African Pygmy Hedgehogs are typically quite healthy animals, but what issues can appear while living out of the natural habitat?
Hedgehogs are small animals that live in specific environments that provide the right balance for good live.
“Unfortunately, this is not always the case as humans change the ecosystems for other reasons”.
If you ever see one of this mammals in their natural habitat, you will notice there is fresh surface water bodies where most inspects and larvae can exist in good quantities.
Some reputable animal breeders take into account this fact and for this reason, most of the times they will replicate their natural environment.
Even thought they try to replicate it as close as possible, sometimes health issues can appear.
I’ll go over each common issue along with prevention and care for each one so that you can be prepared to keep your hedgie healthy.
Please not 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 of the common health issues a hedgehog can face when living with humans.
Weight Increase and Obesity
One fact that may not be straightforward to see is that hedgehogs can become very overweight easily overtime.
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 you prevent their overweight.
Food sources and quantities
Some owners believe that it is easier to leave their trays with enough food so they don’t comeback every time.
“They will just eat what ever you leave in no time”.
This is more frequent when their primarily food sources are insects and mealworms. Naturally, these are not so easy to catch therefore don’t overeat.
Some breeders suggest to feed them between 5 tablespoons of food per day, total. I know, it sounds very small but for now, it is enough.
Don’t forget to ask all the questions to your breeder, more importantly when getting them for the first time. They should be able to tell you how much to start off with.
Read More: 7 Question to Ask Hedgehog Breeders – Get Ready.
Over the next several weeks, watch carefully to see how much weight your hedgehog is gaining, or potentially loosing.
“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 when their are 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 looks about right, but cut it to three (3), and see how it goes over the week.
“Don’t cut their food drastically. A rapid cut in nutrients can results 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 important. I know this can be hard to achieve for some pet carers but encouraging it to workout for a few minutes will help to burn the extra calories.
If you find hard to get them to interact with you, make sure a running wheel is present (inside the cage or somewhere where they can’t sneak out).
My personal preference is to have them playing out of their five (5) wall cage, let’s say in a playground, but with some restriction to get lost.
Old and New Quilling
Quilling is a completely normal phase that all hedgehogs go through, and it is not actually 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 2 months to 6 months old, and can continue for up just a couple of weeks or several months.
During this phase, your hedgehog may be grumpier than usually and may not want to be touched.
This is okay – their skin may be extra sensitive during this time and they simply 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 just holding them on your lap or allowing them to walk around out of their cage.
Since their skin may be very sensitive, 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, thought still quite 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.
A good way to prevent mites is to keeping them in a clean environment and using 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 good treatment option is a single topical medication called Revolution (selamectin).
“Although, double check with the veterinary that this product – or any other- is totally 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 so, that is why it is important to have their environment no lower than 75.2°F (24°C).
Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to prevent this syndrome, as it is commonly related to genetic disorders.
“It is not 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.
A good 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 cleaning out his cage weekly to ensure that bacteria that can cause infections isn’t building up in its environment.
Diarrhea and dehydration
Diarrhea in hedgehogs can be caused by a variety of reasons, including a change in diet, being in a stressful environment, or parasites.
Prevention: Make sure that 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 isn’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 a 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, again, in a clean environment and provide them with the right nutrition.