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The Thorny Headed Worm of Hedgehogs

Care of Wildlife,Parasites / 18th November 2012

It sounds like something from Harry Potter but this parasite is a very serious disease of the little hedgehog.

The nurses have rescued a lot of hedgehogs in the last few weeks and some have not survived. A post mortem by one of our vets, Ian, found this parasite inside one, it is a thorny headed worm, a potentially fatal intestinal parasite. This nasty little worm is more dangerous than other parasites because its head is covered with barbs that it uses to anchor itself to the wall of the gut and it can pierce through it, which causes infection and a painful death to the animal. Baby hedgehogs can be found squeaking in pain.

The Thorny Headed Worm

The infection can be successfully treated with some of the routine dog worm treatments and we are very grateful to Bayer Animal Health who have donated some wormers for us to use.

The infection is particularly dangerous in young hedgehogs, adults seem to be able to cope with it better. The parasite appeared from nowhere in the UK and has been sporadically reported across the country. Any wild animal that lets itself be picked up by a human is going to be fairly ill and obviously not all such hedgehogs will have this parasite.

Close up of the ‘Thorny Head’. You can see the ‘thorns’ down the sides.

Two of our nurses in particular are taking care of the many hedgehogs, Charlie and Toni, but it has been a team effort to look after them.

39 Station Road, Bamber Bridge,
Preston, PR5 6QR

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Fax: 01772 627261