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
- 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.
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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lungworms. 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