Look out – hedgehogs are about! Pete the Vet podcast from Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

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Hedgehogs in Ireland will be waking up soon

Hedgehogs across Ireland emerge from hibernation from mid-March, and it’s a vulnerable time for them. After going without food during their winter hibernation, they are very hungry and in need of food. They lose a third of their body weight during hibernation: like a twelve stone person going down to eight stone, so they are very thin.
In the wild, the staple diet of hedgehogs comprises beetles, caterpillars, earthworms and bird eggs. They also eat snails, slugs, earwigs,, bees and even small mammals. Most hedgehogs manage by finding plenty of food in the wild, but some become so weakened from hunger that they end up in trouble. Hedgehogs are normally nocturnal, only seen at night time, so if anyone finds a hedgehog, lout and about in broad daylight, it is usually a sign of desperation, indicating that the creatures need human help.
A normal adult hedgehog should weigh at least 600g at the end of hibernation: one of the first things to do if you find one is to weight it. If less than 600g, the hedgehog definitely needs extra feeding.

Do hedgehogs need to be taken to the vet

Hedgehogs are often brought to see me as a vet: they can be difficult animals to examine. Their desire to curl into a prickly ball can make routine tasks almost impossible. Normal veterinary activities like temperature-taking, examination of eyes, ears and mouth, and listening to the chest with a stethoscope can be challenging. You need a darkened, quiet room, and you need to be patient. .
Hedgehogs are prone to internal parasites, including lungworm, as well as bacterial and viral infections. Any sick or underweight hedgehog should be taken to the vet; most are happy to see hedgehogs for no fee. Worm doses, plus perhaps antibiotics, may be needed, and many have fleas that require treatment.

Feeding hedgehogs

Twice daily feeding is important, with a high quality dried cat food, soaked for an hour so that it is soft and mushy.

What to do if you find a hedgehog

The aim of all wildlife treatment should be to get the animal fit and well as rapidly as possible so that they can be returned to the wild.
Many hedgehog rescuers go on to release them back into their own gardens: hedgehogs are known as “the gardener’s friend”, providing a natural form of pest control by eating slugs, snails, caterpillars and other plant-eating creatures.
Many people also find hedgehogs when gardening (I heard about one who was exposed when someone dismantled a garden shed last week) – they need to be checked for good health then placed in a suitable place to continue sleeping (e.g. the upturned lid of a plastic cat carrier) with leaves or straw to burrow into.

  • Be particularly careful when strimming: they are easily injured.
  • Also care needs to be taken with slug pellets – hedgehogs are vulnerable to poisoning.
  • For advice on what to do if you find a hedgehog, see here http://irishwildlifematters.ie/
  • If you find a hedgehog in the Dublin area, see Hedgehog Rescue Dublin on Facebook

Questions from listeners

  • I have a ten year old Shetland Collie and an eleven year old cat. I am considering getting another little dog. The yorkshire terrier is very timid but very friendly and very cuddleable. How do I bring them together without seven shades {of shite} being kicked of each other by one or the other. I would like us all to have a harmonious happy home. Is that possible with a Collie, Cat and Yorkshire. Shane O’Neill. Tallaght.
  • I leave out a little tray of dog food for our visiting fox. Sometimes it isn’t eaten by the fox (I knew by the bite marks on the tray). Could it be a hedgehog? How would I know? Many thanks, Lauren , Dalkey.
  • My adult daughter has an 11 year old Maltese, normally the closest thing to a cat in terms of personal hygiene and self-sufficiency. However my daughter has recently bought a house which she’s renovating, and has brought the Maltese over a couple of times, she doesn’t seem to be impressed. 2 nights ago the dog, who sleeps in my daughter’s bed, peed not just in the bed but on the pillow right beside where her owner was sleeping! She has also peed on our bedroom carpet this morning. She is let out regularly, are we right in thinking this is her ‘acting up’ because she doesn’t like the new developments? she definitely lets us know when she’s not pleased … She has recently been diagnosed with Cushing’s disease and is on 60mg of Vetoryl a week.thanks! Patricia

To discover Pete’s answers to the questions, listen to the podcast below

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