Understanding 12 Common Hedgehog Diseases & Health Problems


Read about common illnesses, how to nurse your hedgehog, and the supplements available.

Mites & quills

Mites can be a big problem for hedgehogs.  The mites can be transmitted from one hedgehog to another, but will not survive on humans.  Mites can come from a contaminated wood shaving bag so you have to be very careful.

How can you recognize mites?  The first sign to look for is how often your hedgehog scratches his quills.  If it is excessive, you will see dandruff on his skin and he will lose a lot more quills than usual. 

It is possible to detect mites on your hedgehog.  Round and white, they are very small and always moving.  To confirm mites, you can have a look at a quill that fell.  If you see a small ball at the end of the root, it tells you that it fell naturally.  If you don’t see that small ball, it means mites are responsible for the quill loss.

Since mites are white, you can put your hedgehog on black paper and brush his quills. If you bring light close to the paper, it will be possible for you to see the mites.

It is extremely important to treat your hedgehog to avoid more serious health problems.  Mites won’t just go away.  They can afflict severe skin disease and even kill your hedgehog.  Your veterinarian will give you the right treatment to kill the mites.  Your job will be to disinfect all your cages, accessories and change the bedding.

Eye problems

Your hedgehog’s eyes are very sensitive.  A simple breeze can be dangerous.  Discharge coming from the eyes is usually a sign of an infection.  Visit your vet to get eye drops or cream to stop the infection.  It is also recommended to change your bedding for a towel or a cover made of polar.  You don’t want wood shavings sticking onto his eyes when they are getting treatment.

Digestive problems

If your hedgehog seems to have a constipation problem, you should help him to soften his stools.  You can give him a bath in warm water to activate his digestive system.  Offer him some pumpkin.  He should love the taste and help his constipation problem.

If you have moved your hedgehog, traveled with him, or change his food, he might have green stools due to stress.  Everything should go back to normal after a few days.  If your hedgehog stops eating or drinking, it’s a sign of something more serious.  Visit your vet to know more about his condition.

Skin problems

Dry skin is a very common problem with hedgehogs.  Mites, diet, or even a change of season can cause this problem.  When winter appears, your hedgehog can have dry skin like us.  Vitamin E is a wonderful product to help the skin.  Put a drop close to his shoulders, one in the middle of his back and another one close to his tail. 

If your hedgehog doesn’t eat many fresh foods, put some olive oil in his dry food.

Ear problems

There are many possible problems with your hedgehog’s ears.  The first one would be dry skin around the ears.  Without any treatment, your hedgehog will get tattered ears.  To help, put some vitamin E or cocoa butter.

Your hedgehog can also have two different kinds of discharge from his ears.  If the discharge is more solid, your hedgehog might have mites.  If the discharge is yellow and liquid, he might have an infection.  Your vet will give you the appropriate treatment for the problem.

Dental problems

Like every animal, an older hedgehog can have problems with his teeth.  Some hedgehogs can have those problems at a young age also.  It is your responsibility to keep an eye on future problems.

Your hedgehog will not open his mouth that easily.  You will have to find a way to make him cooperate.  Since putting your finger in his mouth is out of the question, you can use a tongue depressor.  Slowly turn the stick to open his mouth wider.  You must act fast because he won’t keep this position for long.

If your hedgehog loses his teeth, make sure there is no infection.  Often he will lose weight if there is a gum infection.  He can develop a tumor or an abscess.  A tumor can be easily removed under sedation if it is found right at the start.  Without treatment, the infection will spread around the jaw.

An abscess can be treated with medication.  The vet will decide if he can save the tooth or remove it.

One thing is for sure: your hedgehog will need a new diet.  You will have to soak his dry food in warm water to make it softer and easier to chew.

Cancer

Sadly, cancer is a common ailment for hedgehogs.  If you can feel a tumor or a lump under the skin, it is urgent to consult your vet.  Your hedgehog could stop eating and have no energy.  There is an operation available to remove the tumor, as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. 

Salmonella

Salmonella can be found in raw meat, eggs, and undercooked chicken.  Iceberg lettuce should be avoided as well.

A hedgehog with salmonella will have soft stools, almost liquid and a strong smell can be detected.  Your hedgehog will be weak and will vomit often.

Humans can also get salmonella.  When handling your hedgehog with this disease, wear latex gloves to avoid contact.  See your vet get medication for your hedgehog.  Disinfect the cage, the accessories and wash all covers.  It is recommended to keep your infected animal in quarantine.

Obesity

Without proper exercises, your hedgehog will have difficulty letting go of calories.  If you add treats high in fat, your hedgehog will put on weight very fast.

An obese hedgehog will have problems getting into a ball because of the excessive skin under his legs.  He will look like he is missing quills but it’s not the case.  His skin will be stretched and so will be his quills.  It is a serious problem.  Your hedgehog could end up with a liver illness or suffer a heart attack.

To help him lose weight you can do many different things.

  • Cut back his dry food.  Your hedgehog only need in between 30 to 50 grams a day.
  • Avoid treats. 
  • Add fiber in his diet.
  • Make sure your hedgehog’s diet doesn’t contain more than 9.5% of fat and 30% to 35% of protein.
  • Most of all, get him out of his cage.  Let him run around.  He needs to move more and get active. 

In-breeding effects

When you breed brothers and sisters, parents or cousins, you can get many health problems.

The problems will spread from one generation to the other and will result in internal and external malformations.  You will also see a definite change in behaviors. 

Body temperature

If your hedgehog feels cold to the touch and seems less active, it’s a sign that he isn’t getting enough warmth.  Take your hedgehog in a cover and keep him close to a heating source.  Give him massages to stimulate his muscles and make sure you have the right room temperature.

The Wobbly – WHS

The Wobbly syndrome is a progressive degeneration of the neurology that appears around the age of 18 to 24 months.  The Wobbly is often compared to multiple sclerosis for humans.  The back legs are affected first and then the paralysis slowly spread to the front legs and other body parts.  Often the paralysis will affect only one side of the body and this is the reason why your hedgehog loses his balance and falls on his side.

A hedgehog with Wobbly will lose weight because he can’t always reach his food dish.  In the final stage of the Wobbly, your hedgehog becomes completely motionless and must depend on humans to survive.

Without knowing what really causes this syndrome, it is impossible to find a cure.  Sadly your hedgehog dies within 6 weeks to 19 months after the first appearance.

Without treatments, you only have 2 options: take care of your hedgehog or euthanasia.  Before making a decision, here’s a list of all the care you will need to provide to your sick hedgehog :

  • Diet:  His diet is a very important factor to ensure a good quality of life.  You have to feed him fresh foods.  If your hedgehog can move, let him choose his meal.  Give him some fruits, vegetables, chicken, or turkey well-cooked mixed with his dry food.  If your hedgehog can’t move easily, you will have to feed him. by mixing his foods in the blender.  Use a syringe to feed him at least 3 times a day or the equivalent of 8 ml of liquid per meal.  You can add a cricket by crushing it or turning it into powder.
  • Water: A hedgehog with the Wobbly must drink often.  With a syringe, give him water up to 10 times a day.
  • Massages:  Your hedgehog’s muscles will need to move and be stimulated every day.  Without massages, his internal organs will stop functioning.  Put your hedgehog on his back and massage his belly by making circles with your finger.  You will stimulate his digestive system.  Then take his legs and pretend to make him walk.  Turn him on his belly and massage his back by starting at his head and slowly going down to his tail by making circular movements. 
  • Warmth:  Your hedgehog with the Wobbly will need a lot of warmth.  Always keep an additional heating pad on.
  • Cage:  When the Wobbly is in its final phase, your hedgehog will need to change cage.  If he is paralyzed on one side, the wood shavings can irritate his eye.  You have to use a polar blanket as bedding and change it often to prevent any skin infection.

If your hedgehog can move but loses his balance, build him a labyrinth.  Cushion the sides and present him with his food right in the middle.  He will find the strength and the will to exercise and help his condition. 

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