Intramuscular Injection of Hedgehogs (Disease Investigation & Management)

Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Disease Investigation & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords IM injection
Description Before performing any clinical technique, the associated legal and ethical considerations should be consulted, knowledge of the potential complications/ limitations/ risk should be gained, and the level of expertise and qualification required must be ascertained.
  • Intramuscular injection can be performed in the conscious or anaesthetised hedgehog. 
    • General anaesthesia is not required for the technique.

Injection Site:

  • Intramuscular injection is performed into the orbicularis muscle; this is the muscle which acts to contract the hedgehog into a tight ball in the same way as a 'purse string'.(J15.21.w1, J60.1.w2) (see: Dermis, Subdermis and Epidermis - West European hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus - Appearance- Morphology- Skin-Coat-Pelage (Literature Reports) for more information about the orbicularis muscle)
  • Injection should be performed at the junction between the spine and hair areas on the ventrolateral aspect of the hedgehog's flank.(J15.21.w1)
    • The advantage of intramuscular injection at this site is that it is possible in the conscious hedgehog when tightly curled into a ball.(J15.21.w1, B284.6.w6)
  • Some authors state that intramuscular injections should not be given into the "skin muscles of the back".(B288.11.w11)
  • Intramuscular injections can be given into the muscles of the thigh.(B156.7.w7, B288.11.w11)
    • This route is only likely to be accessible in the anaesthetised hedgehog.
    • Intramuscular injection into the larger muscle bulk of the orbicularis muscle may be preferred.


  • Ensure that all equipment is available prior to starting the procedure.
  • Ensure adequate restraint of the patient; intramuscular injection can be performed in the conscious or anaesthetised hedgehog. 
  • Select an injection site without gross contamination (e.g. visible mud, faeces).
    • Cleaning of the site is essential if the hedgehog is heavily contaminated.
    • Preparation of the surgical site is complicated in comparison with other mammals by the presence of spines.
  • Some authors may recommend disinfection of the site with surgical spirit prior to injection.
  • Select an appropriate needle size (gauge and length) and syringe size for the hedgehog casualty.
    • A 23-25 gauge, five-eighths inch hypodermic needle may be used for intramuscular injection in the hedgehog. (V.w26, V.w44)
  • Insert the needle at an acute angle, not perpendicular to the skin.
  • Draw back on the barrel of the syringe to make certain that the needle is not in a blood vessel.
  • Deliver the injection slowly but steadily, checking for leakage around needle.
  • Check the patient for evidence of pain or discomfort if conscious during the injection, alternatively continue to carefully monitor the general anaesthetic.
  • Withdraw needle slowly upon completion. If leakage occurs, attempt to apply pressure to the injection site with cotton wool, although the presence of spines may make this difficult.
  • Carefully massage the site, where possible, to ensure optimal distribution of drugs. 
  • Check for bleeding from the injection site and apply pressure to aid clotting if this occurs.
  • Clean any excess blood from the area after clotting has been achieved.
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Intramuscular injection is used for drugs specifically indicated by this route.
  • Medications can be quickly and easily administered in the conscious hedgehog via the intramuscular route.
  • Potential good drug absorption.
  • Restraint time usually minimal.
  • Manufacturer's data sheet recommendations should be followed as to the recommended route and rate of drug administration (subcutaneous, intramuscular, intravenous).
  • Because of its rich blood supply, the intramuscular route is perceived to be a route for more rapid absorption of drugs than the subcutaneous site.
Complications/ Limitations/ Risk
  • Small juvenile hedgehogs may not have sufficient muscle mass to accommodate any injections.
  • Significant tissue damage may result from intramuscular injections due to volume, formulation and dosage frequency. Both haematoma formation and necrosis may result.
  • Injection sites should be rotated (e.g. alternating sides) to reduce trauma to any one area.
  • Injection may be painful.
  • Take care to avoid the sciatic nerve running along the back of the leg when injecting into the hind limb. (J138.60.w1)
  • Care must be taken not to puncture the body wall and give an accidental injection into the lungs or brown fat bodies. (J138.60.w1)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Appropriate sizes of needles and syringes.
  • Required drugs.
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 Not expensive unless expensive drugs are being administered.
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 (Medication):

  • Many drugs are not registered for use in particular species and care should be taken in their use, with proper regard for possible toxic effects. Consideration should be give to relevant legislation regarding the use of drugs.
  • In the UK, guidelines regarding the use of drugs are set out in the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Guide to Professional Conduct 2000: (see: LCofC1 - RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Choice of Medicinal Products).
Authors Becki Lawson (V.w26)
Referee Debra Bourne (V.w5), Suzanne I. Boardman (V.w6), Tiffany Blackett (V.w44)
References  B156.7.w7, B284.6.w6, B288.11.w11, J15.21.w1, J60.1.w2, V.w26, V.w44, J138.60.w1

Return to Top of Page