Slugs and Snails


Gardeners wrongly think having hedgehogs in the garden is all they need to keep the slug and snail population down.

  • Hedgehogs mainly eat beetles and caterpillars, not slugs and snails
  • The idea that they only eat slugs and snails is very wrong. Only approximately 5% of their diet naturally will be slugs or snails.
  • They will only eat a lot of slugs and snails when they are starving and no other food is available.
  • A hedgehog that is forced to rely only on slugs and snails will not survive long.  Offering a hedgehog additional food is the best thing for the hedgehog

Slugs and snails are the primary carriers for the lungworm which is  the biggest killer of hedgehogs except for us and our careless behaviour Hedgehog and slug

  • When the lungworms breed inside the hedgehog they rapidly multiply, fill the hedgehog’s lungs and the hedgehog either dies from drowning (Pneumonia) or bleeding from the lungs.
  • Hedgehogs with lungworms have terrible breathing problems, are very thin and underweight, often have bad diarrhoea and will have secondary bacterial infections. Once the worms are well established the hedgehog coughs like an old smoker and gasp for air before dying in agony. Post mortem examinations often show the lungs as a solid mass with very little lung tissue left

Over half of all the hedgehogs brought into Rescue Centres or Wildlife Hospitals die because of the damage the lungworms have done to them.

Pat Morris in The new Hedgehog Book (ISBN 1873580711) available direct from BHPS  or says:

There is usually a significant prevalence of lungworms in hedgehogs. They cause a type of pneumonia that is often fatal. Lungworms are a special kind of nematode worm and are often very widespread. They are very tiny (invisible without a microscope) but attack the lungs in large numbers. This causes the hedgehog to produce a lot of watery fluid in its air passages and breathing becomes very laboured. Once the worms have established the hedgehog wheezes and coughs as though it had smoked 40 cigarettes a day. Hedgehogs get these parasites as a result of eating slugs and snails within which the parasite larvae live.

There are 2 main types of lungworms prevalent in hedgehogs: Crenosoma striatum and Capillaria aerophila. It has previously been thought that lungworms mainly affected adult hedgehogs because the juveniles wouldn’t have had enough time to be badly infested. We have found that almost all juveniles, especially the Autumn orphans will carry a very heavy parasite load and unless given treatment will die.

The way to prevent a lot of the infestations is to make sure you feed the hedgehogs in YOUR garden, so they are not forced to eat slugs and snails. Once a hedgehog eats a slug it only takes 3 weeks before the lungworms are established in the lungs

Lungworms are parasitic nematode worms of the order Strongylida that infest the lungs of vertebrates  In other words Lungworms are parasitic worms that live in the hedgehog’s lungs. Also very frequent in Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Donkeys etc. Now becoming much more common in Dogs & Cats. Read this article in Daily Mail 2nd September 2008

Read more HERE

See some pictures and a video  of live lungworms and eggs in a hedgehog faecal sample here


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17 Comments on "Slugs and Snails"

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Bag Lady

So are the nematode worms that people buy to kill off slugs & snails organically going to harm hedgehogs?

Friends (in England) have a garden pond with a thriving frog population, and no snail or slug problems. We have watched the larger frogs foraging and eating slugs with quite an appetite. They also have visiting hedgehogs. Not sure if the hogs eat them too. We used to have regular visiting hedgehogs in our garden (in Germany, no pond or frogs) but visits have decreased greatly since neighbours on both sides put up narrow mesh fences, where before there had only been easily penetrable hedges. Our slug problem has increased greatly. We refuse to use slug poison. So it is… Read more »

Does anyone know if there is anyway to add the lungworm treatment to the food I am putting out? My hoggie is also very itchy. I’d like to treat him if possible before he hibernates? I treat my cats for both of these but wouldn’t want to risk using their treatment on hogs without veterinary advice.

I put out hedgehog food in the summer for our hedgehog which turns up most nights. It’s food specifically for hedgehogs, btw. However, slugs climb in to the bowl to eat the food, so I’m forever trying to get rid of them, which is what led me here as I was trying to find out if hedgehogs eat slugs. I see that they do eat them, but they can cause disease in the hedgehogs, my query now is am I encouraging the hedgehog to eat more slugs if he find them in his food, or will he ignore them and… Read more »
Anne Dudley

Put a few half jars of beer out in the garden they will be more attracted to that.


Hi there, as a voluntary wildlife care assistant I would suggest that because hedgehogs are usually nocturnal,you offer the meat late In the evening so it will be fresher for longer and there would be no time for slugs and snails to reach it before Mr hog does. An alternative would be to offer dry food instead like small cat biscuits or dried mealworms, nuts and currants. I hope this helps and thank you for taking care of these brilliant creatures.


You should refrain from giving Mealworms as hedgehogs will develop a taste for them. When people regularly feed hogs mealworms, there is a danger that the hogs will develop metabolic bone disease.


Thank you for your reply 🙂 I have been using the dried hedgehog food (obviously not now it’s hibernation time), and would put it out at night, but the slugs were still all over they bowl. Do they harm the hedgehogs if they eat them? I’ve read conflicting advice regarding this. The reply above of putting the food bowl in a larger bowl of water looks like a good idea, so shall also be trying this.


I am interested in the solution to this problem, as slugs invade my feeding station in huge numbers!


Slugs and snails avoid copper, and you can buy self adhesive copper tape to put round plant pots to repel them. This might work around a food dish, too. I collect old copper dishes, ashtrays etc. and use them as trays for my more precious plants…They’re not very fashionable as ornaments, so can often be got cheaply at car boot sales!

Jim Nimmo

Salt kills them immediately I have hoards of the we buggers, every other week I move all my plants shrubs etc about and behold there they are …….that’s when I A…..Salt them

It’s so hard, you can’t pick them all off (also, yuk!), because there’s so many of them and they just come straight back anyway. I have seen my hedgehog eating the food, and don’t think the slugs bother him, but wouldn’t know if he was eating them or not – he’s ok being watched if he can’t hear you or you aren’t too near, but you can’t stay outside waiting for him to turn up every night anyway! He’s still around most nights so hasn’t been made ill yet, (presumably), but it’s still worrying. I’d feel terrible if he became… Read more »

How about putting the hedgehog food in a bowl standing in a larger dish filled with water up to just below the the top of the food bowl? . . . like a moat. Slugs and snails can’t swim. Hedgehogs will smell the food and should be able to reach it from outside the large dish. Or if you used a really wide dish, the hedgehogs probably wouldn’t mind wading across to eat as long as the water is only a couple of cm deep! And you’d need to remember to keep the water level topped up.


Apologies, didn’t get notified of this reply. He food water in a larger, shallow bowl of water is definitely something I will try later in the year. Good idea, many thanks 🙂