Hedgehog that inflated like a balloon recovering after being 'popped' by vet

A hedgehog that inflated like a soccer ball from trapped gas is on the way to recovery after being “popped”.

The oversized creature puffed up to three times its size due to a rare condition called “balloon syndrome,” which traps gas usually caused by trauma-related bacterial infection.

Without immediate treatment, hedgehogs can get a shock from this, which can be fatal.

Bubbles, named for its condition, was found by a concerned citizen in the middle of a busy street in late November.

The prickly patient was taken to Henlow Veterinary Center in Bedfordshire, where vets “popped” him three times with a needle and syringe while he kept pumping to the size of a melon.

Bubbles’s skin was so tight from the constant inflation that he was also given pain medication and antibiotics to treat the underlying infection.

Eight-week-old Bubbles is now under the watchful eye of vet Laura Bernal, who runs Little Hog Hospital from her home in Arlesey, Bedfordshire.

Once he has fully recovered and the weather is milder, he will be released back into the wild.

Laura said, “Bubbles was taken to Henlow Vets by a member of the public while walking in the middle of a busy street.

“They knew immediately that something was wrong because they were three times the size of a small melon, but light as a feather.

“Balloon syndrome is a rare but instantly recognizable disease that affects hedgehogs.

“Gas becomes trapped under the skin, usually caused by a trauma bacterial infection. There is nowhere for the trapped gas to escape, resulting in a puffed-up appearance.

“Without immediate treatment, the hedgehog would have suffered a shock that, unfortunately, is often fatal.

“A needle and syringe were used to remove the entrapped gas and“ deflate ”the bubbles. This had to be repeated three times that day while he kept inflating.

“He felt very uncomfortable because his skin was so tight that he was given pain medication and antibiotics to treat the infection. When the antibiotics started working we saw tremendous improvement the next day and he was able to maintain his normal size.

“He was given an x-ray to rule out any underlying injuries and luckily everything went well, but he tested positive for lungworm, so parasite treatment was given.

“Due to his size and age, he cannot be discharged until he weighs over 600 g and the weather becomes milder.

“He responds well to all of his medications and eats like a little pig, so he’s very fine. He’s a lucky pig.”

Wildlife lover Laura says that at the veterinary practice she works regularly, wildlife is brought in by concerned passers-by. When the local emergency services are full, they step in regularly and take home any patients who need extra love and care.

Laura said: “Hedgehogs have always had a special place in my heart because they are full of character, extremely cute, harmless, but also so vulnerable.

“They are iconic in the UK wildlife and it’s easy to see how much they are popular in people’s gardens. It is so rewarding to nurse them back to health so that they can be released back into the wild.

“Little Hog Hospital officially started a little over a year ago, but I would occasionally take a hedgehog home to look after it long before that.

“What began as a cage or two in my living room has now grown into my own ‘hospital’ in my garden, a posh shed in which I can look after up to 20 hedgehogs.

“By working with Henlow Vets, the locals now know that we are here to help injured or sick hedgehogs in need.”

According to Laura, animal numbers are slowly declining due to habitat changes.

She said: “Unfortunately the number of hedgehogs is falling because gardens are becoming poorer homes for wildlife, with more paving, decking and reduced flora.

“As more roads and housing developments continue to be built, we are seeing a tremendous loss of connectivity between green spaces, keeping hedgehogs in isolation.”

Top tips for a hedgehog-friendly garden:

– More gardens and green spaces connected with “hedgehog highways” in fences that allow hedgehogs to travel to find food and a mate.

– More wild areas and piles of wood in gardens for insects and other wildlife, keep real turf instead of artificial turf.

– More hedgehog houses and feeding places in gardens.

You can donate to the Little Hog Hospital site here.

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