And now for something completely unexpected! A few days ago we received a call from a man who advised us while walking his dogs he had found a badly injured animal on the banks of a woodland river in mid-Dorset. He said it resembled a hedgehog but was much smaller and white. He wasn’t quite sure what it was, but that is was very cold and it’s rear left leg was swollen and the foot black.
After discussing the next steps with him over the phone, he then took the animal home. He and his wife then found a box to hold it in and placed it on a hot water bottle, with thick towels to begin warming it up. He then rushed the animal to us. We had supposed from his description that is was an albino wild hedgehog. It was infact an African Pygmy Hedgehog – a hybrid bred for the pet trade.
These hedgehogs are much smaller than European wild hedgehogs, with much thinner legs and smaller feet, mainly creamy white spikes and as classed as “exotic” pets. They are insectivores, just like wild ones, but unlike wild hedgehogs, APH’s require a constant temperature of around 24-26 degrees. As pets, they are housed in vivariums with heat lamps in much the same way as pet reptiles – Bearded Dragons, Chameleons and so on. They are not native to this country, nor able to survive in the wild, particularly when it is cold and damp.
We rang a few vets in the area she was found to try to find out if anyone had reported her as lost or missing. This did not result in us locating her owner, so we left our contact details with them all and set to work on her injuries. She is not microchipped so that was another lost chance to reunite her with her owner.
On examining the hedgehog it very soon became apparent that there was a thick wad of long nylon type fibres wrapped tightly around her leg and foot. It had effectively cut off the blood supply to the foot, which was necrotic – and had broken the lower leg, as can be seen in the xray photo.
After removing as much of the tangle we we could, we then rushed her up to our vet to have her gassed down and her wounds cleaned and examined more closely, as she was by now highly distressed, in pain and had begun to roll up tightly, making further cleaning of her wounds impossible.
Under anaesthetic, the last of the fibres were removed, along with some tangled human hair strands, which had cut deep into the skin and exposed the bone and tissue within. Since the foot was infected and dead, she had to have her leg amputated to save her life.
She has spent several days with our vet and returned to our care yesterday afternoon.
This dear little creature has been someone’s pet. She is reasonably used to being handled – although it is evident from the damage to her leg that she has not been handled for some time, or the owner would surely have noticed the constriction around her leg. The fibres appear to be from some blanket material, probably used for her nesting and not checked for loose fibres on a regular basis.
When her injuries became apparent to her owners, rather than take her to a vet for immediate help, she has been abandoned in a remote woodland area and left to die. She risked death by infection from her wounds, the cold night temperatures, the inability to forage for food, or being predated by native wildlife – completely unforgivable and so unnecessary!
The morality of someone dumping her is not something any of us can comprehend – but we had an injured animal and could not step back and leave her to her fate.
The photos below show the xray of her broken leg, her looking drunk and “smiling” while under anaesthetic and gently sleeping after her surgery was complete.
We would like to say a HUGE thank you to our amazing vets and vet nurses at Upton & Wareham Vets for saving yet another precious tiny life on our behalf. Thank you to nurse Emily for the photos! Marble sends her love.