I found a hedghog while out walking the dogs on the 20th September. The hedgehog was on the road in bright daylight and was walking unsteadily like her legs were weak and wobbly. Her right eye was crusted over and she sounded snuffly so I took Hedgy with me and took her to the vets.
She was started on antibiotics and I wormed her in case she had lungworm. I thought we would keep her 2 weeks or so and then put her back out before it gets cold. But as soon as her eye was better, she started coughing badly, sounded like a machine gun. I recorded the cough and Michaela thought it might be lungworm. By the time the respiratory infection and cough stopped, the right eye was bad again. As soon as I stopped cleaning it or stopped antibiotics, it got crusty again. And then it was too cold to put her back out so she stayed the winter. Not that she minded as she loved sleeping on the rug under the radiator, all stretched out.
Hedgy is getting quite tame, knows when it's feeding time, comes when I call her- how on earth am I supposed to release her??? I haven't been put on earth to take in wild animals and release them again... I might get in touch with a bigger hedgehog rescue as to where to release her. Badgers are (the only?) animals that can kill a hedgehog and I found Hedgy near a badger set so don't want to release her here.
Then I finally took Hedgy to the vets (03/07/08) to have her chronically infected right eye checked under anaesthetic. Michaela said the eye is set further back in the head than the left eye and this makes it vulnerable to infections. I'd seen that the eye looked different and wasn't “bulging” like the healthy left eye. Michaela said she'll just need an antibiotic eye ointment from time to time. So it looks like she's non-releasable so I'll have to find her a hedgehog rescue. I have no idea whether hedgehogs are social animals or not and what she makes of her different life here, whether she's happy. But Michaela had a lot of fun with her. First she was too big (fat) to fit in the gas “chamber”. But they eventually managed. Then Hedgy did a big yawn as she was falling asleep from the gas which was apparently very cute and funny. Her lungs and heart sounded good and I'd asked Michaela to cut her claws and sex her. I'd been calling Hedgy a “him” but Michaela thinks it's a “she”.
Obviously Hedgy is still with us. She lives free in the living room with the dogs, cats and skunks (at first she was caged at night). Has her own bed but will also sleep in the skunk bed- with or without them.
Over spring/ summer/ autumn 2008, she spent a few hours every night outside. Once the last ferrets came in, I let her out and she ran in the garden with dogs, cats, skunks and ferret Bobby when he was still alive. I actually thought I could leave her out all night but when all the others came in, she didn't want to be left out by herself and would climb onto the step by the back door and scratch at the cat flap, she was actually trying sooo hard to climb up and through it... So she spends nights indoors and runs around the downstairs...
One "funny" story... When we first had Hedgy, I let her run in the garden one afternoon. Blossom skunk came out and next thing she jumped onto Hedgy with both front feet. Like she thought Hedgy was prey. Needless to say she did this once and never again...
Oh, and she is pretty much toilet trained. I put her onto a toilet after feeding and she usually goes. But she also often goes during the night and often goes to one of the skunk or ferret toilets.
Hedgy has gone through phases where she was making nests during the night. She would do it for so many nights and then stop. Unfortunately I didn't write down how often and when it happened but last night she made such an effort that I took pictures. Enjoy. :-)
Trail leading to the nest on the right just before midnight on the 7th
The nest in the corner just before midnight on the 7th
The *nest* ;-) the following morning on the 8th
Close-up of the nest; she dragged the dog towels from the utility room all the way through the kitchen for her nest
She took the newspaper out of the toilet for her nest which is opposite the toilet
She tried to pull the cloth from underneath the water for her nest
Hedgy passes blood when she has a bowel movement. The stools are covered in a bit of frank blood and she will pass some blood after the bowel movement. This has been going on for almost half a year. She doesn't look or act sick, has a very good appetite and no weight loss. Stools are normal and firm, brown with a dark greenish tint.
At first Michaela thought it was an infected anal gland after checking Hedgy under anaesthetic. So she was put on Baytril. When it didn't get any better, she was put on a course of Panacur. Still no better. Hedgy had x-rays which didn't show anything so we're not sure what to do next. At the moment I'm collecting her faeces so they can be checked for protozoa and she is scheduled for a colonoscopy.
She eats raw minced chicken (including bones) with some beef mince, lamb or ox heart and liver, and some oat bran. Sometimes she gets whole pieces of chicken so she has to chew. She also gets some dry dog food. I tried tinned dog and cat food but she refuses. When she had her x-rays, it showed a low bone density so I am adding extra calcium to her meat, it's a powder from Arkvits and has vitamin D3 and other vitamins and minerals added. I feel awful about the low bone density but thought there was enough calcium in the mince from the bones. She will have another x-ray to see whether the bones are getting stronger. Again she showed no signs/ symptoms of a low bone density.
Just some more cute Hedgy pictures from today...
We did a faecal test and no parasites or bacteria. We were going to do a colonoscopy but I thought what are we going to do if we find out what is wrong, operate? Then I visited my mother in Hungary for 2 weeks at the end of May. In June or early July, Hedgy went through a few days where she bled a lot, 2 nights she must have been wandering around, wiping her butt as she went along, and there was blood everywhere. Before she only passed blood with stools but those 2 nights she just bled. And then it stopped. There's only tiny traces of blood occasionally now so I wonder what went on, maybe a polyp/ growth that suddenly got worse and then healed? Who knows but it can't have been that bad because she always maintained a healthy appetite and was always active.
Hedgy had another x-ray, almost a year ago she had low bone density on x-ray so of course I've been supplementing her with calcium, vitamin D3 and other vitamins and minerals and her bone density is excellent, her femur has changed dramatically, it was really thin last time, this time the shape of it has changed so much and it's of course thicker. So I'm happy. :-)
Hedgy has developed mammary (?) growths. I handle her at least twice a day so I would have noticed them sooner if they'd been there long so I can only guess that they're fast growing. Last night I could feel 2 growths, they seemed bigger this morning with a small third growth. I took her to the vets and when I got back I palpated the area again (between her front legs) and there's a cluster of small growths now to the left of the 2 big growths.
For now Hedgy is on Baytril and Metacam to see if it could be an infection, something like mastitis. Which I doubt. The Baytril has also not had an effect at all. Hedgy is fine in herself though, still active and eating although the lumps would probably hinder her walking soon if they grow any more.
Some pictures taken today:
More pictures. The animals have been sleeping on this big bed for a while. I had a carrier for Hedgy but she didn't want to sleep on her own! She used to wake up, see that she was on her own, and then go look for the skunks and sleep with them on the big bed. So no more carrier. The skunks sleep under the sleeping bag, Hedgy usually, too. Then dogs and cats sleep on top even though the cats also sleep in different places like armchair or chair.
From when we first had Hedgy, I used to say that she seems to seek out company and sleep with other animals, especially the skunks- considering she is supposed to be a solitary creature... When skunk Tyler was paralysed and on the toilet after feeding, she used to go onto the toilet with him and lie down besides him!
I took Hedgy to see Lance Jepson. By now the tumours are inoperable. :-( I'm very disappointed and annoyed with myself that I didn't take her right to Mr Jepson in the first place. The tumours are huge and growing fast so maybe an operation wouldn't have helped, even earlier on. Mr Jepson said mammary tumours in hedgehogs are well documented and usually malignant... Hedgy eats, runs around and is in no pain or discomfort so I'll keep her going until the tumours stop her from moving or until they become sore/ ulcerated (which Mr Jepson thinks is likely to happen). Actually there are small lesions on the huge tumour and I'm putting Manuka honey on them to try and stop them getting worse. It is so hard to think of loosing her as she is not suffering, it's not like she's in pain or can't eat or can't breath. I've had her out in the garden most nights (until the rain started...) and when I go out and call her to fetch her in, she comes running. I thought to myself who else has got a tame wild hedgehog... One night I sat out on the garden wall for a bit to look for shooting stars and Hedgy came up to me to get attention (almost climbed onto my lap) and when I didn't react she walked down the garden to the bottom of the wall to my feet and walked over my feet, she is so incredible.
I had Hedgy put to sleep last Saturday the 11th of September. Her tumour had become so large that it started to bother her. She was still running around the garden last week but just looked uncomfortable from time to time. Friday night she looked sort of bad and didn't eat her food, of course Saturday morning she finished all her portion... But I took her in because the tumour had just become too big. It was horrible because I haven't lost anybody for 1 3/4 years and I was tired and stressed and started crying. When Hedgy was gone, we could see the full extent of her tumours, there were about 3 huge ones on the right side that had grown into one huge mass, on the left side she had small, hard nodules. The only good thing was that for some reason Michaela was doing consultation, she's not usually there on a Saturday. I said to her maybe a spay would have prevented this as it's obviously a hormonal thing and she agreed. Rabbits get uterine cancer when not spayed and maybe hedgehogs tend to get mammary cancer.
Obviously I miss Hedgy a lot, there's so many cute things she's done. Over the last years she's become such a special member of the family and really fitted in.
Whenever it was warm and dry enough, she went out into the garden at night. She loved running around with the skunks and any ferret that vwas still out. But once the other animals came in and went to bed, she wanted to come in as well and tried to climb through the cat flap. Once we put a brick in front of the cat flap and she actually came in by herself. :-)
She knew when it was feeding time, I think the skunks running around and pestering us gave it away. So she used to run around with them.
And of course she knew her name although she might have thought that "Hedgy" meant "food"...
When we first got Sparky, I was scared it wasn't working out with him and Hedgy. When Sparky finished his food, he went looking for Hedgy's leftovers on the toilets where I fed her. Sparky is very greedy and kept trying to push Hedgy out of the way. Of course that hurt him so he kept screaming at Hedgy. ;-) Luckily he soon learnt the Hedgy was prickly and didn't bother her anymore.