Posted By: Greg - Vet

Hedgehog comes off worst in litter accident

We regularly hear that litter poses a danger to our wildlife, but how many of us have thought of the consequences when wild animals suffer from the rubbish that we have left behind? Litter should always be picked up – not only is it unsightly but it can cause problems to nature at the park, the coast, and even in our own gardens. Small mammals such as hedgehogs can be particularly vulnerable to getting their legs trapped due to their size and mobility and this is exactly what happened to the latest hedgehog inpatient at the practice.

Being a nocturnal mammal, it is not normal to find a hedgehog about in the day – such animals usually require veterinary attention. In Autumn, when preparing for hibernation, underweight hedgehogs are seen fairly regularly at the practice; they may be suffering from worms and require feeding up indoors over winter. However this particular hedgehog was a very large male, appearing to be generally in good shape, found in a neighbourhood garden on a warm spring morning. The owners of the garden approached and noticed some netting material covering the animal, and tried to remove the tangled mess but with no luck.

Thankfully, the good samaritans handed the hedgehog into the practice and he was duly admitted for further investigation. Hedgehogs are especially hard to physically examine – it is in their very nature to curl up into a prickly, defensive ball to prevent inspection, and as the netting couldn't be gently untangled, a general anaesthetic was required to get to the bottom of the problem.

After breathing in the anaesthetic gas, the hedgehog’s body became relaxed, and the ball unfurled to reveal his body and legs. Now he could be examined, it was clear that two separate pieces of netting had wrapped around his legs, after the hedgehog had unwittingly walked over it and become caught up. It was now possible to untangle the litter from his body, but it seemed as if it had been causing a problem for a while, because the material had started to dig in to the tissue, causing smelly, infected wounds. The wound by his front leg was able to be cleaned and bathed and would improve with antibiotics, but there was a very big problem with the back leg, where the netting had cheese wired deep down through skin and muscle, exposing a small part of the thigh bone. Below this injury, the foot was incredibly swollen.

Netting removed from hedgehog

It was doubtful that this wound would heal successfully such was the damage caused, so the only possible way to save the hedgehog would be to remove the leg surgically, with an amputation. As hedgehogs are relatively light and hold themselves quite close to the ground, they are able to get by alright on three legs, as long as the remaining limbs are healthy – which, thankfully, they were.

Whilst under the anaesthetic, the hedgehog was prepared for surgery and underwent his procedure successfully. He recovered well from the anaesthetic and started a course of anti inflammatory as well as antibiotic medication. Full recovery would take a while, so to get him back to full strength, the hedgehog was kindly taken in by a local hedgehog rescue charity. Due to a careless person’s actions, this hedgehog almost lost his life, but luckily he was found and rescued just in time.

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