Keywords: faq pet hedgehogs
Last-modified: 20 October 2008
HEDGEHOG FAQ (part 5 of 7) -- HEDGEHOG HEALTH CARE AND UNDERSTANDING
Compiled and edited by Brian MacNamara (email@example.com)
Additions, corrections, and suggestions for this file are welcomed.
This document is copyright 2008 by Brian MacNamara. See section [0.6]
for authorship information and redistribution rights. In short, you
can give it away, but you can't charge for it.
The basic Hedgehog FAQ has seven parts, all of which should be available
from wherever you obtained this one. A complete table of contents for
all seven parts is given below.
Please note: While my knowledge of hedgehogs has grown (far beyond my
wildest expectations when I began the FAQ), my knowledge is still quite
limited, especially in areas of health care. I did not write, or verify,
all the information in this FAQ. I have done my best to include only
accurate and useful information, but I cannot guarantee the correctness
of what is contained in this FAQ, regardless of the source, or even that
it will not be harmful to you or your hedgehog in some way. For advice
from an expert, I recommend you consult the books listed in part 2 [2.1],
or, especially in the case of a suspected medical problem, a veterinarian
who is familiar with hedgehogs.
Subject: CONTENTS OF THIS FILE
7. *** Things hedgehogs say and do ***
<7.1> Self-anointing. What is it? Why do hedgehogs do it?
<7.2> My hedgehog snuffles and hides a lot. Is that normal?
<7.3> Is he just asleep or hibernating?
<7.4> My hedgehog sneezes. What should I do?
<7.5> My hedgehog's gone ballistic? Is this normal?
<7.6> Basic hedgehog repertoire
8. *** Basic health care ***
<8.1> What health risks should I worry about?
<8.2> Mites (or mites, not?)
<8.3> Tattered or ragged ears
<8.4> Hedgehog first-aid kit
<8.5> Do I need to spay/neuter my pet?
<8.6> Vaccinations, etc.
9. *** Problems to watch for and related information ***
<9.1> Various hedgehog health issues
<9.2> My hedgehog's had funny-looking stools for a couple of days.
<9.3> My hedgehog's not eating. What should I do?
<9.4> How did I get fleas in my home? How can I get rid of
<9.5> Wobbly hedgehogs
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7. *** Things hedgehogs say and do ***
Subject: <7.1> Self-anointing. What is it? Why do hedgehogs do it?
I have mentioned self-anointing (or self-lathering, as it is sometime called,
in at least the U.K.) repeatedly throughout the FAQ, so now it is time to
explore the hedgehog's one truly unique trait. Nathan Tenny provided a good
description of this interesting and perplexing hedgehog habit:
If you smell *really* interesting, your hedgehog will lick
or nibble on you, back off, and suddenly contort itself, start
foaming at the mouth, and lick the foam onto its spines. This
``self-anointing'' has to be seen to be believed, but it's perfectly
normal. It's not known for sure why they do it, but it probably
has something to do with self-defence; hedgehogs are *highly*
resistant to most toxins, and when they encounter something that
might be toxic, they get it in their mouths, foam, and cover
themselves with the toxic mixture. The result is a toxic hedgehog,
which is really something to reckon with. (Incidentally, the toxin
resistance of hedgehogs is truly prodigious and has been the subject
of some research; they are one of the few animals that can safely eat
giant toads (_Bufo marinus_), for instance.)
One more last note: We don't know why this happens, but even without
the benefit of self-anointing, their spines seem to have a mild
toxic/irritant effect; when you prick yourself on one, even slightly,
it hurts more than it should, and for a little bit longer. No big deal,
just sort of strange.
One of the most effective ways to provoke a session of self-anointing is to
pick up your hedgehog when you have sweaty hands, or after having used hand
lotion, or a different type of soap.
In any case, once you have witnessed this entertaining act, and you have
calmed down enough to understand your little friend doesn't have rabies after
all, you will likely be convinced that hedgehogs do not have backbones. It's
really hard to believe something as round as a hedgehog can twist itself into
that contorted a position. It's also a bit disconcerting to learn just how
long that tongue is!
Subject: <7.2> My hedgehog snuffles and hides a lot. Is that normal?
Yep. If he doesn't, are you sure you have a hedgehog? The snuffling or
snorting (or snurfling, as my wife calls it), while having the head tucked
down, is part of the defence mechanism that has kept hedgehogs around for a
very long time. It basically leaves them with their quills protecting every
bit of visible surface, but still allows the hedgehog to move. The snuffling
and snorting is usually accompanied by sudden lurches in the direction the
hedgehog believes its potential enemy is in, to try and give it a good
The more your hedgehog comes to know you, the less you will get the sharp
shoulder treatment. One exception to this is if your hedgehog is sleepy. A
sleepy hedgehog can be very insistent about not being disturbed [3.1].
Getting your hedgehog to become familiar with you takes a lot of patience,
but it is worth it. If your hedgehog tends to be somewhat shy or unfriendly
towards you, try spending more time holding him -- chances are he just
doesn't associate your smell with being a friend, yet. For more information
on getting your hedgie used to you, see section [4.6].
Subject: <7.3> Is he just asleep or hibernating?
A quick note here: this section applies to African Pigmy hedgehogs, rather
than European hedgehogs (which do hibernate, primarily between January and
A common concern is whether or not pet hedgehogs can, or should hibernate --
especially as winter starts to arrive. The answer to the first part -- can
they? -- is yes. The answer to the second part -- should they? -- is NO!
Our pet hedgehogs are African in origin. They have adapted to the much
warmer climate, and have generally lost the ability to tolerate hibernation.
While they can still go into hibernation, when they get too cold, and they do
have the ability to Aestivate (similar to hibernation, but to survive very
hot, dry periods), their chances of surviving either for more than a brief
period are virtually nonexistant. In effect the hibernation ability is
almost vestigal, and aestivation is almost as dangerous for an animal which
is not prepared for it.
As pets, hedgehogs do not stock up on food, nor put on the necessary extra
body fat (at least in the right manner) needed to get through hibernation. A
pet that is allowed to even suffer semi-hibernation extensively can suffer
long term effects (becomming very weak and sick), and those that do end up in
full hibernation will rarely survive beyond 1-2 days in this state, if at
Now that we've made it clear that they shouldn't be allowed to hibernate (or
even go into semi-hibernation, what are the signs to look for, and how do you
prevent it from happening? The good news is that if caught in time, the
effects are reversable. If the temperature where they are kept drops too low
(below about 20 degrees C or 68 degrees F), they can start preparing for
hibernation and will certainly go into hibernation for brief periods, if the
temperature drops much below this -- at least until the temperature returns
to a comfortable level.
If your hedgehog seems to be sleeping too soundly, and you are worried, any
kind of movement to his or her bed will usually earn you at least a brief
spate of unhappy snuffling. If this happens, then you can probably assume
you've just disturbed a sleepy hedgehog, or at least he's not in full
hibernation. If this and nudging at him don't have any effect, and he's been
in quite a cool (for a hedgehog) temperature, he may have slipped into the
beginnings of hibernation, and should be gently (and slowly) warmed up, which
should let him awaken, and come back to full activity.
Hedgehogs will also tend to slow down and get somewhat grumpy if they are
kept at a temperature that's too cool for their liking. If you're finding
that your previously energetic hedgehog is acting a bit slow and grumpy, and
cool weather has started to arrive, then you may want to take steps to warm
up your hedgehog [5.2], [7.3].
One of the most common signs of a hedgehog being too cold (semi-hibernation),
is being very unsteady on its feet. Wobbly hedgehogs, or ones showing signs
of problems in their hindquarters are almost always due to being too cold.
There are some other causes for this type of symptom, as well (see [9.5] on
Wobbly Hedgehogs), but of the cases I've heard of over 99% are from being
Another sign that a hedgehog that is too cool is its going off its food. If
your hedgehog isn't eating, and is walking a bit funny, it may be because he
is a bit cool.
The first thing to do is to check to see if the animal is warm enough.
Feel its legs and belly. If these feel chilled the animal needs to be
immediately warmed up. A chilled hedgehog will walk as if it is drunk.
A variety of methods can be used to warm them. The one that I use is
to put the animal in the cut off sleeve of a sweatshirt. I then put
it in a box (I actually have an 8 litre cooler that I use) with a jar
of hot water. Close the lid of the box (or put the lid on loosely to
allow for air in the cooler). They usually warm up in about an hour
or so. When I put the animal back in its own cage, I make sure I give
it a sleeve to keep warm in. Some animals are more prone to chills
-- Linda Wheatley
In general, the likelihood of hibernation happening is quite low, so if your
hedgehog isn't making its home in the refrigerator, and you don't like living
in subarctic conditions indoors, you probably shouldn't worry. That having
been said, I have heard of several instances of it happening (briefly, and
all fully recovered when warmed up), so some caution is worthwhile.
Recently, another cause of hibernation, or more commonly, partial hibernation
has shown up. It appears that hedgehogs are quite sensitive to the short
daylight hours, or even low light, as can happen during the winter months.
If your hedgehog is warm enough, but still shows indications of wanting to
hibernate, try leaving a light on to extend the `length of the day' for him.
I've seen this help with my own hedgehogs, and my thanks to both Dawn Wrobel
and Sharon Massena for bringing it to my attention.
Beyond even the light issue, it appears that some `lines' of pet hedgehogs
may be more prone to hibernation, or rather trying to hibernate than others.
In some cases, you may need to be very diligent to ensure your little friend
doesn't drift off into a one-way winter's nap on you. Details on this,
assumed, genetic link are very sketchy as yet.
Also a worry is the chance of pet hedgehogs going into aestivation. This is
similar to hibernation, but is done when things get too warm. In their
natural habitat, this is to let the hedgehog wait things out until cooler
and/or damper weather returns. Pet hedgehogs can slip into this state,
especially in light of heatwaves in recent years in North America. The
problems and side effects of aestivation are largely the same as for
Remember, keep your hedgie warm!
Subject: <7.4> My hedgehog sneezes. What should I do?
Occasional sneezes are normal. When you consider the amount of exploring
that hedgehogs like to do, in combination with just how busy that little nose
is, it's pretty easy to understand that the result will be an occasional
Extended sneezing fits, or nasal discharge, however, indicates a problem, and
a trip to the vet is in order. This can indicate anything from a respiratory
problem, to a bad cold. In most cases, the treatment will consist of
antibiotics, which usually help beat the problem in short order.
Subject: <7.5> My hedgehog's gone ballistic? Is this normal?
You've just introduced your hedgehog to a nice new big pen and all of a
sudden it's like he's going crazy, running madly around the cage, trying to
get out of every little nook and cranny, and generally driving you up the
wall. Yes, this is quite normal (for the hedgehog -- you being up the wall,
I can't comment on).
Hedgehogs appear to do this when they get into a new environment, and will
usually settle down in a while, once they decide that (a) they can't actually
get out (which given the slightest chance, they will), and (b) they have
decided this is now home. Some hedgehogs will literally climb the walls just
to check whether you remembered a roof or not. My Pocus was a fine example
of this. She would climb anything, anywhere, anytime, to any height.
Some things you can do to reduce the chaos and chances of reoccurrence are to
provide a familiar nest or burrow for your little beast, and to install a
wheel for exercise [5.6], [5.7] (all that energy is pretty normal in
hedgehogs -- scary, huh?). Lots of active play times can help too.
One other answer here is to simply enjoy the fact that you have a healthy,
Subject: <7.6> Basic hedgehog repertoire
As far as sounds go, officially, the only sounds that hedgehogs are supposed
to make is their snuffling and snorting when they are feeling threatened, and
some squeaking as babies, or during mating. That said, I can tell you
hedgehogs have an amazing number of little sounds in their repertoire. I
have it on good advice and from personal experience that there are a number
of other hedgehog vocalizations that occur in both babies and adults.
Most of the time, aside from the snuffling, the only sound most hedgies make
is a soft `whiffling' sound, usually as they are exploring and sniffing for
new and interesting discoveries.
One time that hedgehogs completely abandon their silent ways is when it comes
to mating. This is particularly true of males who will often end up sounding
like a video game gone wild with an amazing series of squeaks and chirps as
they vie for the favours of the lady.
In addition, here are some comments from other people on hedgehog sounds:
At least two of my younger ones have kept this ability [nursing
type squeaks] and can shriek quite loudly when startled or angry.
This will wake the deepest sleeper.
-- Mike McGary
All the hedgehogs I've known have made a quiet twittering noise when
they were relaxed and exploring.
-- Nathan Tenny
I'd like to thank Mike McGary, with some commentary from Nathan Tenny and
Znofyl, for sharing thoughts on the virtuoso singing of hedgehogs here to
give people an idea of some of the extremes that can be reached. I would
also like to note that unless a lady-hog was in his immediate company, the
loudest thing that ever came out of Velcro, other than snuffling, was a
contented slurp when he buried his nose in a container of cream.
The books all say that hedgehogs don't make much noise. They do squeak
for their mother when they are still nursing and make snorting and
snuffling noises as adults....one account says that they can snore quite
My young male (Adam) has been known to scream when frightened. This
isn't a small squeak, but a full-fledged rabbit-caught-in-a-trap
scream. But the real oddity has started recently. We have one of
those beep-beep-beep-beep alarm clocks. We normally set it for
6:00 am, but keep pushing the snooze button every time it goes off
(sometimes for a long time). After the alarm goes off, Adam starts
to make this eeeeh-eeeeeh-eeeeeeh sound like he is imitating the
alarm clock. He does it every morning and you can get up and
watch him....he doesn't move....he just sings.
-- Mike McGary
The following from Znofyl and Nathan are about as good an answer to this
mystery as we're likely to get without growing quills ourselves:
I wonder whether the hedgie isn't responding to this alarm noise
thinking it is another male. My males are VERY noisy when breeding.
This sounds really likely to me. My male's mating noise is a sort of
breathy ``squeeEEEEEk-squeeEEEEEk''---is that the general tenor of
Adam's morning ditty?
-- Nathan Tenny
From my own experience, when Velcro first learned about the arrival of his
first girlfriend, Sprocket, he put on the most amazing little session of
barking and squeaking. She, in turn, frequently squeaked, especially if she
was trying to nudge her way out from between someone's fingers to get to the
rest of the world.
We have also had the experience of Mike McGary's ``rabbit-caught-in-a-trap''
squealing, shortly after bringing home Hocus and Pocus. The den they share
only has one entrance/exit, and apparently one of the girls was blocking the
door from the other one. It was quite a scary sound to hear, but the girls
appeared none the worse for wear by the time we arrived seconds later, out of
breath from a mad dash.
Continuing with the `unhappy' sounds, the hissing, snuffling sound of a
hedgehog that's not happy is something almost all hedgie owners learn very
quickly. Even the friendliest hedgehog will resort to this if you wake them
in the middle of a good dream about mealworm nirvana! When really upset,
this takes on a growling tone, and can be accompanied by `pops' that really
indicate an unhappy hedgehog.
Recently I've had several reports of hedgehogs 'purring':
Sonic purrs, like a cat! He only does it when he's eating something
wonderful - usually a chicken or turkey stick (I always hold him when
he gets these) and I can hear him making short bursts (2-5 seconds)
that sounds and feels (the vibration) like a low cat purr. I'm assuming
this is good, since he devours the stick like he's starving, although
he always has dry kitten chow (yes, he eats it) in his dish.
-- Debbie Allen
While I haven't had this experience, it certainly sounds like quite the
thing. The closest I've come to this is to find most of my hedgies tend to
make a soft `smacking' sound, almost like a cartoon animal licking its chops.
By making this sound back to them, they seem to respond in turn, to it. It
almost appears to be some sort of greeting, and will sometimes even bring an
irate hedgie out of a huff for me. Either that or it sounds like I've caught
the mother of all mealworms and they want a share...
The gist of this whole section is really to let readers know that hedgehogs
are capable of making a wide range of sounds -- if and when they want.
At this rate, a hedgehog dictionary may be in line as an addition to the FAQ!
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8. *** Basic health care ***
Subject: <8.1> What health risks should I worry about?
Hedgehogs have an amazing immunity to most things that are toxic. Quantities
of many toxins that would kill a human hundreds or even thousands of times
over will often have no noticeable effect on a hedgehog at all. This trait
has inspired both legends and scientific research, with no conclusive results
other than acknowledgment that it is true.
This means that should your hedgehog accidentally encounter any of the
numerous poisons that exist within every modern home, chances are your little
friend will wander off none the worse for wear, while if it had been another
type of pet, it may have been in dire need of a visit to the vet.
However, just because hedgehogs are considered to be all but poison-proof is
no reason for you to take chances. They are immune to many toxins, but there
could always be an exception. You should supervise your hedgehog's
wanderings and keep dangerous substances tucked safely away.
One important general health note, before we continue -- hedgehogs are
absolute masters at hiding any kind of health problem. This is a survival
trait that they have developed over a very long history, and for you to see
through their attempts to hide illness and injury requires that you know your
hedgies and their ways very well, so that you can note slight deviations in
their habits before they develop into something serious!
As I pointed out in [2.1], Pat Storer's books discuss blood chemistry and
what kinds and doses of various medicines have been used successfully to
treat hedgehogs. I strongly suggest you get a copy of one of these books, if
for no other reason than to bring with you to the veterinarian, in the case
of an emergency, so he or she knows what to expect and what to do about
Hedgehogs are susceptable to worms, fleas, mites, and other common pet
parasites. If you have other pets (especially indoor/outdoor ones), if you
give your hedgehog access to the outdoors (even supervised), or if you bring
in non-commercially grown earthworms, crickets, or other insects, you might
want to be especially concerned about parasites. Even taking precautions it
is still possible for your pet to get parasites.
Treatment of fleas is well described in the Flea and Tick FAQ [9.4], and most
safe (non-long-lasting) commercial flea treatments should work. It is always
wise to try a small amount on the rump first, and wait for a couple of hours
to see if there is any adverse reaction, before doing any serious treatment.
Also, do remember to avoid getting it into the eyes!
Far more of a problem than fleas, and worms, are mites, which are the most
common health problem that affects pet hedgehogs. Section [8.2] discusses
this in detail.
Almost all forms of parasites that a pet hedgehog is likely to encounter are
quite treatable, and a visit to the veterinarian will provide you with the
answers and medications to do so properly.
I would also like to add a quick reminder here to use wheels with solid
running surfaces and to pad the spokes to prevent injuries [5.6].
One other area of concern is obesity. Hedgehogs can easily become
overweight, partially due to their potential for hibernation [7.3], they can,
and will, pack on weight in preparation for a lengthy hibernation that never
comes. Letting them hibernate is NOT the answer -- a diet and exercise are.
If your hedgehog is getting too plump, just cut back on his food a bit, and
try to encourage activity by letting him run around, or by giving him a
With respect to more severe medical problems, there are a number of serious
medical conditions that can appear in hedgehogs, though, thankfully, not that
frequently. These range from pneumonia, to Fatty Liver Disease, tumours and
Pneumonia rarely happens on its own. Instead, it usually appears following
some sort of injury, or other medical problem, or due to extended or repeated
bouts of partial hibernation. If caught early, it can be treated by a
knowledgeable veterinarian -- most instances of pneumonia in hedgehogs are
bacterial, and hence respond well to antibiotics. Here are some of the signs
The warning signs for pneumonia are bubbles coming from the nose (this
can also signal an upper respiratory infection) and irregular raspy
breathing, lethargy and an unwillingness to eat (because they can't
-- Dawn Wrobel
Hedgehogs are sometimes inclined to getting Fatty Liver Disease (FLD). While
all the reasons are not understood, there have been some suggestions that it
can be due to the type of diet, or in some cases the quantity, lack of
exercise, or even genetic. One of the best ways to help prevent FLD is to
provide a wheel or other regular exercise. The key signs to look for to tell
if your hedgehog may be a candidate for FLD are whether there are yellowish
fatty deposits showing, especially under the front armpits (legpits?). If
these are present, it doesn't mean your hedgie has FLD, but it does suggest
that something needs to be done quickly before it does progress to where the
liver is irrepairably harmed.
Unfortunately, hedgehogs are also prone to tumours and cancers, especially in
the 3-4 year old range. Whether this may be due in part to dietary factors,
or just because they rarely live to that age in the wild, and we are just
seeing the effects of bodily systems run amok, is not known.
About the best advice I can pass along is the suggestion that came from the
1997 ``Go Hog Wild'' Veterinary Seminar, where the doctors gave the advice to
have any tumours removed ASAP, as being the best possible course of action
available. Since that time, it has been found that treating hedgehogs who
have tumours or cancers with steroids can have a positive effect. In
addition, research into nutrition and related factors may soon help reduce
the number of tumour instances in hedgehogs.
With luck and further research, hopefully we will see tumours become a rarity
in the not too distant future.
Subject: <8.2> Mites (or mites, not?)
The single most common problem that affects pet hedgehogs ia mites! I
average about two to three messages per week from people wondering what is
wrong with their hedgehog where the symptoms are clearly those of mites.
Kathleen Close sent along some thoughts from her veterinarian regarding
mites, and how common they can be:
He said 90% of the hogs he's seen do [have mites]. It looks like a
white crusty coating on their quills. The doc just gives them a shot.
It won't bother the hhog, but will poison the mites when they bite.
How common mites are may be related to where you live. Also, it's quite
common for a hedgehog to arrive already having mites. Indeed, many breeders
may not even notice it, since it is rather easy to pass off as being 'normal'
when it is not too bad.
While it's not particularly difficult to treat, mites can become serious if
left untreated. To give you a perspective on mites, `mange' is caused by a
type of mite.
Some of the signs of mites are crusty deposits, especially around the eyes
and at the base of the quills, and loss of quills. Don't panic if your
hedgehog loses occasional quills -- they're much like our hair like that
(although for some of us, this comparison might not work -- if you're like
me, don't wait until there are no quills left thinking it's normal). If your
hedgehog seems to be losing quite a few quills, more than you think is right,
it's probably time to do something about it.
One further check you can make is to look at one of the quills that has been
lost. In a normally shed quill, there will be a little ball at one end,
where the quill fitted into the follicle. If it was lost from mites, the
small ball-shaped piece will be missing -- the quill looking like it is
pointed at both ends. Note: this isn't a definitive sign, either way, so
don't take it as being 100% proof.
The easiest way to treat mites is often to visit a veterinarian, who will
usually treat them with a shot, typically of Ivermectin. This can also be
used either topically, or orally. Often it will take at least two visits and
sometimes three (for stubborn cases) to make sure that all the mites are
Courtesy of `chvall' who found the answer on the ``Exotic Net,'' apparently
listed by Dr. Evan Blair, the standard dosage for Ivermectic is 0.1 cc per 10
lbs. You should always check the label of particular package, as it is
always possible that it might be offered in different concentrations.
I'd like to add the following, courtesy of Eloise Campbell by way of her
veterinarian, that the dosage of Ivermectic listed above is on the ``low
end'' of the scale. This is probably a good thing for the audience that this
FAQ is designed to reach, erring on the side of safety in this case, but it
does provide some slight leeway for serious cases, or for accidents where a
slightly stronger dose happens to be given. For safety's sake, I won't
attempt to offer any guidelines on what a higher end dose might constitute --
after all dosages of medication like this is something that only a qualified
veterinarian should be dealing with.
After getting each shot, it will be necessary to completely clean out your
hedgehog's cage or tank, replacing all the shavings, and preferably washing
it down with something like ammonia or bleach. Otherwise, the mites will
simply hide in the shavings and hop back onto the hedgehog when the effects
of the treatment wear off.
Because mites will hide in the bedding during any treatment, you should avoid
using pourous beddings (wood chips, astroturf, Yesterdays News, CareFresh,
etc.). Using something like shredded newspaper is both inexpensive (for
the number of times you will have to replace everything) and doesn't provide
hiding space for mites fleaing the, now, mite-hostile hedgehog.
Here are a few cautionary words from Todd Reeves, courtesy of his
veterinarian, on treating hedgehogs for mites:
Just a little note tomorrow I'm giving all my hedgies a mite BATH. I
had a little discussion with my new vet, she has a little bit of
experience with the little pin cushions, she says that the ingredient
that they use to dilute the ivermectin (Propolyne Glycol) is extremely
toxic and it is the main source of the deaths in a lot of animals that
are treated with it. If I were to give them ivermectin injections she
says the solution would have to be pure and not diluted. Of course this
makes for incredibly small dosages almost impossible to administer. As
an alternative she has given me MITABAN, which is even more toxic, but
it is in a liquid form that is diluted in water and administered as a
BATH. I have to put an eye ointment on them first......I'm sure I'll
have lots of entertaining attempts at this. I know that at least 3 of
my hedgies will allow me to do this but Sahsha will have a little fit.
I have heard of countless hedgehogs being safely and properly treated by
Ivermectin, in various forms such as injected, orally, and topically, and
even in cases of overdose, the hedgehog came through fine, but as always with
an animal of this size, dangers exist when dealing with very powerful
Recently, Michael (knuckles) passed along the following information care of
his veterinarian (note: this describes a pretty thorough mite infestation):
First, yes -- you can see hedgemites.
We were so unsure as to whether he had them because hedgemites live
under the skin [note: in many bad cases they can be seen moving along
the quills, if you look carefully -- ed.]. Their waste is usually the
first sign you'll see of an infected hedgehog because mites leave their
waste as white-brown circular crusts surrounding the base of the
[quills]. Using a pair of tweezers, I removed one of the suspecting
crusts and looked hard at what I had between the prongs. Crawling
around the crust and onto the tweezers were tiny white specks. These
specks appeared to be two-parted, meaning the middle was almost a clear
line from side to side. My wife suggested the mites looked like a pair
of Mini-Wheats (cereal) from 1,000 feet up [glad I'm not a morning
person, I may never eat breakfast again -- ed.].
The reason why I say the white-brown crusty waste is the first sign is
that prior to seeing this, my long and hard looks at Iggy's skin showed
no sign of movement from the mites. Just lots of dandruff. You could
put him on a black towel, roll him around, and it would look like it had
just snowed on the towel.
Iggy took the injection quite well. We let him curl up into a towel, I
held the towel against my chest and she stuck the needle into his rump.
He didn't even flinch. I expected him to burrow through my chest and into
the wall behind me. Nada.
Hog skin seems to be pretty darn thick, too. She really had to work to
get the needle in.
I hope this helps, and keep in mind my summations based upon this
experience are just that: I'm no professional so take my conclusions at
face value if you're dealing with your own hog, of course!
-- Michael (knuckles)
Michael also expressed relief over his vet opting not to use a mite powder.
While I don't know if it would be dangerous if used carefully, powders can
cause problems in hedgehogs if they get in the eyes, or end up being inhaled.
Using either injections (from your vet), or a spray (where chances of
inhaling it are over quickly, it's far easier to protect against, and can be
flushed away from eyes much easier in the event of an accident), are safer
You can also treat minor cases of mites yourself, using a mild flea/tick
spray. Make sure you avoid the long lasting variety, and any which use an
alcohol base. If you aren't sure about the spray you've gotten, simply spray
a small spot on your hedgehog's rump. If within a half hour there is any
sign of distress, give your hedgie a good scrubbing there, and consider a
visit to the vet. Problems are very unlikely if you don't use a long lasting
In the past, I had recemmended that the Adams brand flea/tick spray was safe.
Unfortunately, it turns out that Adams produces a number of flea/tick sprays
-- some of which are alcohol based, and can be extremely dangerous. While
the `water-based' variety is likely safe, I must caution that care should be
taken using any of the Adams sprays, and, indeed, any flea/tick spray, for
that matter. Test them first, as suggested, above, and use them sparingly.
Or better yet, take your little friend to a vet for proper treatment.
To use the spray, spray your little friend down along his back from front to
rear, making sure you avoid the head (particularly ears, eyes, and nose).
Repeat this in a couple of days for 2 or 3 treatments and that should curb
the mites. You will also need to completely clean out the cage when you do
this or the mites hiding in the bedding will just wait until the spray wears
down, and hop back on.
Here are some cautions to help you decide if the flea spray you're looking at
will do the job and be safe:
One important note: *make sure that the insecticide listed is pyrethrin*.
Pyrethrin is the natural insect repellent (well, it comes from a flower).
For those of you who aren't familiar with Adam's, it's an alcohol based
mist. When you first spray it on an animal, all you can smell is the
alcohol. (whew) It dries very quickly and after it dries, it has a
-- Christi Cantrell
I suspect many such sprays are going to use an alcohol base, so beware that
you don't get too much overspray in the air -- it isn't good for your hedgie
(or you) to be breathing it.
Again, if you are in any doubt as to the safety of a spray, try a small
amount sprayed on the rump. If there are any adverse effects, wash your
hedgehog quickly and make tracks to a veterinarian, taking the spray with
Another home-remedy method that has appeared, and seems to have some real
promise, is to give your hedgehog a bath in vegetable oil. Be sure to keep
it out of the eyes and nose. After the oil bath, wipe your hedgehog down
(make sure he or she stays warm, as they are very susceptible to becoming
chilled). Leave the oil on for a day, then give your hedgehog a bath with
some mild puppy/kitten type shampoo, (again taking the precautions against
chills). You may need to repeat this treatment a couple of times.
The effects of the mites may take a few days to disappear after they are
gone, so don't be alarmed if your hedgehog keeps losing quills for a couple
of days after the last treatment.
The quills will soon regrow -- hedgehogs that have had mites and are now mite
free generally recover very quickly, and frequently are much more energetic
So where did these little freeloaders come from? Well, in many cases, they
arrived along with your hedgehog, and just took some time, or a stressful
event to allow them to proliferate and become a problem.
One other, common source of mites is from the bedding material you are using.
It is possible to get mite infested packages of bedding. You might want to
switch to another package, and preferably another brand of bedding to be on
the safe side. Most reputable brands of pet bedding attempt to treat their
bedding products so they are pest free, but it is always possible that some
managed to get through. In an emergency, you can use shredded newspaper to
carry you through until you get new bedding.
Subject: <8.3> Tattered or ragged ears
This is probably the second most common problem that appears in hedgehogs,
but is far less worrisome than mites.
Some hedgehogs develop what looks to be tattered, ragged, or fringed ears,
rather than the smooth round edges that are normally seen. The edges of the
ears end up looking like a ripped piece of paper, as if something has been
chewing at them.
First of all, in almost every case, what you are seeing is a waxy buildup on
the edges of the ears, rather than the ear itself being ragged. That means
that cleaning it off, and solving the problem, will restore your little
friend to his normal healthy round ears.
The other good news is that it doesn't appear to adversely bother hedgehogs
who have it.
Recent research seems to point to a number of possible causes for this
buildup, with fungus being the most likely and most common. That said, there
is no single cause which always is the reason. Most likely it is exaberated
by some minor dietary problem (either too little or too much of something),
but the problem often occurs in only some animals getting the same diet as
others. As noted, the most common trigger/cause seems to be due to fungus,
while other cases are traceable to mites, but it has also been found in
animals that have been tested and found to definitely have neither -- in such
cases dietary supplements seem to solve the problem. Among the suggestions
I've received on dealing with it are:
(A) Probably the best solution to the ragged ears comes from Dawn
Wrobel, who has had excellent success treating the problem with
Panalog (antibiotic/antifungal cream), or with Panalog mixed with
Ivomec, which cleans the ears up quite quickly, and seems to prevent
reoccurances. This cause/treatment has by far the most research
behind it, and seems to be the most effective, overall. The other
suggestions, below, offer help in keeping it from coming back.
(B) Adding vitamins to the diet
-- Nathan Tenny
(C) Similarly, adding Cod Liver oil, Linatone, or Ferritone to the food:
[Our veterinarian] suggested we try the cod liver oil for two weeks
just to see what happens. Bandit seems to like it (which is such a
surprise since he is the most finicky eater!!)
-- Melissa Maloney
(D) Using either mineral oil, isopropyl alcohol (carefully), or possibly
commercial ear cleaning lotions. (though this obviously doesn't solve
the cause of the problem).
As noted, ragged or tattered ears can also be caused by mites, even in
hedgehogs which have been thoroughly treated against them. The problem is
that the bloodflow to the ears is limited enough that medications such as
Ivomectin, given either orally or by injection, just don't get to that area
in adequate concentrations to completely get rid of the mites. The solution
can be to use it topically, on the ears directly (after softening and
removing the waxy buildup).
Tiffany Mross also passed along the following suggestions on cleaning up
tattered ear buildup, after some discussions on the hedgehog mailing list
about using cocoa butter:
There is a product called Lansinoh. It is medical grade purified Lanolin
and mothers can nurse without washing it off. If it is safe for newborn
babies to ingest, I would think that it would be ok for hedgies as well.
It seems to really aid the healing of dried, and damaged nipples. It also
works great for chapped, lips and other skin abrasions.
-- Tiffany Mross
While not something that has been tested (to my knowledge), it certainly does
have enough promise to warrant looking into.
Subject: <8.4> Hedgehog first-aid kit
Although you may never need it, hedgehogs have a knack for getting into
mischief at the most inopportune times. The following is a list of items
that hedgehog owners should keep handy in case of an emergency. This list is
not meant to cover every contingency, but it will hopefully help with most
that might arise.
(1) Emergency Vet's Phone Number and Address.
(2) Antiseptic/Antibiotic Cream such as Polysporin, or something
equivalent for pet use.
(3) Hydrogen Peroxide for cleaning cuts and wounds.
(4) Iodine as an antiseptic.
(5) Gauze and Tape for bandages and splints (solid splints are likely
not needed until you can get to a veterinarian).
(6) Clean Cloth.
(7) Quickstop or Cornstarch to help stop bleeding, especially for
toenails clipped to close to the quick, or torn in an accident.
(8) Cotton Swabs / Q-tips.
(9) Nail Clippers for Toenails.
(11) Sharp Scissors or Razor blade / Razor knife (for hairs or threads
caught around legs or feet).
(12) Chemical Hand Warmers and/or electric heating pad.
(13) And of course, the most critical item, an emergency Mealworm
Subject: <8.5> Do I need to spay/neuter my pet?
While the concept of spaying and neutering hedgehogs has been tried in a
couple of places, the fact that their sexual organs are located so far
internally, in what is a small animal to begin with, makes this an extremely
dangerous and delicate operation, even in the hands of those who know what
they are doing. The survival rate for this type of operation is below 50%
from all the figures I have seen. In effect, it's not a worthwhile risk.
Given that most male/female groups of hedgehogs are not overly social except
during mating, (and even then it can often be a tentative truce at best) it
is unlikely that spaying/neutering is anything you need to worry about. It
is uncertain if it will help much in getting male/male groups to get along
without fights, and it isn't needed in female/female groups.
In addition to all of this, I suspect you will be hard pressed to find a
veterinarian who could (let alone would) do the operation, though some do
exist who have done it.
As a cautionary reminder, hedgehogs as young as 6 weeks old can, and will,
mate. If you do have babies, remember to separate them before this age, or
you will have even more hoglets on the way, and probably not as you would
In short, altering your hedgehog is not likely to be a worry, although Velcro
would have had me believe that it might be worthwhile -- he made his desires
towards the females abundantly clear, and would have had me overrun with
hoglets in no time given half the opportunity (the ladies, however, defended
their virtue admirably).
Subject: <8.6> Vaccinations, etc.
Although this could fit into the previous section, I felt it deserved a
section of its own. After taking my herd of cats in for their annual shots,
one year, I found myself wondering about what shots, if any, a hedgehog
should have. Primarily, the biggest worry in North America is likely rabies,
but there are other potential fungal/bacterial/viral infections as well.
After talking with my (non-hedgehog oriented) vet, I took my questions to the
appropriate source (thanks Cathy Johnson-Delaney, DVM). It turns out the
answer is quite simple, yet complicated (don't you just love it when answers
are like that?).
As a general rule, for indoor hedgehogs that are not exposed to the dangers
of outdoors, there is no need to worry. What complicates this is that local
authorities may not see it that way, and especially in areas where diseases
such as rabies exist, and they might be VERY insistent on vaccination -- even
though no vaccine has been approved for hedgehogs yet. So, you don't need to
vaccinate your hedgehog, unless otherwise required -- clear as mud, right?
Here are some words of wisdom from Cathy to help clear things up a bit, and
to try and cover the problem areas of what to do when you DO need to
vaccinate a hedgehog, or get treatment otherwise. Remember, this is
primarily her professional opinion, and not a set of absolute truths.
At present, there are no vaccinations for pet hedgehogs. They are
not susceptible to dog/cat diseases, or as far as I know, really any
of the major agricultural/livestock disease problems (well in North
America anyway - we don't vax our livestock for Foot & Mouth, which
hedgies can get, but North America is FM free). Theoretically, they
can get sick with many of the bacterial diseases of livestock, but the
chances of them being exposed as indoor housepets is just about nil,
unless you take them outside and let them mingle with pigs, chickens,
cows, horses in breeding/dirty environments and let them feed on dung
(I think they would risk getting stepped on first).
The only exception to this might be if you were housing your hedgies
outdoors in caging part of the year and rabies was a threat in your
area - then I might recommend vaccinating with a killed rabies vax
(Imrab) as a precaution, like we do for pet bunnies housed outdoors
in rabies endemic areas. Realize that:
1. the vax is not approved for that species, no efficacy trials
have been done
2. since it is not a recognized vax and is a non-domestic species,
the FDA or Public Health Service/Dept/CDC (or Canada's
equivalent) will not recognize the animal as being vaccinated
so if the hedgie bites anyone, the animal will just be
euthanized and tested. NO ifs, ands, or buts....
So the best all round precaution is not to let others handle your
hedgie lest he bite someone, and that someone gets his/her physician,
public health dept, etc. involved.
The actual risk from rabies in an indoor pet hedgie is, in my
opinion, non-existent, but public health people have regulations and
hedgies fall into the blanket category of non-domestics so all rules
Another set of suggestions Cathy had was for sources for your veterinarian:
Your veterinarian needs to have the most current published vet lit
on hedgehogs [the information below is current as of 1996 - ed.]:
Journal of Small Exotic Animal Medicine: Vol 2, No 1: Husbandry and
medicine of African Hedgehogs by Anthony J. Smith DVM reprints -
contact JSEAM, back issues PO Box 618686 issue out of print, but
article itself avail for $5.00
J of Small Exotic Animal Med: Vol 3 No. 1 pps 12-15 Neonatology of
the hedgehog (Atlerix albiventrix) by Anthony J. Smith, DVM
order above through JSEAM
Isenbugel, E. Baumgartner, RA 1993: Diseases of the Hedgehog. In:
Zoo and Wild Animal Med, Current Therapy III, WB Saunders, Phila PA
Chapter starting page 294
Hoefer, HL 1994. Hedgehogs. In: Quesenberry KE, HIllyer EV (eds).
The Vet Clin of No Amer, Sm Anim Pract, Exotic Pet Med II, Vol 24,
No 1, WB Saunders, Phila PA, Pp113-120.
Please pass the list of references to your veterinarian as sooner
or later he/she will need them. (Murphy's law says that if you do,
[your hedgehog] won't).
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
9. *** Problems to watch for and related information ***
Subject: <9.1> Various hedgehog health issues
While hedgehogs are generally very healthy pets, and don't tend to experience
too many problems, there are some that should be mentioned.
Hedgehogs are small. While they generally enjoy very good health, any kind
of disease or disorder can be fatal in only a couple of days, so if you
suspect a problem, see your vet immediately.
As time goes on, I hope to add any known treatments, either veterinary or
home-applied that I can learn, here. Remember, if in doubt, take your friend
to the doctor!
Probably the first thing is to stress, again, that hedgehogs are experts at
hiding problems -- often until it is too late. When you see a sign of a
problem, it's time to act!
With that in mind, let's take a brief tour of `the hedgehog' covering off
various problems that do tend to show up.
Noses. Usually the nose, itself, doesn't suffer much in the way of problems,
but it can show up other problems, especially respiratory troubles, such as
pneumonia. In many cases, the form of pneumonia that affects hedgehogs is
bacterial in nature, which means that if you act quickly enough, antibiotics
can have a very positive effect. Signs to watch for include bubbles,
excessive dripping or constant sneezing.
Mouths. Hedgehogs can get all manner of things caught in their mouths,
especially in the roof of the mouth. Peanuts, as provided in the Vitakraft
hedgehog food are probably the most infamous. I've heard from numerous
people who've had to have peanuts removed from the upper jaw of their
hedgehogs -- some, not in time. This also applies to sunflower seeds as
found in the 8in1 `treat' food. Again, these can be deadly if not removed.
This can sometimes be seen by a hedgehog licking its chops excessively, and
Some hedgehogs can also develop abscesses in their mouth. or other dental
related problems. This is most often indicated by a hedgehog eating on only
one side, or avoiding hard food. This is definitely a case for a quick trip
to the vet.
Feeding them a diet which involves a substantial amount of dry (crunchy) food
may help avoid some of these problems (though tartar buildup might be more
related to the pH of the food [6.2]). Often these problems can be handled
without complications, by a vet if caught early.
Hedgehogs can also suffer from tumours and cancers of the mouth. These can
be much harder to see, unless on the outside, and require prompt veterinary
care, when detected.
Eyes. Moving further along, the eyes can suffer a number of problems, such
as things getting poked into them, or caught around the eyelid, injuries from
being struck by unpadded spokes on a whee, or even cataracts. A vet visit is
almost always in order. Don't fret if your hedgehog does lose his sight or
even an eye -- hedgies do just fine when blind. since their primary sense is
smell, and hearing is secondary, with vision a distant third.
Ears. Ears rarely show problems aside from tattered ears [8.3] which do not
seem to bother the hedgehog much.
Toes. Toes, and toenails do need regular exams. Toenails tend to curl
around and into the footpads if not trimmed [6.5], and toenails do tend to
get caught and tear causing possible infections. I have also heard of some
hedgehogs winding up with fungal problems on their feet, which need
Legs. Legs can get hurt in any number of ways. From toenails getting caught
and the leg being pulled, to the hedgehog taking a tumble. Watch for
limping, or favouring a leg as a sign of an injury. Generally this involves
a vet visit to check for anything serious, but often there is little that can
be done except to let your hedgie heal (though removing the cause, if you can
find it, is strongly suggested).
Limping and favoring a leg can also be indicative of internal problems as
well. If you, or your vet does examine the hedgie and there is no sign of
actual injury, it might be prudent to check for internal problems, growths,
One other serious problem that affects limbs is getting hairs or threads
caught around them, cutting off circulation. Hedgehogs will go as far as to
chew off their foot in such cases. If there is a hair caught, get it off!
Use a razor blade, and if you do nick the hedgies leg in the process, don't
feel bad -- it's far better than the consequences of not getting rid of the
hair or thread. My thanks to Melanie A. Abell for reminding me of this
Genitals, etc. Hedgehogs, especially males, have an unfortunate tendency to
get things caught in rather sensitive places (imagine yourself squirming,
naked, through bedding like your hedgehog does). Things such as bits of
litter (clay, corncob, etc.) can easily become caught in the penile sheath,
which can cause serious inflammation and infection, along with a host of
other problems. Females are not exempt from this type of problem, either,
though the incidence is much lower. A daily inspection is strongly
recommended to avoid a minor irritation becoming something very serious.
Quills and skin. Aside from mites [8.2], few problems affect either the
quills or the skin. Hedgehogs can get fungal infections such as ringworm,
but these are fairly rare. Veterinary diagnosis and treatment will take care
of fungus problems. Hedgehogs do also occasionally get cysts. These are
easily treated by a veterinarian.
Internal problems. Hedgehogs are prone to a myriad of possible internal
problems, especially things such as bowel obstructions. Keep an eye on your
hedgies' eating habits, and on their droppings [9.2]. Major changes in
dropping can indicate all sorts of possible problems. Just about any such
problem is something for a vet to deal with, rather than yourself.
Internal infections of various sorts often show up in the form of green
droppings [9.2]. A slight greenish tinge to the droppings is not a worry --
in the case of problems, we are talking about bright, forest green!
The other large scope of internal problems are from tumours, which are quite
prevalent in hedgehogs. There isn't much you can do about detecting these,
except to get your little friend to the veterinarian ASAP if there is an
unexplained problem, or an obvious lump.
Another problem which occurs in female hedgehogs are mammary tumours. Again,
if caught early enough, these can be surgically removed by a veterinarian.
Fortunately, this isn't a common problem, but it is a life threatening one if
and when it does occur.
Hedgehogs can also suffer from such unpleasant ailments as prolapsed bowels,
and in females prolapsed uterus. These problems can be treated by a
veterinarian, if you get your little friend to help quickly.
Blood in urine or feces. This is somewhat of a special case of internal
problems. Blood spots in either urine or feces can be from an incredibly
wide range of causes, and can be either a one-time thing (say, from
constipation), or can be very serious. Any time it happens repeatedly,
it bears a vet visit ASAP. Many cases will stem from bladder infections
or similar ailments, which will usually respond very well to treatment
One situtation (focused on female hedgies for obvious reasons) is from
tumorous growths in the uterus. The following information from Paul Ritchey,
covers this in detail and also shows that tumours can be overcome in hedgies!
SYMPTOMS: Few blood dots in litter pan first day. Everything else
remained normal throughout the whole ordeal (eating, activity, attitude,
etc.). Blood dots were only symptom. During a brief tabletop exam by
me to see if she had hurt herself, she did both of her `duties' - blood
evident. During the next few days in dealing with local vets, talking
to Vera, etc., blood loss increased at an alarming rate. Few dots
turned into ever increasingly larger blood spots.
DIAGNOSIS: Cancerous growth in the uterus. Growth was removed and
Ariel is now happy and healthy once again. In my conversations with
Dr. Goodman it was noted that with such small critters it's possible
for abnormal growths NOT to show up in x-rays or sonograms.
-- Paul Ritchey
In addition, Paul did stress the need to act quickly, as the type of tumours
that occur in this kind of situation are very agressive, and delays in
finding and fixing the cause can let things get beyond the point recovery
withing a matter of a couple of days.
Probably the very best way to avoid problems is to thoroughly examine your
hedgehog daily. This will help you note changes in habit or health quickly,
and help keep little problems from becoming bigger ones.
Subject: <9.2> My hedgehog's had funny-looking stools for a couple of days.
Normal hedgehog droppings can range from almost pellet-like to quite soft and
sticky. Colour is usually very dark brown, almost black. Depending on diet,
especially treats, they can vary quite a bit. If your hedgehog is leaving
unusual droppings after having had a treat or change in diet a day or so
before, then it is probably related to what he ate. If the problem continues
(assuming the hedgehog is back on his normal diet), or if your hedgehog is
suffering from severe diarrhea, see your vet, immediately.
One thing that can help solve diarrhea is live cultured yogurt:
I have received some info from my vet about diarrhea in hedgies.
He said that one of the best ways to cure it was to feed yogurt
with Lacto Bascillus such as Alta Dena. He also said that most
hedgies LOVE pina colada flavor (and mine do).
-- Ian Van Natter
There are some serious problems that are indicated by funny looking stools.
Remember that if you've fed your hedgie something odd, that is likely the
cause of the problem, but if he's been on his normal diet, and changes in his
stools happen, it may be a warning sign. For example:
A good sign that there's something definitely wrong with your hedgie
is stinky black tarry looking stool. If anyone's hedgie shows that
it's [potentially] an internal lesion and the hedgie should be rushed
to the vet IMMEDIATELY.
The vet said he had necropsis of the kidney, mineralization of the
heart, a lesion in his lower stomach and a touch of pneumonia or the
flu (they think he got that the last day he lived, just another
infection setting in). They think that it was his kidney's malfunctions
that brought that all about, and they think that it was something he may
have been born with.
-- Ligia Ortega (via her veterinarian, from tests following the
death of her hedgehog, Howard)
While similar symptoms in your hedgehog might not indicate the same problem,
a trip to a knowledgeable vet is probably worthwhile. In general, serious
kidney problems in hedgehogs are probably not easily treatable, but catching
such problems early might make a big difference.
Forest green stools also indicate a likely problem. Often these are
indicitive of some sort of internal infection. A visit to the vet is usually
Subject: <9.3> My hedgehog's not eating. What should I do?
This is often the sign of either a sick, depressed, or especially a chilled
[7.3] hedgehog. Assuming your hedgehog is warm enough, and there is no
likelihood of unusual stress (which can also put a hedgehog off eating), you
may want to have a vet check for sickness, but clearly the thing that's
needed is to get your pet back on its dinner. About the only suggestion I
can offer is to attempt out-and-out bribery; offer your hedgehog his favorite
treats, and try some cooked chicken or turkey. If possible, make sure he is
drinking, and if necessary resort to using some thinned chicken broth, or
even something with electolytes (see below). Other suggestions for bribery
snacks are chopped hardboiled egg, cottage cheese, and mealworms.
Here are a few words of wisdom from Linda Wheatly on getting a hedgehog
If the animal is warm, but not eating, first try varying its diet.
I will often try raw meat [please note that there are dangers to using
raw meat as outlined in section [6.2] -- ed.], which often works. I
recently discovered an appetite ``picker upper'' which hasn't failed yet.
I raise mice also, and will give the poor-eating hedgehogs dead pinky
mice. Hedgehogs will also eat the bigger mice. If all else fails, and
the animal refuses to eat anything, they can be force-fed. I beat an
egg [there can also be dangers with using raw egg, as outlined in section
[6.2] -- ed.], add a little bit of milk and a tablespoon of corn syrup.
I take a 1 cc syringe and gently work it into the side of the hedgehog's
mouth and slowly feed the mixture in. I generally feed 3 cc's four times
per day. If the animal is looking dehydrated, I may give it 1 or 2 cc's
of water with each feeding. You may have to do this for 4 or 5 days.
They will start eating again on their own. They will often show you
that they are wanting to eat by themselves by really fighting you
when you try to force feed them.
Related to this is the problem of not drinking, or not drinking enough,
resulting in dehydration. If water is available and accessible, this is
usually not a problem, but if for one reason or another this does occur, it
is important to get fluids into the hedgehog as quickly as reasonably
possible. This might involve a vet visit and intravenous or similar fluid
replacement. In less dire cases, you can use electrolyte enhanced drinks,
such as many of the sport drinks now available, or better yet, Pedalyte, a
form intended for children, which is quite a bit `safer' for sensitive
digestive systems. Because of the cost, and quantity, this is not always an
economical choice, however, as suggested by Sheri, you can get it in a
powdered form under the brand name Kaopectalyte.
Remember, given a hedgehog's small size, not eating or drinking can become
deadly in very short order. If the situation persists for more than a couple
of days, consider taking your little friend to a vet.
Subject: <9.4> How did I get fleas in my home? How can I get rid of
Even if your hedgehog is never outdoors, you can bring in fleas or
flea eggs on your shoes or clothing.
There's a whole FAQ dedicated to ridding your pet and your home of
fleas and ticks. It's distributed in the rec.pets usenet newsgroup.
You can also get it by FTP at:
(that is, ftp to rtfm.mit.edu and get the indicated file) or by sending
email to mail-serverREMOVE_TO_SEND@rtfm.mit.edu with the line
in the body of the message (with an empty subject line).
In general, most products which are safe for use on kittens and puppies are
likely safe for hedgehogs (though avoid those products listed as long
lasting). Keeping in mind that bathing baby or young hedgehogs can be
dangerous and should be avoided if possible [6.5]. It is better to spray on
Subject: <9.5> Wobbly Hedgehogs
This description covers a myriad of different problems, all of which seem to
have very similar symptoms. Your hedgehog is being wobbly on his feet.
Either just unsteady as it moves around, or even falling over and laying on
its slide. Obviously this is a pretty scary thing to encounter, and while
the vast majority of these wobbly hedgehogs are due to being too cold (signs
of semi-hibernation -- see section [7.3]), there are some other causes.
Provided that you are absolutely, positively, unquestionably certain (and
that you go check 3 more times) that your hedgehog is not suffering from
signs of semi-hibernation or semi-aestivation, there are a couple of other
things that can cause this kind of behavior.
While there are many conditions that can result in some degree of wobbliness
(beyond the normal waddling gait of a hedgehog), the term ``Wobbly Hedgehog
Syndrome'' has come to be applied to what is now considered to be a
neurological disorder. The one thing that is certain about this condition
is that nothing is really certain. Please keep this in mind while reading
The problem generally appears as a progressive paralysis, usually starting
at the tail end of the spine and working its way toward the nose. The rate
of progression can vary greatly, sometimes taking only weeks, other times
spanning a year or longer. It usually appears in adults over a year old,
but it can occur in even very young hedgehogs.
The cause of this problem is very likely genetic, probably in some ways due
to the very small, and shrinking gene pool from which our little friends are
This problem can be very hard to diagnose, and generally will only be known
with any certainty after a detailed necropsy.
Other, possibly more common causes of wobbling or paralysis can stem from
strokes, injuries, or tumors. In the case of injuries, treatment
(assuming you or your vet can determine that an injury occurred) will
depend on just what kind of injury it was. For strokes, which do happen to
hedgehogs, there will often be improvement over time. For tumors, surgery
or steroids may help.
One other factor that may be responsible for some types of wobbly hedgehogs,
especially in cases where multiple unrelated hedgehogs are affected, is from
some sort of dietary deficiency. Exactly what is lacking, or in excess, is
not known. This particular form of wobbly hedgehog syndrome seems to only
affect hedgehogs which are raised on cat food, and generally unsupplemented
with vitamins, as opposed to one of the better foods now on the market.
Hedgehogs which have had supplements, or which eat a good, balanced hedgehog
food do not appear to show any signs of this problem. As yet, there is no
scientific answer as to why, but a change in diet might be worth trying.
Again, I would stress that over 99.9% of cases of wobbly hedgehogs are from
hedgehogs showing signs of hibernation, or aestivation. Before you start
worrying about any other causes, be very, very sure that this is not what
is affecting your little friend -- especially if it's the late autumn, or
the temperature has suddenly dipped, or mid-summer and the temperature has
gone way up.
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Brian MacNamara - macnamara@HedgehogHollow.COM
Hedgehog Hollow: http://HedgehogHollow.COM/