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Hedgehog FAQ [5/7] - Care and Understanding
Section - <8.2> Mites (or mites, not?)

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [5/7] - Care and Understanding
Previous Document: <8.1> What health risks should I worry about?
Next Document: <8.3> Tattered or ragged ears
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
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
gone.

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
medications.


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
options.


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
spray.

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 
   pleasant smell.
   -- 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
you.


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
and playful.


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.

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: <8.1> What health risks should I worry about?
Next Document: <8.3> Tattered or ragged ears

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