TECHNIQUE

Euthanasia of Hedgehogs (Disease Investigation & Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords
  • Humane killing
  • "Putting to sleep"

N.B. This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Euthanasia (with special reference to UK Wildlife) which contains background information and further discussion on the 

Description This page has been prepared for the "Hedgehogs: Health and Management" Wildpro volume, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog

Further information;

Euthanasia is an appropriate option for individuals which are so ill or so badly injured that:

  • The individual is in severe pain and distress; or
  • If the survived they would not be able to be released and if they could be maintained in long-term care their quality of life would be unreasonably low; or
  • The degree of pain and distress which treatment would require is so great that euthanasia is a more humane option. or
  • Facilities and treatment is required that is not available, or which would be available only following transport which would cause unacceptable pain or suffering, or which would be available only following transport and such transport is not available/feasible; or
  • The animal would not be releasable and no suitable long-term care facilities are available.

Conditions in which euthanasia is the most humane option in hedgehogs include:

  • More than one limb missing or requiring amputation. (B337.3.w3, B151)
    • Euthanasia is sometimes considered preferable to amputation of one limb followed by the need for long term care (i.e. life-time captivity rather than release). (D107)
  • Loss of the nose (and therefore of the ability to find food). (B337.3.w3)
  • Severe damage to the nose, with maxillopalatine fractures which cannot be stabilised. (B284.6.w6)
  • Severe evisceration, with the intestines or other internal organs pulled out of the abdomen.(B337.3.w3)
  • Fractured spine with associated nerve damage. (B151)
  • Multiple severe injuries associated with a road traffic accident. (B199)
  • Severe maggot infestation involving deep, not just surface, tissues. (V.w5)
  • Congenital deformities in hoglets which would compromise the individual's ability to survive in the wild. (V.w56)
  • Individuals which are unreleasable and have been placed in long-term care but are not coping well.
    • Male hedgehogs may be less tolerant than female hedgehogs of permanent captivity. (D107)

Chemical techniques:

  • Euthanasia is best carried out by injection of an appropriate euthanasia solution such as sodium pentobarbitone.
    • The preferred option for euthanasia of a hedgehog which is not already unconscious is to induce anaesthesia using a gaseous anaesthetic agent, in an induction chamber if possible or with a mask otherwise, (see: General Anaesthesia (Gaseous and Injectable) Techniques of Hedgehogs) followed by injection of a euthanasia solution by the intracardiac route. (B156.7.w7)
    • Injection of euthanasia solution is usually carried out by the intrahepatic route (B284.6.w6)
    • Injection of euthanasia solution by the intravenous route may be an option in an unconscious or anaesthetised hedgehog. (B151)
    • For small mammals and other vertebrates intraperitoneal injection of 1.0ml/kg of 20% pentobarbitone solution is recommended.(D65)
  • Euthanasia may be carried out by using an overdose of an inhalant anaesthetic agent, preferably Halothane. (D65, J4.218.w1)
  • Euthanasia may be carried out by using chloroform inside a chamber or a plastic bag. (D65)
  • Following chemical euthanasia careful examination is required to ensure that respiration and heartbeat have ceased, i.e. that sufficient euthanasia agent was given and the individual is dead. (D65)

Physical techniques:

  • Physical methods of euthanasia are appropriate if the hedgehog is in severe pain and distress which cannot be alleviated and the delay required to reach a veterinary surgeon who could use chemical euthanasia would be unacceptable on humane grounds.
  • The following physical techniques have been suggested for euthanasia of hedgehogs if access to chemical methods is not available:
    • Some authors suggest shooting with a shotgun or rifle.(D65)
    • A sharp blow to the top/front of the head. (D65)
      • The shock-absorbing nature of the prickles, and the hedgehog's musculature, means that this is less practical than in other species of similar size. (B337.3.w3)
      • The action must be carried out with as much force as possible.(D65)
      • Death of the stunned animal must be assured by the use of an additional technique (D65, J4.218.w1, J83.30.w1); this may be:
        • Exsanguination (cutting the animal's throat with a sharp knife, deeply so that all the major blood vessels -carotid arteries and jugular veins - are severed).(D65, J83.30.w1)
        • Repeated blows to the back of the head to completely destroy the brain.(D65, J83.30.w1)
        • Decapitation (e.g. using the edge of a spade).(D65)
Appropriate Use (?) A thorough examination soon after the hedgehog has been brought into care allows an early decision to euthanase those with severe injuries for which this is the most humane option, such as individuals with:
  • More than one limb amputated or requiring amputation; (B337.3.w3, B151)
  • Loss of the nose (and therefore the ability to find food); (B337.3.w3)
  • Severe damage to the nose, with maxillopalatine fractures which cannot be stabilised. (B284.6.w6)
  • Severe evisceration, with the intestines or other internal organs pulled out of the abdomen.(B337.3.w3)
  • Fractured spine (B151)
  • Multiple severe injuries associated with a road traffic accident. (B199)
  • Severe maggot infestation involving deep, not just surface, tissues. (V.w5)

Physical methods of euthanasia are appropriate if the hedgehog is in severe pain and distress which cannot be alleviated and the delay required to reach a veterinary surgeon who could use chemical euthanasia would be unacceptable on humane grounds.

Notes  
Complications/ Limitations/ Risk
  • If the dose of a euthanasia solution given is too low, deep narcosis rather than death may occur. Careful examination is required; if heartbeat or respiration have not ceased an additional dose of anaesthetic may be given (intraperitoneal or intracardiac) or a physical method (see above) may be used to ensure that death has occurred.(D65)
  • Care must be taken following use of chemical euthanasia to ensure that the carcass is disposed of safely to avoid its being eaten by scavenging carnivores.
  • Following stunning by a blow to the head death of the stunned animal must be assured by the use of an additional technique (D65, J4.218.w1, J83.30.w1)
  • Putting the hedgehog in a very cold place such as a freezer is not an appropriate or humane method of killing.
  • Drowning and asphyxiation are not appropriate or humane methods of killing.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Appropriate sizes of needles and syringes.
  • Euthanasia solution for chemical euthanasia.
  • Anaesthetic drug for anaesthesia, as appropriate.
Expertise level/ Ease of Use
  • Procedure should only be undertaken by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical experience; this would usually be someone with veterinary training.
Cost/ Availability
  • Inexpensive unless expensive drugs are being used.
  • Use of euthanasia and anaesthetic solutions may be restricted to veterinary surgeons (see below: Legal and Ethical Considerations)
Legal and Ethical Considerations In some countries there may be legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides, subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (See: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons)

Use of Drugs:

  • In the UK euthanasia solutions are controlled drugs under Schedule 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 1985; they are not available to the general public.(D65)

Use of physical methods:

Authors Debra Bourne (V.w5)
Referee Suzanne I. Boardman (V.w6)
References B151, B199, B284.6.w6, B337.3.w3, J4.218.w1, J83.30.w1, D65, D107, V.w5

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