Sick and injured wildlife are handed over to practices by the general public at any time of year. However, we can often see an increase in admissions of hibernating species as we head into the winter months, particularly hedgehogs. These hogs are generally those found showing abnormal behaviours such as being active during the day (unless they are clearly nest building), appearing sleepy or lethargic, or showing respiratory symptoms.1

The British Hedgehog society offers very useful care advice for assessing a hedgehog’s condition, plus suggested treatment protocol for a range of conditions.2

They suggest that if uncertain about a hedgehog’s hydration status, it is always best to assume a degree of dehydration. When examining a hedgehog, the following parameters can be useful:

Body temp 35°C (+/- 1°C)
Heart rate 200-280bpm, significantly lower if hibernating
Respiratory rate 20-50 per min, can be apnoeic for period of up to an hour during hibernation
Body condition Rounded back end – good condition
Rugby ball shape, visible hip bones – poor condition
Weight Traditionally over 450g deemed ok for release, however other research suggests a Bunnell Index score of 0.8  is more suitable.
Hydration Assessment much the same as other species – skin tenting, gum colour, CRT.

Table information compiled from British Hedgehog society3 and Toni Bunnell PhD3

Oralade GI Support is suitable for oral rehydration in many wildlife species, including hedgehogs. The suggested maintenance dose is 50ml per kg per 24hrs, and additional quantities will be needed to correct a hydration deficit. This fluid replacement chart from Vale Wildlife is a handy guide. Other options in hedgehogs include subcutaneous, intra-peritoneal, intravenous or intra-osseous fluid administration.2

“We frequently use Oralade to help our patients which are suffering from mild dehydration and are reluctant to eat. It works really well for species such as hedgehogs, foxes and badgers as the smell seems to encourage them to lap. It really does give them a boost and can get them eating solid food again which is critical for their rehabilitation.” – Wildlife Aid Foundation

Oral fluids can be offered in a bowl, and we have received great feedback from wildlife rehabilitation centres about palatability and encouraging intake. If necessary, Oralade is suitable to be syringe fed – however it is really important to do so slowly to avoid aspiration, and we do not recommend holding a hedgehog on their back during feeding for the same reason. Stop syringe feeding immediately if the hedgehog seems unable to swallow.

Oralade is an effective rehydration solution thanks to the isotonic formula and dextrose. However, it has the added advantage of supporting gastrointestinal health and recovery by providing microenteral nutrition through prebiotic fibre, glutamate and glycine.

“We were recommended Oralade GI by another wildlife rescue centre as sometimes we would have hedgehogs refusing to eat. We tried Oralade, and also mixed a little in with some food and even the persistent non-eaters gave it a try. This certainly seems to be far more palatable to our hogs than regular rehydration fluid and we would definitely continue to use. We will try this with any foxes that come in to us too.” – Oak and Furrows Wildlife Rescue Centre, Wiltshire