First-year veterinary nursing students from CCOAS visited Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue recently as part of their training. They met some of the sick and injured patients currently being looked after by the charity and learned how to handle and care for hedgehogs.
Although veterinary nurses spend most of their time helping pets such as cats and dogs, rescue organisations and members of the public will often bring wildlife in need to veterinary practices.
Our students learned how to correctly approach and hold a hedgehog, so that they can be safely examined without causing the animal unnecessary stress. The trick is to gently stroke the hedgehog along their rump as they’re held so that they start to relax and uncurl.
The volunteers teaching our students had an advantage when demonstrating the method – hedgehogs can recognise the scent and sounds of their regular carers and will unfurl for them more readily than for a stranger.
When hedgehogs are brought into rescue centres, they often have conditions such as mange, ringworm and lungworm. The students learned how medicated creams and baths can be used to treat skin problems and how to clip nails that have grown too long. The students also used microscopes to examine skin and faecal samples for signs of parasitic burdens.
The trained volunteers at Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue look after more than 300 hedgehogs a year, with about 80 in their care when we visited. The students found it a really interesting experience and very different from a day in practice.