|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
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.
Wound management should be performed by a veterinarian or under
A close examination of the skin should be performed in all hedgehog
casualty cases to check for the presence of wounds, which should be
characterised in terms of age, size, location, degree of infection,
Wound Types and Distribution:
The distribution and character of wounds typically seen affecting
casualty hedgehogs often provide clues as to their cause:
- Lacerations from garden strimmers. Clean wounds affecting areas over
the back, limb or nose amputations.
- Burns from garden fires and bonfires. Check for odour and evidence
- Bite wounds from pet dogs. Various size puncture wounds and tears
often affecting the head or back of the hedgehog.
- Encircling, pressure or snare wounds around limbs or body. Assess
blood supply below the site of constriction. Ensure that hedgehogs are
not released immediately because of the risk of pressure necrosis.
- Abscesses and pustules commonly occur in the hedgehog, particularly between the
spines. Locally erosive abscesses and
ulcers can be found affecting the digits.
- These may occur as a result of fighting in group housed
hedgehogs whilst in captivity, particularly affecting the outer
Assessment & Management:
Handling and Sedation/Anaesthesia:
- General anaesthesia is generally required for wound management,
particularly in the first instance where prolonged and detailed
examination is required and cleaning and debridement may be needed. (B22.27.w3,
- Daily wound care may be performed on a
conscious hedgehog, provided that this is not too painful and that the
area is accessible if the hedgehog curls into a ball. (V.w26)
- Hedgehog spines should be clipped using sharp-edged blunt-ended
scissors placed parallel to, and flush with, the skin surface.
- Clippers designed for clipping hair should not be used on the
spined area. Spines should never be plucked.
- The wound may be protected with a small piece of damp cotton
wool while the fur or spines are clipped to reduce further
contamination f the wound during this process.
- Sufficient areas of spines must be clipped to allow adequate
visualisation and ventilation of the wound.
- However, the area to be clipped should be kept as small as
possible since the spines are the hedgehog's method of
- (see: Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog
- Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning).
- Hedgehogs which have large area of spines missing or clipped may
need to be kept until they grow out before they are released in
provide protection from predation.
- All wounds, particularly if long standing or/ and in warm weather
are vulnerable to maggot infestation. (See: Myiasis)
- Fully assess involvement of all local structures at an early stage.
Injury to soft tissue structures and concurrent fractures may
significantly alter the prognosis.
- Use a sterile probe to investigate depth and communication of
wounds as necessary. This is particularly important where maggots
are present. All wounds must be checked carefully for fly eggs or maggots
- Severe wounds affecting the panniculus or orbicularis muscles may
compromise the ability of the hedgehog to curl into a tight ball and
therefore jeopardise its mechanism of defence. Serious consideration
should be given at an early stage as to whether these cases will be
suitable candidates for release (see: Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog
- Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning).
- A decision must be made whether to manage wounds for healing by primary or
- Fresh lacerations, for example strimmer wounds, which are often
clean, may be appropriate for suturing.(V.w26)
- Contaminated, chronic, flystrike-affected (See: Myiasis),
puncture and pressure necrosis
wounds, as well as those involving large skin/soft tissue deficits
should be managed by secondary intention.(J15.21.w1,
- Bite puncture wounds are likely to become infected and, in the
vast majority of instances should never be sutured.(V.w26)
Cleaning & debridement:
- Dilute povidone-iodine, dermisol®, or sterile saline may
be used for wound cleaning as necessary.(V.w26)
- Solutions which both cleanse and remove necrotic tissue (e.g.
Dermisol multicleanse (Pfizer), Aserbine (Forley), are recommended for
initial management. (B284.6.w6)
- Salt water (one teaspoon of salt in a pint of boiled and cooled
water) can be used as a basic solution for cleaning wounds. (B337.5.w5)
- Dog-bite wounds should be cleaned using an antiseptic
solution such as Savlon. (B259.w9)
Healing by Secondary Intention:
- Rapid granulation and healing of large wounds may be promoted by the application of
topical medication such as Intrasite gel (Smith & Nephew) or Orabase
- Following flushing and debridement as necessary, fresh wounds may be closed using standard suture techniques and drainage
provided using fenestrated drip tubing. (J15.21.w1,
- Where the panniculus or orbicularis muscles are involved, the muscle layers must be identified and sutures should be placed in
appropriate individual layers. (B22.27.w3)
- Several layers of sutures are required to minimise
the risk of their ripping out when the hedgehog tries to roll
- Dehiscence may result following suture of the heavy dorsalis
caudalis muscle. (B22.27.w3)
- For facial wounds in which the skin has been pulled out of place but
injury to underlying structures is minor, the skin may be sutured back
using fine suture material; it is essential to ensure that the skin
surrounding the eyes is placed accurately. (B151)
- Abdominal hernias (common following road traffic accidents)
generally respond well to surgery. (B156.7.w7,
- Puncture wounds should not be sutured; these should be kept
open and clean. (B337.5.w5)
- These may be required to prevent the patient from interfering with a
- A non-adherent dressing such as a petroleum gel impregnated gauze
may be used (or Melolin on clean wounds), covered with extra padding
such as cotton wool and then bandaged in place. (B337.5.w5)
Nursing care/adjunct treatment:
- Consideration should be given as to appropriate antibiotic,
anti-inflammatory, analgesic and fluid therapy. (V.w26)
- Strongly smelling foods may be advisable for an individual with
an injury affecting the nose as the sense of smell may be reduced
or lost temporarily. (B337.3.w3)
- With nasal injuries not affecting the mouth, dry foods may be
preferable to reduce the risk of continuous contamination of the
wound with food material. (B337.3.w3)
- Systemic and local antibiotics may be used to control or prevent
bacterial infection. (B228.11.w11,
- Bacteriological culture and sensitivity should be performed where
possible to guide appropriate antibiotic selection. (V.w26)
- (See: Fluid Therapy for Hedgehogs)
- Requirements for fluid therapy, analgesia and anti-inflammatory
treatment should be carefully considered in burns cases. (See: Fluid
Therapy for Hedgehogs)
- Appropriate doses of analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs are
given in the pages of the Formulary.