Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [4/7] - Hedgehogs as pets
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After a number of early attempts, there are finally a number of good quality hedgehog foods showing up on the market. It will take time for these to actually spread around and become more available, but it is starting, and the results are very encouraging. Within the next couple of years, I expect that the only answer to the question of what to feed a hedgehog will be `hedgehog food' at last. Accu-Feed is available is from Brisky Pet Products. This hedgehog food appears to have been well thought out and is far more appropriately formulated than many of the earlier foods on the market. Brisky Pets sells by direct mail-order, and is in the process of setting up distributors, so that it can be available in pet stores. You can contact them at: Brisky Pet Products South Main Street P.O. Box 186 Franklinville, NY 14737 USA www: http://www.brisky.com/ email: AccuFeedREMOVE_TO_SEND@Brisky.Com phone: 1-800-462-2464 (toll free, US only) or: (716) 557-2464 fax: (716) 557-2336 Along with the food comes plenty of information on feeding, and on how to help convert your picky pricklier over to a new diet. Brisky Pets seems to be very friendly and responsive and many people have reported good results with the food. My thanks to Jon Simmons for helping arrange things with Brisky Pets to be shipable to Canada, and for getting me most of this information. Brisky's has also come out with a flavoured variety of its hedgehog food to help solve some of the problems with overly spoiled and very picky hedgehogs. Because of Dick Brisky's insistence on using only natural ingredients and flavourings, it took a while to find something that would work. The solution appeared to be garlic, and the new garlic flavoured Accu-Feed is apparently much easier to switch picky hedgehogs to. Brisky Pets hedgehog food was being distributed in Canada by Jenny Jones at Markham Creek Exotic Pets (covering Ontario and presumably Eastern Canada), and by Brenda Basinger at ABC Pet Products (covering Western Canada), though I'm not sure if either still act as the distributors. If you have no luck with them, you can always contact Brisky Pets at the address above. Markham Creek Exotic Pets 10966 Ninth Line Markham, Ontario Canada L6B 1A8 Tel: (905) 642-4753 or from: ABC Pet Products 195 McDonald Blvd, Acton, Ontario Canada L7J 1A9 Local: (519) 853-1966 FAX: (519) 853-9981 www: http://home.cogeco.ca/~bbasinger/ e-mail: bbasingerREMOVE_TO_SEND@cogeco.ca The `flavoured' version of this food does highlight the biggest problem with this food in that it is not considered very `tasty' to many hedgehogs. In fact many simply will not eat it -- especially, if they are used to something with much more flavour, like cat food. The food also tends to be rather dry, which only serves to increase its lack of appeal to these hedgies. Possibly dampening it slightly might help increase the appeal. I've had a number of people tell me that Accu-Feed also seems to cause much greater quantities of droppings, which are much softer than other foods. In light of recent studies suggesting that greater quantities of fibre are needed in hedgehog diets, I can only say that this food probably best addresses this problem, and that overly dry or hard droppings are much more likely to result in health problems. If anything, small hard droppings should be more of a worry. Another excellent hedgehog food that is on the market is Select Diet (not to be confused with Science Diet cat/dog foods). This, like Brisky's Accu-Feed, is a complete hedgehog food, meaning you don't need any supplements with it. It does seem more palatable to most hedgehogs than the basic Accu-Feed's does, but it is also harder to find, as yet. There are starting to be a couple of distributors, but they are still few and far between. I personally was using Select Diet (for the hedgies -- before anyone gets any wise ideas!), and found that even my overly picky eaters seemed to like it. While I do like the Brisky's, most of my hedgehogs just wouldn't eat it (I have not tried the flavoured variety), but they do have a reputation for not eating things which are good for them (sigh!). So far the results have been great, with happy, healthy, and very active hedgehogs. Courtesy of Dawn Wrobel, I've heard of another new hedgehog food that is apparently on the market, now, called Ultra-Blend Select, from a company called 8 IN 1 Pet Products. The early indications are that this food is very good, and it does appeal to most hedgehogs it has been tried on. The biggest advantage to this food is availability -- it appears to be showing up in major pet supply chains, and should prove to be easier to find than most other hedgehog foods, at least for the time being. 8 IN 1 Pet Products also produces an Ultra-Blend Fruit N' Veggie Treat for hedgehogs. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this in the same way as the actual hedgehog food. Whoever formulated this `treat' clearly did not bother to learn much about hedgehogs before tossing it together. Among its contents are whole sunflower seeds (in the shell), and dried corn kernels. Not only will hedgehogs not eat these, the risk of them getting caught in the roof of their mouth is great enough that these should be removed before putting the rest into the hedgehog's bowl. I've had several reports of hedgies having to have these removed (not necessarily from this particular `treat' food), and even a couple dying from this. None of my hedgies would even touch it. It got a thorough paws-down on being a hedgehog `treat' -- something I've heard from others who've also tried it with their hedgehogs. In December 2006, we found another new (to me) hedgehog food at one of larger pet stores where we live called Sunseed, Sunscription Vita Hedgehog Formula, African Species. This certainly has the appearance of something that is made for hedgehogs, based on the content (it's primary ingredients are Fish, Shrimp, Crab meal and Mealworms) being primarily protein based. It's also in very convenient sized pellets (very small, and not too hard) which will not get stuck in hedgie mouths. The one down side that I can see, based on my own experience, is that you have to be careful not to overfeed, as my hedgeies will inhale every last tibit of this food that they can get at. This is, hands (paws?) down the most popular (with the hedgies) hedgehog food I've come across. I don't know how widely available it is, but the company is of some size and I hope it does well. Here's what information I have on the maker, from the canister: Sunseed Company, Inc. Box 33 Bowling Green, Ohio 43402 U.S.A. http://sunseed.com/ Note that when I last checked their website, it did not show any information on the Hedgehog Formula, but they clearly produce a wide range of pet foods. In July 2003, we discovered a new hedgehog food in a pet store, called Brown's Nutrition Plus, Premium diet. This food is in the form of very small pellets about 3mm or 1/8 of an inch in size. Mixed in with this are various extras, such as raisins, dried vegetables and fruits, and even cheese meal. What really caught my attention was that all the dried veggies have been cracked and broken into pieces that are a safe size for hedgehogs, so they don't get caught in the roof of their mouth or throat. This is decidedly not just a repackaged food for some other animal, but is clearly well thought out for hedgehogs. The Brown's bag also stresses the fact that this is a low iron diet. That is a real plus as some of the other foods tend to be very very high in iron. I do have to admit it wasn't an overwhelming success with my hedgehogs (they would really have preferred a nice piece of chicken) but unlike most new foods, they did eat it. That is certainly a positive sign. There is a fairly strong scent of banana from it, which is not surprising as that is one of the ingredients, and banana does tend to overpower most other smells. All in all a very promising looking food. I'm not sure how widely available it is, though it is made in Pennsylvania, and I purchased it just outside of Toronto, in Canada, so it doesn't appear to be a limited availability. You can probably find a source by contacting the manufacturer at: F.M. Brown's Sons INC Sinking Springs, PA, 19608 USA 1-800-334-8816 Here are the contents and nutritial analysis of Brown's courtesy of Melissa Kallick: Top Ten Ingredients: Corn, Wheat, Wheat Flour, Soybean Meal, Soy Flour, Corn Gluten Meal, Poultry Meal, Soybean Oil, Alfalfa Leaf Meal, Steamed Flake Corn Guaranteed Analysis Protein 25% Fat 3% Fiber 6% Moisture 0% Peyton Creadick kindly sent the following information on the Pretty Pets Hedgehog food produced by Pretty Bird International Inc.: Pretty Bird International Inc. Stacy Minnesota 55079 1-800-356-5020 It says to keep males on the maintenance diet and females on the breeder. It comes in 8 and 20 lb bags and it is red and smells fruity like all Pretty Bird stuff (UGH!). Ignore the red stool that starts after they have been on it a week or so and the stool colour goes away after a week or so. [This was due to the red dye used in early varieties of the Pretty Pets Hedgehog food, which appears to have been dropped, now -- ed.] There have been some suggestions about problems with the Pretty Bird's hedgehog food, including from Peyton herself, although I have heard from breeders who swear by it. I have no hard and fast details either way at this time. One very common side effect appears to be very smelly, soft stools from the hedgehogs eating it. Another aspect of it is that many hedgehogs, just plain don't like it. They will eat it if nothing else is available, but it usually gets put at the bottom of the preference list. Pretty Bird has apparently changed their formulation a couple of times over the past couple of years. As they appear to be trying to improve things, I do have to give them credit. There is also a hedgehog food available from Vitakraft, thanks go to Tirya for the following information on it: Under feeding suggestions, they say to offer ``1-2 tbsps daily as the basic meal to which you may add cooked lean beef or veal (chopped or cut up into very small pieces). Beef and/or poultry heart may also be added. The hedgehog loves poultry and hard boiled eggs. For dessert, sweet fruit such as pear and banana may be given. The hedgehog also enjoys eating meal-worms.'' (news flash! ::grinz::) Laura Jefferson passed along the address for Vitakraft to me for anyone who might want it: Vitakraft Co, Inc. Chimney Rock Rd. Bound Brook, NJ 08805 USA The Vitakraft strongly resembles muesli, containing grain, cod-liver oil, dried shrimp, and honey, among other things, and they really like it. I've heard both good and bad things about the Vitakraft food. The good comments seem to center around many hedgehogs liking it (no mean feat), though I've also been hearing an increasing number of negative comments which seem to focus on the fact that it is primarily vegetable based, whereas hedgehogs are primarily carnivorous by nature. It would appear that Vitakraft is not a complete food, but rather one that needs to be supplemented with meat (remember, cooked only!), or cat/dog food to cover all the bases, rather than being given as a staple on its own. One actual warning I've heard repeatedly, is that the peanuts in it can get stuck in a hedgehog's mouth. The number of cases of this that I've now heard of have reached the point where I really have to recommend against using Vitakraft for hedgehogs. Even with the peanuts removed or crushed, it still does not provide a complete diet. There are much better options out there, including cat or dog food. If you do want to use it, remember to please be careful and either remove the peanuts or break up the peanuts into smaller pieces before feeding it to your hedgies. That said, it is probable that the fibre content is much higher than most other hedgehog foods currently available -- a fact that is quite important, as it is becoming clear that hedgehogs need more fibre in their diet than we are generally feeding them. It does seem to be becoming quite widely available, and between the lack of being a complete food (not clearly noted on the packaging) and the peanut problems, it does create the potential for some nutritional and other health problems. I have heard that Vitakraft is working on solving the peanut problem (and in the future they will likely either be crushed or removed entirely), though I don't know if the food basis itself will be improved to where it can be a staple on its own. The fact that they are looking to improve this is definitely a point in their favour. Janet Jones has also provided the following information on yet another source for hedgehog food: I attended a exotic animal show and found a company that is now carrying ``Zoo Fare'' aka ``Hedgehog Fare'' diet. I spoke with David from Pawprint last night to find out if they would shipped outside of Washington State and was told that would be no problem. They also carry the Pretty Pets Hedgehog dry kibble diet. Pawprint P.O. Box 843 Mercer Island, WA 98040 USA Tel: (206) 230-8017 email: pawprintREMOVE_TO_SEND@28bbl.wa.com To add another option to the fray, Del sent me information on a hedgehog food from the Exotic Nutrition Pet Company. Exotic Nutrition Pet Company 437 Summer Drive Newport News VA. 23606 USA Tel: (757) 930-0301. Office hours are 9:00 am - 4:00 pm EST M-F. Fax: (757) 930-1505 http://www.exoticnutrition.com/Hedge-Hog-products.htm The food sounds interesing and looks to be produced specifically for hedgehogs, as opposed to being a more general food just being something remarketed for hedgehogs. Exotic Nutrition also carry a couple of varieties of Insectivore diet, and something they refer to as Hedgehog Booster. The latter appears to be a vitamin supplement. The also carry a number of other hedgehog products and items that are suitable for hedgehogs. As an added bonus, they appear to be quite happy to ship internationally. Melissa Kallick sent along the ingredients and nutrition from Exotic's Hedgehog Complete food: INGREDIENTS: blood meal, soybean meal, ground corn, corn gluten meal, whole roasted soybeans, tallow, cane molasses, dried beet pulp, dried mealworms, yeast culture, L. Acidophilus. Francium, S. Cerevisiae, choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, copper sulfate, zinc proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, colbolt proteinate, thiamine monoitrate, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D, vitamin E supplement, zinc oxide, biotin, folic acid, niacin supplement, pyridoxine HCL, dehy alfalfa meal, pantothenic acid, riboflavin supplement. Guaranteed Analysis: Crude protein (min) .... 35.01% Crude fat (min)..........14.07 % Crude fiber (min)....... 17.5% Crude fiber (max).........4.43 % Vitamin A (min)........9042.52 IU/LB. Vitamin D (min)........2150.0.00 IU/LB. Vitamin E (min)..........80.34 IU/LB. Ash...................... 3.59% Calcium...................2.49% Phosphorus................3.84% Selenium..................0.154 PPM. Aside from the ``Hedgehog Complete'' food, Exotic Nutrition also have an ``Insect Eater'' food: ``They also have a new canned food that might be interesting: Insect Eater Diet" This is a canned food. Ingredients: Chicken Meat, blood meal, whole eggs, apples, pears, bananas, carrots, sweat potatoes, wheat germ, honey, whole crickets, whole mealworms, whole grasshoppers, Fish oil (source of omega-3 fatty acids) lecithin (source of phospholipids), Taurine (amino acid) vitamins and minerals.'' Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein, min......26.1% Crude Fat,...............5.3% Crude Fiber, max.........6.3% Crude Ash, max ..........6.5% Moisture Content, max.. 59.6% Calcium (CA), min .......2.2% Phosphorus (P), min......1.1% Melissa also had a great suggestion on getting veggies into your hedgie, to which she added the caveat ``IF they will eat them, is available via a company called ``Beak Appetite:'' They have something called ``Apple Carrot Heaven'' and ``Veggie Delight.'' You can reconstitute small amounts at a time, as needed. The veggies are in small pieces already (for small birds). -- Melissa Kallick http://www.beakappetit.com Currently, the key problem with hedgehog foods is availability. There just isn't enough demand (or obvious demand) for pet supply stores to stock hedgehog foods. This in turn means that the quantities being produced remain low, and that keeps the costs up. It's a vicious circle, that will only slowly change as more and more people start to buy hedgehog food for their pets. Still, it is improving, and I expect things will be much different within the next couple of years. As a quick sidebar to the availability issue, I've found it somewhat difficult of late to find what I would consider decent hedgehog food for my own little friends. As a result, I've been working with my vet to try a combination of commercial hedgehog foods, along with high fiber, and diet type cat foods. These are foods that are only available through a vet -- in effect prescription type foods. So far things are quite positive, but I would prefer to feed my hedgies something formulated specifically for them. One other factor that is finally having an effect on commercial hedgehog foods is that some research into hedgehog nutrition is starting to happen. I have to give a great deal of credit to Dawn Wrobel, here, as she has almost single-handedly spearheaded much of the research that has been done and published to date. While answers are still very far from certain, we are starting to see some of the nutritional needs of hedgehogs defined. The first glimmers of information started appearing a couple of years ago, in the form of suggestions that a much greater level of fibre is needed in their diet. More recent, studies have started to suggest percentages of various nutrients that are important. The good news is that the better hedgehog foods are generally not too far off the mark, although cat and dog foods, by themselves are generally a poor fit. I'm sorry that I don't have the details to publish, here, but hopefully they will become publicly available in the not too distant future.
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