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Hedgehogs – the importance of faecal sampling

HEDGEHOG FAECAL SMEARS

Almost all Hedgehog rehabilitators now carry out faecal sampling on Hedgehogs as it enables specific ailments to be targeted and treated rather than blindly treating with wormers and antibiotics which may be ineffective. If you do not have access to a microscope, Vale Wildlife Hospital are happy to examine hedgehog faecal samples for you via the postal system. To help towards their costs and to try to cut down on unnecessary sampling, they charge a small fee of £2.50 per sample sent. Please enclose a cheque payable to ‘Vale Wildlife Hospital’ with the sample/s you are sending or you can pay through Paypal, email address onlinesales@valewildlife.org.uk (please try to use the option that does not incur any costs to them). Please email them at caroline@valewildlife.org.uk to let them know that you are sending it.

Instructions from Vale Wildlife Hospital :-

You need to send a fresh, complete sample (as we need to take our slide sample from the outside of the faeces, the part that has been in contact with the bowel wall). It should be put in a small, airtight, non-crushable sample pot, available from your vet. Royal Mail will no longer deliver samples to us that are not packed appropriately. This should then be put in a padded envelope along with your details including your email address. Send this first class to our address (make sure you pay the correct postage as it will be either a ‘large letter’ or a ‘small packet’ – it will not just be an ordinary letter stamp).

If you do have a microscope, the simplest way of checking for eggs, larvae or protozoa in hedgehog faeces is to carry out a simple faecal smear examination.

1. Collect a faecal sample from the hedgehog – make sure it is as fresh as possible, especially if taking the sample from a hedgehog housed in an outside pen as the sample can quickly become contaminated by outside elements.

2. Using a scalpel blade, take a small amount of the sample (about a third of the size of a match head at most) and place it in the centre of a clean microscope slide. Make sure that this is taken from the outer part of the faeces (the part that has been in contact with the bowel wall) and not from inside it.

3. Using a 1ml syringe and needle, put 1 drop of slightly warmed Hartmanns or similar onto the sample on the slide. Hartmanns/saline is used in preference to tap water as it is isotonic and contains a similar concentration of minerals as is found in protozoa. Tap water can therefore damage protozoa and may prevent the detection of them under the microscope.

4. Using the scalpel blade, mix/chop the sample up a bit in the fluid and then place a new cover slip on top of the sample and press down very carefully but very firmly.

5. Your sample is now ready for the microscope.

Place the prepared slide on the microscope and examine using the lowest magnification to begin with (x40 magnification on most scopes).

After the entire sample has been examined, turn the microscope to the next magnification (x100 on most scopes) and repeat the process. This magnification should be adequate to see/detect most types of parasite.

If eggs or larvae are seen the magnification can then be increased if necessary in order to identify the object more accurately (x400). However, we usually only need to use this magnification when identifying protozoa.

Remember that, as eggs etc. are not always shed in every faeces, regular sampling is essential and we recommend carrying out this procedure at least weekly, ideally twice a week.

Photos of parasites and treatment documents, can be found here:-

http://www.valewildlife.org.uk/#/rehabbers-area/4545863416