physical examination, supported where necessary by further diagnostic tests such as radiography (x-ray examination). If a hedgehog has dies or requires euthanasia then a post-mortem examination may be beneficial to give a definite diagnosis; this may provide a diagnosis for other animals which are still alive (e.g. littermates) and improve care of animals in the future. Obviously it is beneficial when making a diagnosis to have a knowledge of which diseases may occur in hedgehogs, which parts of the body they affect and which diseases and conditions are common and therefore most likely to be seen.

  • An extensive list of hedgehog diseases is provided in: Diseases reported to affect the West European hedgehog. This page indicates which diseases are common, which diseases are found in juveniles and neonates/orphans and lists diseases by the affected area of the body as well as by groups of causative agents.
  • A detailed description of physical examination of mammals, with specific information on signs which may be seen in hedgehogs and the diseases to which those signs relate is provided in: Physical Examination of Mammals
  • A detailed description of a mammal post-mortem examination, with specific information on signs which may be seen in hedgehogs and the diseases to which those signs relate is provided in: Necropsy of Mammals
  • Information on assessment of a wildlife casualty, including TRIAGE and FIRST AID: Emergency care is provided in: Wildlife Casualty Assessment (with special reference to UK Wildlife)
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Veterinary Techniques for Hedgehogs

Many veterinary techniques are very similar no matter what species they are performed in. Hedgehogs present some special considerations for veterinary treatment due to their spines and, in particular, their ability to roll up into a ball. The following techniques describe methods of treating hedgehogs which take account of the potential problems inherent with these species.

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Human Health Considerations

When dealing with non-domestic animals it is always important to consider potential hazards to human health. These may be physical risks due to risks of being bitten, kicked etc., or risks of transfer of zoonotic infection from the animal to a human.

A number of diseases of hedgehogs are zoonotic infections. Common zoonoses which may occur in hedgehogs include:

A full list of diseases seen in hedgehogs which are also zoonoses is provided in: List of Hedgehog Diseases - Zoonotic Diseases

Good hygiene will greatly reduce the risks of zoonotic diseases being transmitted between hedgehogs and their human carers.

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DETAILED INDIVIDUAL MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES

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Authors & Referees

Author Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)
Referees Suzanne Boardman BVMS MRCVS (V.w6)

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