DIAGNOSIS OF WORM INFESTATION:
You will need a basic microscope magnification x 400 is sufficient, some slides and coverslips. The simplest method is perfectly adequate to check if worms are present, and that is called the Direct Smear method. You take a tiny bit of faeces, preferably that is green, runny or otherwise unhealthy looking, put it onto the slide with one drop of tap water and smear it to the size of a cover slip with the flat blade of a knife or wooden spatula, cover with the cover slip and examine under the microscope.
The following are the worms hedgehogs can suffer from, those mentioned in the next paragraph are pretty universal and you will find that most of the hedgehogs you look after will have at least a few of these worms.
LUNGWORM AND INTESTINAL NEMATODES:
Hedgehogs suffer from two types of lungworm: Crenosoma striatum (which sheds larvae) and Capillaria aerophila (with large oval eggs) which can cause respiratory problems, coughing, wheezing, "groffling" a rattling noise they make, these problems can lead to pneumonia.Basically if you see any sort of larva wriggling about it is almost certainly going to be Crenosoma, unless the hog has just been admitted and it is another sort of strongyle from the soil which will do no harm and after a few days in care you will not see it again.
They also suffer from two types of Capillaria worms in their intestinal tract, (C. ovoreticulata which has larger flat ended eggs and C. erinacei whose eggs are smaller and oval) . These intestinal worms can cause diarrhoea and emaciation.
INTESTINAL TREMATODE OR FLUKE This picture is misleading if you compare its size to that of the Capillaria eggs above, fluke eggs are very much smaller than Capillaria eggs and much harder to see. These eggs only have one plug, Capillaria have a plug at either end.
2 Crenosoma larvae and a fluke egg Fluke eggs in worm with a capillaria egg on right to compare
You may find that hedgehogs in your area also suffer from hedgehog fluke or Brachylaemus erinacei, this can be lethal, especially in young hedgehogs. If the worms reach the bile ducts, the hedgehog will die. The eggs are small, clear,oval and a peachy/orange colour and are difficult to see under a microscope. However, the symptoms are very clear and you should treat on symptoms alone even if you never find an egg! These are: a pronounced lack of appetite, even if you try to hand-feed with a syringe the hog will turns its head away, restlessness and hyperactivity, sufferers climb the mesh on a hutch door, dig at the newspaper and march up and down incessantly. Their droppings can be very smelly and often runny yellowish/brown possibly with blood. You will get to recognise the very distinctive smell of this diarrhoea!
THORNY HEADED WORM OR ACANTHOCEPHALA
This is the head of a THW under the microscope This is the whole worm on a glove no magnification
This worm has been found in hedgehogs at post mortem examination and in their droppings in life. It is meant to be rare and you may never see one. It can be lethal to young hedgehogs as it can migrate all over the body cavity and burrow through the hedgehog's gut wall twice. You may see the worm with the naked eye in faeces, it is long, white and grass seed shaped, with a "thorny head" which can be examined under the microscope, the rest of the body is too opaque to be examined in detail. Adult hedgehogs seem to pass these worms with few adverse effects.
But youngsters, if heavily infested are emaciated and in very poor condition, they squeal a lot and often die. We assume that the action of the worm burrowing through their gut wall would be extremely painful. We have used Droncit to treat this worm (see the dose rates for hedgehog fluke below) We have never found eggs or juvenile stages of this worm in faeces and so the only sure diagnosis in life is to find an adult worm in the droppings. Other rescues use Advocate or Ivomec to treat it. A Professor in Germany wrote that there is no point in treating it at all because it is either in the gut and about to be passed out or in the body cavity where no wormer can reach it. So you can take your pick! We are not even sure it is a true hedgehog parasite as it does not develop inside the hedgehog, it is definitely a parasite of birds.
INTESTINAL PROTOZOA - COCCIDIA
These last 2 pictures are of the same slide taken with different objectives so you can see how small coccidia are on a x40 objective, that was with a x10 eyepiece ie magnification of x 400
Isospora rastegaivae is a common cause of dark green droppings, possibly with blood in hedgehogs of all ages. Small, round oocysts can be seen under the microscope. These oocysts sporulate (nucleus divides into two in this species) and can reinfect the host or infect another hedgehog within 24-48 hours. Other symptoms can be restlessness with digging in corners of the pen or in its nest. Spines and fur may also fall as result of this infection. Coccidia is often found before and after hibernation or if the hedgehog is stressed. If untreated it can lead to haemorrhagic diarrhoea and death.
This is the basic treatment given to most weaned hedgehogs, hoglets under 6 weeks' of age should not need worming. (You may find exceptions to this rule as we think babies may be infected via their mothers, either in the womb or when feeding). All injections are given subcutaneously. We do not worm routinely, but in practice most hedgehogs will be wormed at some point during their stay, possibly several times, accordingly to severity of infestation.
For Crenosoma Vale are now recommending Dog Advocate spot on on the spines at 0.3ml/kg repeated after 10 days.
For Capillaria give 3 injections of Ivomec Super (which also has a flukicide in it) one week apart at a rate of 0.5ml per kg ie 0.05ml per 100g bodyweight.
Brachylaemus erinacei (hedgehog fluke) is treated with Droncit or Profender (Vale recommend Profender)
Droncit :tablets: Doses: under 200g b/w 1/8 tablet
200g-500g b/w 1/4 tablet
500g - 1kg b/w 1/2 tablet
1kg+ b/w 1 tablet
One dose is meant to be enough, but sometimes you will need more, I have given it 3 or 4 times but never less than 48hrs apart. Give at once if hogs get active or dig like mad and go off their food and/or have very smelly droppings.
We use crushed tablet on food or in glop if the hoglet is young enough to still take feed from a syringe.
I am using Droncit spot on for hogs which are not eating :
20mg Praziquantel per pipette holds 0.5ml which treats a 400g hog: dose rate is 50mg/kg
2 1/2 pipettes 50mg for 1kg hogs = 1.25ml
2 pipettes 40mg for 800g hogs = 1ml
1 1/2 pipettes 30mg for 600g hogs = 0.75ml
1 1/4 pipettes 25mg for 500g hogs = 0.625ml
1 pipette 20mg for 400g hogs = 0.5ml
1/2 pipette 10mg for 200g hogs = 0.25ml
1/4 pipette 5 mg for 100g hogs = 0.125ml
Vale Wildlife Hospital use Profender at 0.5ml per 1kg repeated each week for 3 weeks.
Apply Droncit or Profender to fur on underside where it is sparse and you can see the skin, not on the back between the spines, it will absorb better here. If you don't need a whole pipette either extract with syringe and needle (I found this difficult!) or squeeze whole pipette into airtight phial or bottle and extract what you need with syringe. If you put the lid on the bottle securely what is left seems not to evaporate!
ANTIBIOTIC COVER is given to prevent secondary infections, this is vital in cases of severe worm infestation. As a general rule we give Norodine/Diatrim 24 for 5-8 days at a dose rate of 0.06ml per 100g or 0.6ml/kg. Probiotic powder on food or in hand-feeds may also be effective. For acute diarrhoea - give Buscopan at a maximum rate of 8hrly intervals ie 3x per day. This will usually only be needed for 2-3 days at most. Dose 0.05ml under 200g and 0.1ml over 200g . Use with Norodine/Diatrim, fluid therapy, wormers and probiotic powder. If the hog has not got diarrhoea and is snuffly or a bit chesty we use Synulox dose 0.7ml/kg for up to 10 days then change to. Engemycin 5% (Engemycin is now only available at 10% so you need to dilute 50:50 with sterile water - only dilute a bit at a time as it goes dark in colour keep away from daylight) for 5-10 days at a dose rate of 0.2ml/100g b/w or Ceporex 0.1ml/100g b/w for 5-10 days.
Respiratory problems are also treated with Ventipulmin injectable 0.1ml/kg twice a day for 5-10 days. Dexamethazone can also be effective 0.1ml for hogs over 200g and 0.05ml under 200g for 5-10 days. We are also using a nebuliser now for chesty hogs. I am using 1:250 F10 antiseptic concentrate with saline. The hogs get 2 treatments a day.
COCCIDIOSIS is treated with Norodine/Diatrim 24% (0.6ml/kg) for 10 -15 days
Baycox liquid can also be given for Coccidia - I haven't found it to be easy to administer - messy and hard to give orally. Dose rate 0.4ml per kg repeated in 10 days.
Symptoms are dark green often runny or jelly-like droppings and possibly bright blood in them. Hogs are very active and dig like mad at newspaper and can lose appetite. I have found that their spines fall out as well sometimes. I give them a paper sack full of hay as a bed, this often helps calm them down as it is a more natural bed than newspaper. Coccidia is often found in Spring and Autumn before and after hibernation. It can spread between them when hogs are kept together. A hedgehog can infect itself by taking in its own infected poo, so take extra care with hygiene, give clean bedding every day and disinfect pen or hutch every day.
WOUNDS: Unless superficial, hedgehogs are taken to the Vet but first aid includes injections of Synulox at a rate of0.7ml/kg and Rimadyl/Carprofen (0.05ml up to 200g b/w and 0.1ml if over 200g b/w) and sub cut fluids.
A CD Rom of really clear parasite photos is available from Pro Igel for 15 Euros These are amazing photos taken by Dora Lambert who has done pioneering work in bringing photos of parasites to a wide audience.
DEVELOPMENT CYCLES OF HEDGEHOG PARASITES
taken from information provided by Dora Lambert of the Arbeitskreis Igelschutz Berlin e.V.
BRACHYLAEMUS : Development cycle of the intestinal fluke Brachylaemus Erinacei.
The eggs of the intestinal fluke Brachylaemus are eaten by snails where they develop into an infective stage. The hedgehog then eats the snail and gets infected. After 17 days the adult fluke sheds its eggs. Brachylaemus parasitises the small intestine but in severe cases can also be found in the bile ducts.
CAPILLARIA: Development cycle of the threadworm Capillaria
Threadworm eggs are shed in faeces. The infectious larval stage develops in the environment within 5-7 weeks. Earth worms can act as transport hosts. These infectious eggs are ingested by the hedgehog with its food.
Intestinal threadworm: Capillaria erinacei: worms take 25-26 days to develop in the gut after ingestion of the infectious eggs and their eggs are to be found in the hedgehog's faeces.
Lung threadworm: Capillaria aerophila: parasitises the lungs and eggs can be found in faeces about 3 weeks after ingestion of infective eggs.
To check if your worming has worked - repeat faecal smear for intestinal threadworm 2 weeks after treatment and for lung threadworm 3 weeks after treatment.
CRENOSOMA : Development cycle of the lungworm Crenosoma striatum
Lungworm eggs which contain stage I larvae are shed by the adults, coughed up by the hedgehog and swallowed, thereby entering the digestive tract. On the way the first stage larvae slip out of the eggs and are shed in faeces. In the environment they force their way into the foot of slugs or snails. There they develop within 3 weeks into infectious stage III larvae (via a second stage). The hedgehog ingests stage III larvae whilst eating the intermediate hosts, (snails and slugs). During digestion stage III larvae move from the gut via lymph capillaries into the heart and from there into the lungs. After 3 weeks they develop into adults parasitising the bronchiae and in their turn shed eggs containing first stage larvae.
TAPEWORM: Development cycle of hedgehog tapeworm Hymenolepis erinacei.
Tapeworm segments or proglottids are visible to the naked eye in droppings, measuring 1mm long and 3mm wide. Eggs can also be found measuring 75æm which already contain 6-hooked larvae
Various beetles act as intermediate hosts. Inside the beetle an infectious larval cyst develops out of the 6-hooked larva within 21 days .
The time between ingestion of the larval cyst and shedding of segments (proglottids) or eggs in droppings is about 35 days; that is the time it takes for an adult worm to develop.
COCCIDIA : Development cycle of Coccidia Isosopora rastegaivae
Oocysts are shed in droppings. These oocysts sporulate in the environment within 24-48 hours and are infectious to the hedgehog in this fully sporulated state. They are ingested either with food or from the fur in grooming. In the gut sexual and asexual reproduction takes place and after 6-10 days further oocysts are shed.
Acanthocephala - Thorny headed worms can be a problem for juvenile hogs - even causing death through gut perforation as they migrate through the gut wall, but in adults they seem to be passed in faeces without problem. This worm does not appear to develop in hedgehogs at all but is a bird parasite, using woodlice as an intermediate host.