If you don’t like routinely treating you could check dropping samples under a microscope for eggs or larvae. It seems most autumn juveniles samples that are being checked do have eggs or larvae present. Check samples on arrival and every other day for the 2 weeks following the last worming dose then weekly thereafter, unless the hedgehog’s condition deteriorates in which case check again.
Lungworm can cause wheezing, coughing, gurgling, snuffling, respiratory distress and loss of appetite and weight. Frequently linked to a secondary bacterial infection and profuse mucus secretion in airways, dead worms, eggs and larvae must be coughed up or they will block the airways and may cause death.
Lungworm found in hedgehogs are very small and only just visible to the naked eye. They are 10-15mm long and only 0.3mm thick. They are whitish cream in colour.
Levamisole: (Levacide) 20mg/kg 2 injections sub cut 48 hours apart. Dilute 1 part in 4 parts sterile water (otherwise it really stings) and use this dilution at 1.33ml/kg. Do not inject near the head, or give to pregnant hedgehogs or to unweaned babies. With young or weak hedgehogs under 300gms split the daily dose into 2 and give half in the morning and half in the evening. Slightly different doses and repeat times are also being used successfully. It is for your vet to decide which dose they use. Repeat the levamisole doses after 10 days – it is not usually necessary to repeat any of the other drugs unless symptoms suggest this is required.
As lungworm infestation is frequently associated with a bacterial infection appropriate antibiotic cover should be given under veterinary supervision. For example Marbocyl or Baytril or if Coccidiosis is suspected Tribrissen 24%.
Refer to the BHPS booklet on Care and Treatment of Hedgehogs or Vale Wildlife Hospitals (VWH) drug regimes for drug doses of these and the drugs mentioned below.
Bisolvon should also be used to shift mucus and bring up dead worms – this can be given either orally or by injection.
Recent studies at VWH has shown a greater success rate when Dexadreson (a short acting anti inflammatory drug) is used at a rate of ½ml/kg twice daily for 3 days.
Millophyline can also be given if the hedgehog’s breathing is laboured (this helps to expand the bronchioles thus increasing the passing of oxygen from the lungs to the blood, making respiration less laboured).
Do not feed hedgehogs on their natural food as this can result in re-infection. Use mealworms, beetles, etc from a reputable source if you want to use live foods.
Note: The hedgehog may cough more after worming than it was before – this usually means that the worms are dying and being coughed up which is what you want – it does not necessarily mean that the hedgehog is getting worse.
Thanks to Hedgehog Helpline and Vale Wildlife Hospital for their input into this advice sheet.