Hedgehog Diseases: How To Recognize Sick Hedgehog Signs

Hedgehogs are great pets. However, there are certain hedgehog diseases to look out for and knowing the sick hedgehog signs is essential.

What Are Common Hedgehog Diseases

Most hedgehog diseases can be prevented by simply providing good husbandry and knowing what the signs of a sick hedgehog are, so you can act promptly.

While hedgehogs usually have good health, they are small animals and any the hedgehog diseases can possibly be fatal if you don’t act quickly.

That is why it’s important to know the different sick hedgehog signs, so you can act appropriately and see your vet immediately.

In this article, we will take a look at the most common hedgehog diseases and health concerns. Furthermore, we will look at sick hedgehog signs, best course of treatment and most importantly –  prevention.

As mentioned above, the hedgehog diseases and health problems we will be looking at are the following:

  • Ectoparasites – mites, ticks and fleas
  • Respiratory Infections
  • Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome
  • Gastrointestinal Infection
  • Dental Disease
  • Eye, Ear and Mouth Health Problems
  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Fungal Infection
  • Genital Problems
  • Quills and Skin Problems

Sick Hedgehog Characteristics

First and foremost, if you want your spiky little friend to live a long and healthy life, it’s essential that you know what sick hedgehogs signs to look out for. By knowing what’s not normal behaviour for your hedgehog, you will be able to act quicker and in some cases even save their life.

Always keep an eye for the following sick hedgehog signs:

  • Weight loss
  • Loose or reduced stool, green or mucousy, or black and tarry
  • Blood in urine
  • Weakness, lethargy such as not using its exercise wheel
  • Panting or laboured breathing
  • Dull expression
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes
  • Eyes popping out or bulging
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Paralysis

Even in the case of you knowing the signs of a sick hedgehog, you should also know that hedgehogs are experts at hiding problems and in some cases by the time you realise, it might be too late.

Therefore, if you see a sign of any hedgehog diseases, you should act quickly!

Healthy Hedgehog Characteristics

Being able to recognise sick hedgehog signs is as important as knowing what a healthy hedgehog looks like. By knowing what’s normal behaviour for your hedgehog, you will be able to tell when something is wrong and if a trip to the vet is required.

A healthy hedgehog will present with the following characteristics:

  • Eyes should be open and bright
  • Behaviour should be alert and responsive
  • Belly lifted off the ground when walking
  • Plenty of urine and feces in the cage left from overnight
  • Feces should be brown and soft
  • Good appetite
  • Able to ball up completely
  • Skin shouldn’t be flaky, crusty, red or itchy
  • Asleep during the day and active during the night
  • Constantly sniffing when exploring their surroundings

Ectoparasites

Hedgehog diseases such as ectoparasites usually occur in wild hogs. Even though this disease is seen more often in the wild, pet hedgehogs can also get ectoparasites if their environment is not kept clean or if they live with other pets.

Therefore it’s important to always keep an eye on your hedgie for any symptoms and examine it often.

Usually, both internal and external parasites are seen in hedgehogs. External parasite infestation can lead to different types of dermatitis. The most common parasites seen in hedgehogs are

  • Fleas
  • Mites
  • Ticks 

Ectoparasites Symptoms

As any of the other hedgehog diseases, ectoparasite infestation should be taken seriously. The symptoms you should look out for are the following:

  • Itching
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Quill falling out
  • Anemia or lethargy

On the other hand, intestinal parasites such as worms and protozoa can show symptoms such as diarrhea. Sometimes, the hedgehog might not be showing any symptoms. In those cases, the only way to diagnose the hedgehog disease is by fecal examination.

Internal parasites are treated by the use of deworming medication. On the other hand, external parasites are treated with a safe flea spray, injectable medication, or medicated bath and dip, all prescribed by a specialised vet.

Fleas

Out of all hedgehog diseases, fleas are not a serious health concern for hedgehogs. If your hedgie does get fleas, this can be treated with flea powder. By using this type of treatment, the fleas will be forced to leave the host which in this case is your hedgehog.

In some cases, this type of treatment might not work. If the hedgehog is having a severe reaction or the fleas are persisting, you must take it to the vet.

Ticks

Ticks are not unusual, especially in wild hedgehogs. If your hedgehog is bound to your house only, it’s very unlikely they will get a tick. Although, unlikely pet hedgehogs can still get a tick if they are let outside, live with other pets or you can even bring it into the house on your shoes.

In the case of dealing with a tick on a hedgehog, the treatment involves a proper and full removal of the parasite. Furthermore, if the tick is not removed, it can lead to infection and sicknesses.

To remove the tick, follow the steps:

  • Use either tweezers or special tick remover
  • Get a hold of the tick with the tweezers by pressing close to the hedgehog’s skin
  • Pull slowly and carefully outward without crushing or twisting the tick to avoid any fluids or part of the parasite are leftover
  • Dispose of the tick in rubbing alcohol and use a disinfecting wipe to sterilize the wound

Mites

The most common out of all hedgehog diseases when it comes to parasites, is mite infestation. The mites can live on the hedgehog’s skin or in the ears, face and forehead.

If you’re dealing with mites in your hedgehog, it’s best to consult your vet. The vet must diagnose the severity and type of the case, so they know what treatment is the best course of action. Avoid, using mite medication that are used on other animals, as they might be toxic to your hedgie.

Usually, Caparinia tripolis is the mite found in pet hedgehogs. This type of mite is found when physically examining your hedgehog’s face. They are found most commonly on the hedgehog’s face, ears and forehead.

Your hedgehog can contract Caparinia tripolis by being in direct contact with another infected hedgehog or from being in contact with infected cage or litter.

Mites Symptoms

Sick hedgehog signs when it comes to mites infestation include:

  • Itching and rubbing against objects
  • Irritation to the skin
  • Skin can appear crusty, flaky, red and itchy
  • Crusts at the base of the spines
  • Quills falling out
  • Ear mites can lead to ear irritation and bad smelling discharge inside the hedgehog’s ears

If you see signs of mites infestation, your vet must diagnose and decide on the treatment on both skin and ear mites.

Mites Treatment

The treatment for mites infestation must be prescribed by a specialised vet. Usually, medication called Revolution (Selamectin) is prescribed to be used topically, although Ivermectin can also be administered by a veterinarian.

In the case of infestation, it is essential you remove the hedgehog’s bedding and clean their cage thoroughly. In addition, any other animals in the house must also be treated to make sure the parasites and any parasites’ eggs are completely removed.

Overall, mite infestations are treatable and not life threatening as long as the necessary measures are taken to remove the problem quickly.

Mites Prevention

When it comes to any hedgehog diseases, prevention is always the best course of action. In order to prevent these health problems do the following:

  • Quarantine any new hedgehogs that come into your home for at least two weeks, especially if you have any other pets
  • Clean your hedgehog’s cage often
  • Empty and clean their litter tray
  • Change and wash their bedding often

Obesity

Obesity is a very common health concern in hedgehogs. Many new hedgehog owners are not informed on what diet is best for their hedgies and end up overfeeding them.

Once, your hedgehog feels too full, they might stop exercising as much and it turns into a cycle of eating too much and not exercising enough.

While, you might think you’re just feeding them all those treats because you love them, you might be putting their health and life at risk.

Obesity Symptoms

Obesity is one of the hedgehog diseases that will show with very visible symptoms. Those symptoms include:

  • Excess flesh under the stomach that might hang down
  • If they can’t roll up fully in a ball
  • Once they are in a ball, they will have fat protruding
  • Trouble walking or running
  • Not using their exercise wheel

Obesity Treatment

Treatment and prevention of obesity in hedgehogs is the same and it consists of having them on the correct diet. In order, to prevent or treat obesity, you must be feeding your pet hedgehogs a measured amount of food daily instead of free choice.

In addition to being on the correct diet, you should add exercise toys to their cage or enclosure such as exercise wheel and allow them time outside of their cage.

When we love our pets, we want to give them treats. That’s fine as long as those treats are appropriate for your hedgehog’s diet and are not fed to them all the time.

For instance, hedgehogs love mealworms but these treats are high in fat, so you should be very careful how often you treat them. On the other hand, a hedgehog treat that’s lower in fat is Fluker’s Freeze-Dried Crickets.

Respiratory Infection

Out of all hedgehog diseases, respiratory infections are quite common, especially when the hedgehog is still young. Although when affected by this health problem, the symptoms doesn’t appear in the nose itself, it can appear in the form of bacterial infection such as pneumonia.

In the case of a pneumonia in hedgehogs as long as you act quickly enough, antibiotics have shown to be a quick fix.

Usually, this type of pneumonia in hedgehogs is caused by the bacteria – Bordetella bronchiseptica, which causes kennel cough in dogs. Therefore, if you have dogs in the house, you should make that they are vaccinated for kennel cough before bringing your pet hedgehog home.

Respiratory Infection Symptoms

Sick hedgehog signs when it comes to respiratory infections include the following:

  • Sneezing
  • A runny or crusty nose and eyes
  • Laboured and difficult breathing
  • Wheezing or coughing

In severe cases, if the infection reaches the hedgehog’s lungs and develops into full blown pneumonia, it can lead to the following additional symptoms:

  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight

Respiratory Infection Treatment

In order to get the correct treatment, you must take your hedgehog to a specialised vet. As this is a serious health concern that can lead to death if left untreated, you must take any of the symptoms mentioned above seriously and act quickly.

Most cases of pneumonia and other respiratory problems are treated though the use of antibiotics. If the hedgehog isn’t eating or drinking and feeling lethargic further measures might be needed to bring it back to health. Some of those measures include:

  • Fluids
  • Syringe feeding
  • Nebulization

If caught early the prognosis for upper respiratory infections is good.

Unfortunately, in the cases of pneumonia and if left untreated for long period, the prognosis depends on case to case basis.

Respiratory Infection Prevention

In order to prevent your spiky pet developing a respiratory infection, it’s recommended to quarantine any new hedgehogs for two weeks before introducing them to any existing hedgies in the household.

In addition to that, always keep your pet’s cage or enclosure clean and away from drafts.

Finally, if you have dogs in the house, make sure they have been vaccinated for kennel cough.

Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome

Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a neurological disease. Usually, it affects African Pygmy Hedgehogs but it can also affect other hedgehog species. This diseases usually appears early in hedgehog at around 2 years of age or younger. In some cases, it can appear later in life and it affects around 1 in 10 hedgehogs.

Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a progressive disease that leads to loss of muscle control and muscle This is a progressive disease that causes loss of muscle control and muscular deterioration because of nerve damage.

Usually, the condition will begin by partial paralysis at the back of the animal and progress over time. In some cases, it can lead to full paralysis.

The cause of this condition is unknown, although there are some theories that it might be down to genetics. Out of all hedgehog diseases, the wobbly hedgehog syndrome doesn’t have a great prognosis as there is no treatment.

In addition to that, the lifespan of a hedgehog affected by the disease can range from 6 week to 19 months.

Wobbly Hedgehog Symptoms

Sick hedgehog signs when it comes to the Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome include the following:

  • It starts with paralysis in the back legs and then it progresses to the front legs
  • Chronic and progressive paralysis that results in the hedgehog unable to walk
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Seizures
  • Inability to stand

Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific test that can be done to diagnose this condition. Your vet would diagnose it by the method of elimination – eliminating any other disease that have similar symptoms.

Wobbly Hedgehog Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the wobbly hedgehog syndrome. Many doctors would recommend euthanasia as the quality of life would only be declining and the hedgehog would only be suffering with the condition progressing.

Euthanasia would be a suitable option if you are observing your hedgehog in pain, fully paralysed and refusing to eat from a syringe.

As there is no cure and apart from the option of euthanasia, the only other thing that can be done is to make sure that the hedgehog lives comfortable the rest of its remaining life.

You can do the following to help your hedgehog be comfortable during what time they have left:

  • Use a syringe to assist them during feeding time and help them to stay hydrated
  • As the hedgehog would be unable to stand up on its own, you can use towels or homemade slings made out of soft materials. This would help your hedgehog stay upright or when its laying down on something soft, it would avoid any sores
  • With the progression of this disease, your hedgehog will start losing control of its muscles and it can result in involuntary urination and defecation. It’s essential that you keep the hedgehog clean, dry and warm
  • You can apply gentle massages to its body to soothe the pain
  • Vet visits to stay up to date with the progression of the disease and what’s the best next step for your hedgehog’s wellbeing

Wobbly Hedgehog Prevention

Unfortunately, there isn’t any known way to prevent this condition. As there are theories that it might be genetic, hedgehogs that have been affected by the wobbly hedgehog syndrome shouldn’t be bred.

Eye Conditions

As hedgehogs have eyes that stick out, they are prone to infections and injuries. A number of reasons can cause for those eye condition. Some of the possible causes include:

  • Dust
  • Running into objects
  • A scratch that can lead to an eye infection
  • Inappropriate bedding such as aspen or wood chips

If you notice any symptoms, you must take your hedgehog to the vet.

Eye Conditions Symptoms

Sick hedgehog signs when it comes to eye infections or eye problems include:

  • Bulging eye (popping out of the socket)
  • Holding the eye shut
  • Pawing at the eye
  • Tearing
  • Redness
  • Bleeding

Eye Conditions Treatment

If the eye can’t be saved through the use of antibiotics and pain killers, you would have to choose between the following options:

  • Surgery to remove the eye
  • Letting your hedgie scratch its eye out of the socket which happens all the time

In many cases, eye infections can lead to your hedgehog losing one or both eyes. Fortunately, hedgehogs do just fine with one eye or completely blind as their other senses such as smell and hearing are primary and heightened.

In the case when the eyes are pushed out because of the pressure of a tumour in the head, the prognosis is not positive and euthanasia is recommended to spare your hedgehog suffering.

Eye Conditions Prevention

In order to prevent eye infections and injuries to your hedgehog, do the following:

  • Keep your hedgehog’s cage or enclosure clean
  • Make sure the cage is free of sharp objects
  • Have soft bedding and avoid using aspen or wood chips

Read more about hedgehog eye infections here Hedgehog Eye Bulging. Hedgehog Eye Infection. How To Treat And Prevent It.

Gastrointestinal Infections

Out of all hedgehog diseases, gastrointestinal infections are considered a common hedgehog health issue. One common problem comes in the form of the bacteria Salmonella that is carried by most hedgehogs, and it can even spread to humans.

Another internal health issue that hedgehogs are prone to, are intestinal obstructions (most often caused by rubber, hair, or carpet fibers).

Salmonella Symptoms

Signs of a sick hedgehog when it comes gastrointestinal problems include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Their poop has the appearance of bright green droppings
  • Dehydration
  • Their lymph nodes may become abscessed

Salmonella Treatment

Usually to treat gastrointestinal health problems in hedgehogs, a course of antibiotics would be prescribed by your vet. In addition, a well-balanced diet is a must.

If this condition is left untreated, it can result in dehydration and death.

Overall, the prognosis of this health issue is good as long as it’s treated and it’s not a problem that keeps coming back. In that case further investigation and exams are needed.

Salmonella Prevention

In order to prevent gastrointestinal issues in your hedgehog you must:

  • Keep its cage clean
  • You must wash your hands before and after handling the hedgehog
  • Well-balanced diet, low in fat

Tumours

Out of all hedgehog diseases, tumours is something you don’t want your hedgehog to suffer from as it can deadly. Tumours are quite common internal problem in hedgehogs.

The most important thing when it comes to tumours is detecting them early and taking your hedgehog to the vet as soon as possible. If you notice symptoms that can’t be explained or a lump, you must act quickly and take your spiky pet to the vet for an exam.

Another tumour found in female hedgehogs, are mammary tumours. Fortunately, if caught early enough, it can be surgically removed by a vet. Although, this isn’t a common problem, it can be life threatening one.

In addition to all of this, hedgehogs can also be affected by prolapsed bowels, and in females – prolapsed uterus. Both of these health problems can be treated by a vet, if you act quickly.

Tumours Treatment

In some cases, tumours even when cancerous can be removed. However, the tumours that are affecting the internal organs can be too advanced to surgically remove and euthanasia is recommended in those cases.

Bladder Infections

A common hedgehog disease is urinary tract infection or cystitis. Both of those conditions lead to urine being brown or bloody. In addition, other common bladder infections include:

  • Kidney infections
  • Kidney stones
  • Bladder tumours and more

Bladder Infections Symptoms

Sick hedgehog signs when it comes to bladder infections include:

  • You hedgehog making sounds or signs of distress while urinating. Keep an eye for your hedgehog yelping whilst urinating
  • Expel small amounts of urine frequently and slowly
  • The urine can be bloody or cloudy. Normal urine should be clear and yellow in colour
  • Strong odour of the urine
  • Keep an eye for your hedgehog nibbling or licking their genitalia excessively

Bladder Infections Treatments

Prognosis for bladder infections in hedgehog is good as long as is treated quickly. With that said, treatments include:

  • A natural treatment for this condition is unsweetened cranberry juice from the grocery store that can be added to their water bowl
  • In addition, you can administer the cranberry juice by feeding them with a syringe
  • You can wrap a warm towel around your hedgehog, or place a hot water bottle to keep them warm
  • A warm bath filled with baking soda or dissolved natural epsom salts can also relieve the symptoms

Dental Disease

Hedgehogs can have up to 44 teeth in a V-shape. Similar to people, hedgehogs experience dental issues. Some of those issues are:

  • Fractured teeth
  • Abscessed teeth
  • Gingivitis
  • Hedgehogs can get nuts or sunflower seeds stuck in their upper jaw. Furthermore, if not removed, it can be deadly
  • Tumours and cancers in hedgehog’s mouth. Tumours can be hard to detect unless they are on the outside

Dental Disease Symptoms

Sick hedgehog signs when it comes to dental issues include the following:

  • Hedgehog eating on only one side
  • Completely avoiding hard food
  • If the hedgehog is seen licking its chops excessively

Dental Disease Prevention

The ideal course of action when it comes to dental disease is prevention. To prevent any issues with their teeth, follow the steps below:

  • Use a Q-tip to clean their teeth
  • Feeding them a diet that includes good amount of dry and crunchy food
  • Keeping an eye on the pH levels of the food you’re feeding them as that can affect the tartar build up

If you don’t look after your hedgehog’s teeth and brush them regularly, visit to the vet for dental cleaning and possible teeth extraction is inevitable.

Quills and Skin Problems

Hedgehog diseases include quills and skin problems. Usually, the cause for hedgehogs losing their quills include mites, incorrect diet, stress.

It’s important to establish the cause of your hedgehog losing its quills as it can be serious. Furthermore, you should take your hedgehog to the vet, so they can diagnose and recommend a course of treatment.

Fungal Infections and Ringworms

Hedgehogs can be affected by fungal infections, such as ringworm. These type of infections can be transmitted to humans and other pets. Therefore, it’s important for this condition to be treated quickly.

Ringworms Symptoms

Although, sick hedgehog signs when it comes to ringworm can sometimes be non-existing, in the cases there are symptoms, they can include:

  • Loose spines
  • Loss of spines and hair
  • Flaky and scabbed skin
  • Weight loss

Ringworms Treatment

To treat ringworm infection, the following methods are recommended:

  • Over-the-counter antifungal creams and shampoos
  • Tea tree oil can be helpful when clearing mild cases of ringworm
  • Giving warm baths to your hedgehog and making sure to take extra care around any cuts and scabs
  • Make sure to change your hedgehog’s bedding daily during the treatment period in order to ensure that the infection doesn’t return
  • Keep the infected hedgehog away from other animals and people

If you notice symptoms in your hedgehog, you should always take it to the vet, so they can prescribe the correct medication that are safe to use.

It’s important to be persistent with the treatment, as ringworm infections can take up to six months to fully clear up.

How To Prevent Hedgehog Diseases

In order to avoid hedgehog diseases and keep your hedgie healthy and happy, you must provide it with the appropriate care.

Furthermore, without this proper care and hygiene, your hedgehog will be more prone to developing health problems and can even lead to death.

The following should be part of your hedgehog care routine.

Habitat Cleaning

Providing your hedgehog with clean environment is essential to their health and well being. By doing this you’re minimising the chance of bacteria growing and parasites breeding which can subsequently make your hedgehog sick.

In addition to this, you must do the following:

  • Remove waste from its cage regularly
  • Keep their food and water bowls clean
  • Bedding and toys should be cleaned often and should be dried before placing them back in the cage

Bath Time

Overall, hedgehogs are clean animals and if their environment is kept clean, additional grooming won’t be required as often. On the other hand, dirt can get stuck on their quills.

Therefore, it’s required to bath your hedgehog often. When giving your hedgehog a bath, you must use warm water and be shallow enough to stand. In addition, you could use a pet shampoo and a toothbrush to carefully clean the quills. Make sure you dry the hedgehog completely afterwards.

Nail Trimming

Usually, hedgehog’s toe nails would wear off in the wild, that’s why it’s important to clip your pet hedgehog’s toenails. This can be done by the use of small pet clippers or regular nail clippers.

However, you must be extra careful and patient when doing this as cutting the nails past the pink can cause pain and bleeding.

If you want to learn more about pet hedgehog care click here The Ultimate Guide On African Pygmy Hedgehog Care

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