Leg injuries are very common in wildlife, especially at busy times of year such as breeding season. In most cases, the cause is a sprain or strain and the stress of bringing the animal into captivity outweighs the benefits to them. But a animal with a complete fracture or open wound may well need some help. The descriptions below are a general guide to help you to ascertain the type of injury and what the best course of action is. If in doubt, please contact a wildlife rescue for advice. The four major types of injury are
Usually animals with this sort of injury will hold the leg up or 'hobble' on it periodically. The leg will probably appear normal i.e. no visible wound, swelling, or deformity. In these cases, there is little that can be done in a wildlife rescue to help so we advise continuing to monitor and support the animal with food. Not having to work so hard to find food will help them to heal but, even so, it will likely take a few weeks to improve.
2. Closed fracture
Depending on the location and severity of the fracture, this may appear much like a sprain. If the fracture is lower down the leg, it may just be held up or used less. In this case, the fracture is stable and will usually heal itself in a few weeks. However, if the leg below the fracture is hanging loose or swinging about, the animal will need to go to a wildlife rescue for treatment.
3. Wound or swelling
This can happen with or without a fracture. You may see blood or exposed flesh and the leg may appear swollen. In warmer weather you may see flies buzzing round it. Here the animal is at risk of fly strike or severe infection and is in need of help. Put your location into helpwildlife.co.uk/map to see details of your closest wildlife rescue and telephone them for help.
4. Open fracture
This is a combination of a break and a wound. The broken bones have pierced the animal's skin and this leaves them at severe risk of infection. Usually you'll see the leg hanging loosely as well as an open wound. This animal definitely needs help.
Note: Hedgehogs commonly get leg injuries but it's difficult to get a good look at their legs due to their physiology. In our experience most hedgehog leg injuries tend to need treatment so if you see a limping hedgehog please contain them and contact a wildlife rescue.