Lungworm Kills Hedgehogs

Compared with this time last year Claire Hunt founder of Snuffles Hedgehog Rescue reports an increase in emergency calls to the rescue. Hedgehogs being admitted with severe lung worm are on the increase. Sadly in very severe cases of lungworm although Claire always administers fluids and pain relief often the hedgehog is too weak to withstand the powerful drug treatment necessary to eradicate the lung worm burden. Therefore the early diagnosis and treatment is paramount for a successful outcome.

lungwormUsually we post pictures of hedgehogs that have pulled through but the harsh reality is that some hedgehogs admitted are too ill to treat. Sadly this is one such hedgehog. Found in the garden during the day, struggling to breathe and in great distress it was clear that the hedgehog had severe lungworm. Slugs are carriers of lungworm and so if a hedgehog eats too many slugs they will inevitably become very ill. Contrary to popular belief a hedgehog diet should ideally only consist of no more than 5% slugs to minimise the lung worm burden.

Lung worm is a parasite that occurs naturally in hedgehogs but, in a healthy hog, it will be kept to a manageable level. It is when the hedgehog’s immunity is low – due to disease, injury, or dangerous weight loss – that the lung worm will take hold. Lung worm can be fatal if it gets out of control and goes untreated. One sign of lung worm is coughing. If a hedgehog eats too many infected slugs then the lung worm will become severe. This is what often happens from September onwards when the hedgehog’s natural food supply of beetles, caterpillars and other insects is greatly reduced and they have to eat what they can get to survive. Unless people put out food for hedgehogs throughout the year their only option is to eat slugs and this could lead to severe lung worm and death.

Take part in the Snuffles “keep hedgehogs safe” challenge by putting out extra food and water for the hedgehogs (see what I eat) that could be wandering through your garden at night.