16th November 2017 at 11:19 pm #8254
One sunny day in the middle of August we were tidying up in the garden when my husband spotted a baby hedgehog running across the garden path. On closer inspection we saw that he had a nasty wound across his back so I scooped him up and took him to our new local vet, Marshalswick Veterinary Surgery. And this is where an amazing relationship between one of our oldest, most endearing garden visitors and compassionate, dedicated humans began.
I offered to care for the little hog and pay for his treatment if the vet thought he could be repaired. As the wound was a few days old (probably a dog attack) and badly infested with maggots it was touch and go. However, the vets were amazing and anaesthetise him in order to clean out and stitch the wound. After an overnight stay with the vet he came home with painkillers and antibiotics. All that medical care and they wouldn’t take any payment! They did have to fill out their paperwork which required the animal’s name, so they called him Gary, for no particular reason and it seemed to suit him so we stuck with it.
So now we just had to administer both antibiotics and painkillers on a daily basis, prevent the wound from becoming infected and build him up to at least 750g so he had enough surplus fat to see him safely through winter hibernation…….little did I know!
Fortunately, the nurse at the vet recommended the London Conley Hedgehog Rescue Centre to me. I contacted Esther Chant, who runs the centre from her own home, asking for advice on how best to care for Gary whilst in captivity. she very kindly agreed to come and give Gary a check up. However, in the meantime Gary’s wound showed signs of infection so it was back to the vets who flushed out the wound and gave him an antibiotic injection. The vet recommended I flush the wound each day and Esther suggested applying manukau honey to help fight the infection and encourage the wound to granulate (I’ve learnt so many medical terms whilst looking after Gary), so now I’m trying to persuade Gary to unclench his mouth so I can force two lots of medicine down his throats and then keep still long enough for me to flush the wound( bearing in mind hedgehogs hate water) and then apply sticky honey to his back! Around this time I noticed Gary was doing a great deal of scratching when really he should have been asleep. When he was out and about in our utility room getting a bit of exercise he would often shake himself so violently that he sent himself spinning backwards. Although this was amusing to watch he was clearly feeling uncomfortable and irritated. I then spotted a bald patch on his side and the skin looked dry and red.
When Esther came to visit she also heard Gary make a very distinctive cough…..lungworm…oh and he’s bound to have intestinal worms as well as fleas and ringworm, hence all the scratching. I was beginning to wonder what I’d taken on and how these funny little creatures ever survived in the wild. Esther explained that when hedgehogs are in captivity it puts them under stress which can weaken their immune system and enable the parasites to overwhelm them. Fortunately, Esther was able to help by giving Gary two courses of injections to get rid of the lung and intestinal worms and a flee spray. We couldn’t do anything about the ringworm until his wound had fully healed as the treatment for this was an anti fungal bath….what fun, I could hardly wait!
A month on and Gary was finally clear of parasites and was beginning to grow a healthy coat of very spiky spines. His wound was fully healed although you could just make out the scar from the way his spines were growing. The bald patches were also growing fur and he hardly ever scratched.
Throughout all his traumas and treatment Gary never once even attempted to bite any of us, he grunted and snorted in protest but that was it. He also maintained a healthy appetite. Every night we gave him 100g of chicken flavoured dog food plus 50g of dry food, this was a combination of specialist hedgehog food and a handful of dried mealworms all bought from a pet shop. Most nights he ate all the wet food and about two thirds of the dry. He would always eat the mealworms first, obviously his favourite. The result was he grew quickly, putting on around 100g of weight each week.
Once he got to 850g we decided it was time to begin his release. Having been indoors for 8 weeks he needed to get used to cooler temperatures so we moved his box into our shed with some extra bedding. In the meantime my husband researched hedgehog homes online and using a recommended design built a sturdy house out of OSB board. We also boarded off an area of our flower bed so he could get used to foraging outside again. After a week in the shed we chose a mild night to transfer him to his winter house. On the first night he managed to dig a hole under the temporary fence boards and escape. Fortunately my daughter spotted him on the lawn so he was rescued again and the boards were secured with bricks.
On Saturday 14th October, a week after he went into his outside home, and another mild evening, we decided it was a good time to let him go back to the wild. One final weigh in of 943g, plenty big enough to survive the winter. We painted a bit of orange nail vanish onto his back, for identification purposes and took the boards away so he was free to roam. The next morning he was tucked up in his bed as usual!
We carried on feeding him but quickly cut out the wet food and just left dry food out as a supplement to his natural diet.
A few days later and the food was relatively untouched so we checked his box and it was empty…..Gary was once again a wild hedgehog!17th November 2017 at 8:09 am #8256
What a lovely story. Well done for saving the hedgehog.
Willpar.17th November 2017 at 7:33 pm #8268
Thank you William. Glad you enjoyed my little tale.It was a very rewarded experience and I learnt so much about hedgehog. I am now a true convert, feeding hedgehogs every night and piling up leaves and logs in the garden to provide food and shelter. I get quite excited when I see them in the garden, I had no idea we had so many frequent visitors.18th November 2017 at 10:24 am #8273
Lovely to hear a happy ending. Loads of praise to your vets too.
It sounds as if it was really rewarding and you have gained some useful experience. Gary was a very lucky hog to have such loving care.
And the best bit of all – ‘Gary was once again a wild hedgehog!’. Tears to the eyes time!
Good luck Gary – stay safe.
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