Hedgehog who ballooned up like a football is recovering after being 'popped' by Bedfordshire vet

The little creature had to be 'popped' three times - as he kept inflating to the size of a melon

By Helen Le Caplain
Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 9:54 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th January 2022, 9:56 am
Bubbles after the procedure and before
Bubbles after the procedure and before

A hedgehog who ballooned up like a football due to trapped gas is on the road to recovery after being 'popped'.

The super-sized critter inflated to three times his size due to a rare condition called 'balloon syndrome' where gas, usually caused by bacterial infection secondary to trauma, gets trapped under the skin.

Without immediate treatment hedgehogs can go into shock from it, which can prove fatal.

Bubbles is on the road to recovery

Bubbles, named because of his condition, was found wandering in the middle of a busy road by a concerned member of the public at the end of November who realised something was amiss.

The prickly patient was rushed to Henlow Veterinary Centre where vets 'popped' him three times with a needle and syringe as he kept re-inflating to the size of a melon.

Bubbles' skin was so tight from constantly blowing up that he was also given pain relief and antibiotics to treat the underlying infection.

Now eight-week-old Bubbles is under the watchful eye of veterinary nurse Laura Bernal who runs The Little Hog Hospital from her home in Arlesey, Bedfordshire.

Once fully recovered and the weather is milder he'll be released back into the wild.

Laura said: "Bubbles was brought into Henlow vets by a member of the public who found him walking in the middle of a busy road.

"They instantly knew something wasn't right, having ballooned three times his normal size to the size of a small melon, however was light as a feather.

"Balloon Syndrome is a rare but an instantly recognisable condition which affects hedgehogs.

"Gas becomes trapped under the skin, which is usually caused by a bacterial infection secondary to trauma.

"The trapped gas has nowhere to escape which leads to the inflated appearance.

"Without immediate treatment, the hedgehog would have gone into shock which is often sadly fatal.

"A needle and syringe was used to remove the trapped gas and ‘deflate’ Bubbles. This had to be repeated three times on that day as he kept re-inflating.

"He was very uncomfortable due to his skin being so tight so he was given pain relief and antibiotics to treat the infection.

"Once the antibiotics started to work we saw a huge improvement by the next day and he was able to stay his usual size.

"He was given an x-ray to rule out any underlying injuries and luckily that came back all clear, he did however test positive for lungworm so parasite treatment was given.

"Due to his size and age he won’t be able to be released until he weighs over 600g and the weather becomes milder.

"He is responding well to all his medication and is eating like a little pig so is doing very well. He is one lucky hog."

Wildlife lover Laura says the veterinary practice she works at regularly has wildlife brought to them by worried passers-by.

When local rescues are full she regularly steps in and takes home any patients that need extra love and care.

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

"They are iconic in British wildlife, and it’s easy to see how they are a favourite in people’s gardens.

"It's so rewarding nursing them back to health so they can be released back into the wild.

"The Little Hog Hospital officially started just over a year ago, however I was taking home the occasional hedgehog to nurse a long time before that.

"What started as one or two cages in my front room has now grown to a dedicated ‘hospital’, a posh shed, in my garden that allows me to care for up to 20 hedgehogs.

"Working alongside Henlow Vets, locals now know that we are here to help any injured or sick hedgehogs that are needing help."

Numbers of the iconic animals are slowly dwindling due to habitat changes, according to Laura.

Laura said: "Unfortunately hedgehog numbers are dropping due to gardens becoming poorer homes for wildlife with increased paving, decking and reduced plant life.

"With more roads and housing developments being built, we’re seeing a huge loss of connectivity between green spaces, leaving hedgehogs isolated."