We had a call this morning about a “massive hedgehog” that was “falling all over the place.” On collecting him, it was quite apparent that he had balloon syndrome, so he was taken straight to the vets for treatment.
Balloon syndrome is described as “The hedgehog has blown up appearance, subcutaneous emphysema.” The skin is grossly inflated and stretched taut, there may be air under the skin, possibly due to respiratory tract damage, or could be gas-producing infection from a deep wound.
The condition may occur due to a wound sucking air under the skin. This may occur following trauma to the anterior mediastinum (part of the thoracic cavity), for example after a road traffic accident, or rib fracture damaging the respiratory tract.
The hedgehog may appear twice it’s normal size and will feel light for its apparent size. If the spines are touched or tapped a distinct hollow sound may be heard.
Air may be aspirated from under the skin by using a sterile large-gauge needle, syringe and three-way tap, or by making an incision on the back of the hedgehog with a scalpel. The procedure may have to be repeated several times.
Broad-spectrum antibiotic cover is required, and care must be taken to ensure that iatrogenic infection (infections transmitted during medical treatment and care) does not occur.
This condition usually resolves over about three to seven days; the hedgehog may scratch more than usual while there is still gas under the skin.
Our vet has now aspirated the air by syringe, and would like to keep him in for a day or two for observation.
We will update when we have more news.