Hedgehog "Balloon" Syndrome

Click here for full-screen view

Summary Information
Diseases / List of Miscellaneous / Metabolic / Multifactorial Diseases / Disease summary:
Alternative Names
  • Generalised subcutaneous emphysema. (B259.w10, B284.6.w6, B337.3.w3)
Disease Agents
  • Unknown, possibly damage to the respiratory tract or could be gas-producing infection from a deep wound. (D66, B151, B259.w10, B284.6.w6, B337.3.w3)
Infectious Agent(s)
  • Possibly gas-producing bacteria
Non-infectious Agent(s) --
Physical Agent(s)
General Description Clinical signs:
  • Skin grossly inflated and stretched taut (the hedgehog may appear twice its normal size).
  • The belly may be touching, and dragging on, the ground.
  • The hedgehog's legs may be unable to reach the ground.

(B151, D66, B259.w10, B284.6.w6, B337.3.w3)

Note: Localised subcutaneous emphysema may occur also. (B337.3.w3)

Further Information
  • There may be air under the skin, possibly due to respiratory tract damage. (B151)
  • The condition may occur due to a wound sucking air under the skin. (B337.3.w3)
  • This may occur following trauma to the anterior mediastinum, for example after a road traffic accident, or rib fracture damaging the respiratory tract. (B284.6.w6)
  • Balloning could occur due to gas-producing infection in a deep wound. (D66, B259.w10, B284.6.w6)


  • Clinical examination. (B151, D66)
  • The hedgehog will feel light for its apparent size. (B337.3.w3)
  • If the spines are touched or tapped a distinct hollow sound may be heard. (B337.3.w3)


  • Air may be aspirated from under the skin by using a sterile large-gauge needle, syringe and three-way tap, or by making an incision on the back of the hedgehog with a scalpel. (B151, D66, B259.w10, B284.6.w6).
  • The procedure may have to be repeated several times. (B151, B284.6.w6)
  • Caution is required to ensure that the procedure does not result in iatrogenic infection. (B337.3.w3)
  • Broad-spectrum antibiotic cover (e.g. long-acting amoxycillin (B151) or amoxycillin-clavulanic acid (B337.3.w3)) is recommended. (B151, B259.w10, B284.6.w6, B337.3.w3)

This condition usually resolves over about three to seven days; the hedgehog may scratch more than usual while there is still gas under the skin. (B337.3.w3)

Techniques linked to this disease
Host taxa groups /species

Return to top of page