African Pygmy Hedgehogs are typically relatively healthy animals, but what issues can appear while living out of the natural habitat?
Hedgehogs are tiny animals that live in specific environments that provide the right balance for a good life.
“Unfortunately, this is not always the case as humans change the ecosystems for other reasons.”
If you ever see one of these mammals in their natural habitat, you will notice there are fresh surface water bodies where most inspects and larvae can exist in reasonable quantities.
Some reputable animal breeders take this fact into account, and for this reason, they will often replicate their natural environment.
Even though they try to replicate it as close as possible, sometimes health issues can appear.
I’ll go over each common issue and prevention and care for each one so that you can be prepared to keep your hedgie healthy.
Please note that this information is simply for educational purposes and if you have any concerns with your hedgehog, be sure to contact your veterinarian for appropriate treatment or advice.
The following are some common health issues a hedgehog can face when living with humans.
Weight Increase and Obesity
One fact that may not be straightforward is that hedgehogs can become overweight quickly over time.
Luckily, this is an issue that can be easily avoided!
According to Millermeade Farm’s Critter Connection, a research was completed in 1998 by Dr. Graffam-Carlsen of the Bronx Zoo, concluding that hedgehogs need a balanced diet including fibers, vitamins, and minerals.
Let’s see a couple of points that can help prevent their overweight.
Food sources and quantities
Some owners believe that leaving their trays with enough food is more manageable, so they don’t return every time.
“They will just eat whatever you leave in no time.”
This is more frequent when their primary food sources are insects and mealworms. Naturally, these are not so easy to catch; therefore, don’t overeat.
Some breeders suggest feeding them between 5 tablespoons of food per day total. I know it sounds minimal, but for now, it is enough.
Don’t forget to ask all the questions to your breeder, and more importantly, when getting them for the first time. They should be able to tell you how much to start with.
Read More: 7 Questions to Ask Hedgehog Breeders – Get Ready.
Over the next several weeks, observe how much weight your hedgehog is gaining or potentially losing.
“You will know if your hedgehog needs to lose weight if he can no longer fully curl into a ball.”
Other things to do to prevent it
The primary sign of gaining weight is when they have trouble curling into a ball.
A couple of contributing factors are:
– Amount of food is too much. Five (5) tablespoons of food look about right, but cut it to three (3), and see how it goes over the week.
“Don’t cut their food drastically. A rapid nutrient cut can result in other health issues”.
– Type of food is crucial. Most owners tend to feed them with a lot of cat food, which is an alternative. However, some of these products could contain not healthy fats and a lot of preservatives.
Read More: Hedgehog Food List – What to Feed Them With?
– A daily exercise routine is essential. I know this can be hard for some pet carers, but encouraging it to work out for a few minutes will help burn the extra calories.
If you find it hard to get them to interact with you, ensure a running wheel is present (inside the cage or somewhere where they can’t sneak out).
I prefer to have them playing out of their five (5) wall cage, let’s say in a playground, but with some restrictions to get lost.
Old and New Quilling
Quilling is an entirely normal phase that all hedgehogs go through, and it is not a hedgehog health issue but an occurrence to be aware of.
“This is when your hedgehog begins to lose his quills as a new set are grown.”
This typically begins around two months to 6 months old and can continue for up to just a couple of weeks or several months.
During this phase, your hedgehog may be grumpier than usual and may not want to be touched.
This is okay – their skin may be extra sensitive during this time, and they may not want to be touched!
The best way to help your hedgehog through this phase is to be sure you are still socializing with them, even if you are holding them on your lap or allowing them to walk outside their cage.
Since their skin may be susceptible when it’s time for a bath, be sure to use an oatmeal shampoo or a drop of olive oil in the water to help soothe and moisturize the skin.
Read More: Hedgehog Bath – Do They Need Grooming?
Presence of Mites
According to Lake Howell Animal Clinic, mites are the most common hedgehog health issue requiring veterinarian visits, though still relatively uncommon overall.
“Signs to look for include extreme itching, flaky skin, and loss of quills.”
Since mites are thought to come onto them through another animal or infested wood shavings, there isn’t much you can do.
An excellent way to prevent mites is to keep them in a clean environment and use quality products to clean their cages.
If you notice the presence of mites, contact a trusted vet for diagnosis.
The vet will likely perform a skin scrape. If diagnosed with mites, the excellent treatment option is a single topical medication called Revolution (selamectin).
“Although, double check with the veterinary that this product – or any other- is safe.”
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a neurological disorder that can affect hedgehogs typically over the age of one.
“It is typically a form of progressive paralysis that begins at the end of the tail and works its way forward.”
If your hedgehog seems to be having trouble walking correctly or is falling over while he tries to walk, wobbly leg syndrome may be the issue.
Luckily, in the vast majority of cases, these walking issues are the result of cold temperatures; that is why it is vital to have their environment no lower than 75.2°F (24°C).
Unfortunately, not much can be done to prevent this syndrome, as it is commonly related to genetic disorders.
“It is not a bad idea to ask your breeder the history of their parents.”
Hedgehogs are susceptible to ear infections. Signs to look for include discharge around the ears, scratching, and if it seems to be having trouble balancing.
An excellent way to prevent this from happening is by making sure they receive periodic bathing about once per month.
Also, be sure not to wash too close to the ears and clean out his cage weekly to ensure that bacteria that can cause infections aren’t building up in its environment.
Diarrhea and dehydration
Diarrhea in hedgehogs can be caused by various reasons, including a change in diet, being in a stressful environment, or parasites.
Prevention: Ensure your hedgehog is kept in a calm environment and check that you are never feeding it the “no-eat” foods from the hedgehog food list.
Also, be sure to handle it with clean hands and clean the cage regularly to ensure that there aren’t bacteria growing.
Care: If you notice your hedgehog has diarrhea for more than 24 hours, contact your veterinarian for further direction.
You may have to bring your hedgehog in for testing to ensure that he doesn’t have gastrointestinal disease or parasite.
Hedgehogs are prone to cancer, unfortunately, most commonly after the age of three (3).
Prevention: It is suspected that the cancer is caused by a virus. The best you can do to decrease your hedgehog’s chances of cancer is to keep it in a clean environment and provide them with the proper nutrition.