When it comes to feeding a hedgehog
we need to know what it eats naturally in the wild and what foods we can and cannot give when looking after it in temporary recovery.
In all cases never give cow's milk and derivatives (cheeses etc). Cow's milk contains too much lactose and the hedgehogs cannot digest it.
As soon as it is fit and well it must be re-released in a safe place back into the wild.
What do hedgehogs eat in the wild?
In the wild hedgehogs will feed on many types of insects and
invertebrates, worms, snails, slugs, beetles, caterpillars, earwigs, millipedes, and larvae. They may also feed on medicinal plants and very ripe fruit fallen from native plants.
What do hedgehogs eat in rescue and recovery?
When being looked after whilst in recovery pending release, which must be done as soon as possible, the diet must be correct.
Being a lively animal that travels large distances and is very active by nature, when kept in an enclosed space, it must not be over-fed.
There are many foods we can give but only a few are optimal. Some are tolerated in small doses whilst many more are toxic or harmful.
Croquettes and wet cat food can be given daily but dry food is often preferable since this keeps the jaw and teeth in shape.
Dehydrated or frozen insects can be given as complimentary food.
Mealworms (which they love) can be given but in very small doses: they create enormous problems with bone metabolism.
Even honeycombs are fine but very few: too rich for a hedgehog that does not move. To our hedgehogs, we can give apple, pear etc.
Only native and very ripe fruit.
We avoid giving fruit to our guests, to avoid likely intestinal problems.
Medicinal herbs such as Dandelion or Plantain can be left in the box: the hedgehog will eat it if the need arises.
Many people advise giving dried fruit but it is not fully correct.
Almonds are toxic, hazelnuts dangerous (they can get stuck in the hedgehog's jaw which is long and narrow causing terrible infections).
Walnuts are fine, but in small quantities (three crushed half kernels distributed in a week).
Even pine nuts will make our hedgehog happy but only in small doses as they are highly nutritious.
There are some foods not at all suitable for a hedgehog, both free and in captivity.
Firstly cow's milk, all its derivatives and all starchy foods (pasta, bread, biscuits etc.) are highly toxic.
An incorrect diet not only creates damage to the metabolism of the hedgehog (harm that we do not see with the naked eye) but can make it obese, with all the pathologies deriving from this.
As for humans, the formula FAT = HEALTHY is wrong for these wild animals.
The feeding of infants and young are treated at the relative buttons.