The Ringworm Story – Ian and Julie

In this story I use forum user names to identify the people involved.

In October 2008 Ian and Julie drove 250 miles to South End on Sea to pick up their new pet hedgehog from Michelle Fountain aka Viljoen of Heavenly Hogs. At this time they believed they were dealing with a knowledgeable and experienced breeder. What they did not know was that a few months earlier she had been banned from the UK African Pygmy Hedgehog Forums (the home of the UK APH Registry’s Recommended Breeders List) for unethical practices, nor that she had been accused of illegally importing African Pygmy Hedgehogs into the UK from Germany.

UKAPH were particularly concerned by the fact that after owning a single male hoglet for a little over a week, she setup a website and started offering to reserve hoglets for a £20 deposit. She made claims about her breeding methods that she could not possibly backup, and the site contained photographs of other people’s hedgehogs and hoglets, giving the impression that she was far more experienced that she actually was.

When they arrived at the house Heavenlyhogs took them into the dining-room and they were quite shocked to see that it was full of cages of all sizes, containing, rats, snakes and sugar-gliders and that the hedgehog herd were being kept in a stack of cages standing in one corner. There was what appeared to be a urine stained quilt on the sofa and they describe the conditions of room as being filthy. They paid the remainder of the £150 price agreed upon for Leo and left as soon as they reasonably could.

Julie's shoulder with ringworm infection
Julie’s shoulder with ringworm infection

Once they got Leo home they gave him a few days to settle into his new surroundings and then Julie began to handle him. Julie says that Leo loved to creep under her blouse and sleep on her left shoulder. Obviously, hedgehogs being spiny creatures, she did suffer some very minor superficial scratches but thought nothing of it at the time. About 14 days later her shoulder began itch severely and a red ringed lesion developed. Her doctor diagnosed ringworm and prescribed Terbinafine Hydrocloride to treat it.

Ringworm is a common fungal infection of the skin. The name is a misnomer as the disease is not caused by a worm. Ringworm can be transmitted by infected people or pets or by towels, hairbrushes, or other objects contaminated by them. Symptoms include inflammation, scaling, and sometimes, itching. Diabetes mellitus increases susceptibility to ringworm, as do dampness, humidity, and dirty, crowded living areas. Braiding hair tightly and using hair gel also raise the risk. (Source: health A to

Suspecting that Leo might be the source of the infection they took him to an exotic pet specialist who after examining him, and taking Julie’s shoulder into consideration, said he was 99% certain that he was infected with ringworm. He also said that given the extent of the infection Leo was probably infected by his mother at birth. Ian and Julie also have two Samoyed dogs so the following day they took them to the vet and an examination showed that they were clear of any infection. However, a few days later Ian received a very angry call from his ex-wife informing him that his daughter Kendal now had ringworm. Kendal had visited their house and handled Leo about two weeks earlier.

Ian and Julie then phoned Heavenlyhogs to inform her of the situation and let her know that her hedgehog herd might be infected with ringworm. Initially Heavenlyhogs sounded very concerned and said that she would be taking the hedgehogs to the vet the very next day to have them checked. However, it was not very long before Heavenlyhogs started to say that Ian and Julie must have brought the infection into her house that their dogs were to blame. Ian and Julie were also worried by the fact that the knew that one of the hedgies from Leo’s litter had gone to a little girl and felt it important that her family be informed about the risk of ringworm infection.

Chapter III – “How in the Hell did this Happen?”