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Hedgehog FAQ [5/7] - Care and Understanding
Section - <9.1> Various hedgehog health issues

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [5/7] - Care and Understanding
Previous Document: <8.6> Vaccinations, etc.
Next Document: <9.2> My hedgehog's had funny-looking stools for a couple of days. What's wrong?
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
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
not eating.

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
specialized treatment.

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,
tumours, etc.

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
danger.

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
with antibiotics.

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.

User Contributions:

Rio
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 26, 2012 @ 10:22 pm
Hi, my hedgehog started running around her cage squealing so I took her out to see what was wrong. Her genital area was inflamed and she had open sores all around that area. I gave her a bath, but I'm really worried about her. Do you have any idea what this could be?
Thank you!

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [5/7] - Care and Understanding
Previous Document: <8.6> Vaccinations, etc.
Next Document: <9.2> My hedgehog's had funny-looking stools for a couple of days. What's wrong?

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