Acanthocephala Infection of Hedgehogs

Acanthocephala Infection of Hedgehogs
(Thorny-headed Worm)
There has been a high incidence of this reported this year from varies parts of the UK and the Continent
Summary Information

Alternative Names • Thorny headed worm infection of hedgehogs
Disease Agents • Thorny headed worms (Acanthocephalids).

General Description • Worm infection usually of the intestines but also the mesentery.

Clinical signs:
• Heavy infections in juveniles may result in emaciation, poor condition, squealing and death.
• Diarrhoea and emaciation from severe infections.
• Usually asymptomatic although heavy infection may be fatal.
o Usually asymptomatic in adults.
• Severe infections: Diarrhoea, weight loss.

• Gastrointestinal:
o Presence of the worms in the intestine (and mesentery).
o Intestinal mucosal damage (ulceration of the intestinal wall); severe damage to the mucosa may be seen with very heavy infections.
o Intestinal ulceration recorded due to Echinorhynchus erinacei infection.
o Ulceration of the colon recorded due to Echinorhynchus roase infection.
Note: Often there may be an associated gastrointestinal bacterial infection. [See: Colibacillosis (with special reference to Waterfowl and Hedgehogs), Proteus Infection in Waterfowl and Hedgehogs, Salmonellosis (with special reference to Waterfowl and Hedgehogs)]
Further Information
Transmission: • Ingestion of infected insect intermediate hosts.
Susceptibility: • Juvenile hedgehogs appear to develop more severe and pathological infections than do adults.
• Faecal examination: presence of worms, like white grass seeds, visible to the naked eye.
• Faecal examination by sedimentation (necessary due to the high specific weight of the eggs): presence of eggs; the egg contains a larva, already armed with hooks.
• Post mortem examination: presence of worms may be detected incidentally at post mortem examination. Prosthorhynchus spp. are about 6mm long.

• Praziquantel (Droncit, Bayer, plc.) 0.1 ml or ⅛ tablet for under 200g bodyweight, 0.2ml or ¼ tablet for 200-500g, 0.4ml or ½ tablet for 500g-1kg. Usually single dose, additional doses may be required, but at intervals of at least 48 hours.
• Levamisole 1% injection, 10 mg/kg bodyweight, subcutaneous.
• Praziquantel (25 mg per kg bodyweight) orally, or levamisole, or mebendazole.
• Praziquantel (Droncit, Bayer) 10-20 mg/kg bodyweight intramuscular or subcutaneous.
• Praziquantel (Droncit, Bayer plc.) 25 mg (½ a Droncit (Bayer plc.) 50mg tablet) per hedgehog for individuals above 500g bodyweight, ¼ tablet (12.5mg) per individual for hedgehogs below 500g bodyweight.
• Suggested therapy for associated bacterial infection: Potentiated sulphonamides (e.g. Tribrissen (Trimethoprim/ Sulphonamide) 24% (Schering-Plough Animal Health), 30 mg/kg once daily intramuscularly or subcutaneously, for five to eight days, or Zaquilan (Schering-Plough Animal Health) 20-40 mg/kg orally once daily), or Amoxycillin / Clavulanic acid (30-50 mg/kg twice daily orally, subcutaneously or intramuscularly) or Enrofloxacin (10 mg/kg twice daily subcutaneously, intramuscularly or orally).
o Supportive therapy, as required: Fluid therapy if the hedgehog is not eating and drinking. Buscopan (Boehringer Ingelheim Limited) is recommended (0.1-0.2 ml/kg no more frequently than every eight hours, not for prolonged use) if squeals indicate that the hedgehog is suffering from intestinal cramping. Probiotics, digestive enzymes, vitamins and Kaolin may also be useful.

Records of infection:
• Echinorhynchus amphipachus in the mesentery of European hedgehogs (Erinaceus spp.) and Echinorhynchus rosai, Moniliformis major and Prosthenorchis erinacei in the intestines. Also Echinorhynchus erinacei causing ulceration of the intestines, and Prosthenorchis elegans and Prosthenorchis spirula in the intestines.
• In European hedgehogs (Erinaceus spp.) Moniliformis erinacei, Moniliformis major, Prosthenorchis spp. in the intestines and Echinorhynchus rosai (possibly a synonym of Prosthorhynchus cylindraeus) causing ulceration of the colon. Also Echinorhynchus amphipachus reported in the mesentery of European hedgehogs.
• Moniliformis cestodiformis in the central African hedgehog Atelerix albiventris and Moniliformis moniliformis in the central African hedgehog Atelerix albiventris (in northern Africa and the Pityusic islands) and in Israel in both Erinaceus concolor and Hemiechinus auritus.
• Prosthorhynchus sp. in the omentum of 2/74 hedgehogs at post mortem examination, July 1976 to November 1986, in the UK.
• Nephridiorhynchus major in seven Erinaceus europaeus europaeus in Lebanon.
• Prothenorchis elegans and Moniliformis moniliformis in five Hemiechinus auritus in Egypt.

Host taxa groups /species
• Atelerix albiventris – Four-toed hedgehog
• Erinaceus concolor – East European hedgehog
• Erinaceus europaeus – West European Hedgehog
• Hemiechinus auritus – Long-eared hedgehog
(List does not contain all other species groups affected by this disease)

Information supplied by Wildlife Information Network.

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