Do You Know What to Do if Your Hedgehog Gets Sick?
I know it could be desperate times if your little buddy gets sick and there is no immediate veterinarian assistance around your area.
Sometimes it could be just a mild issue or it could be just the start of something more serious. If you cannot find the right hedgehog vet near you, there is always online help for that first medical attention.
Exploring Hedgehog Illness As Pets (Plus Usual Dying Signs)
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE IS NOT INTENDED TO BE MEDICAL ADVISE FOR YOUR PET HEDGEHOG. WE SUGGEST TO CHAT WITH A VET ONLINE IF YOU NEED IMMEDIATE ADVISE.
According to Veterinary Partner, on average, hedgehogs will live between four (4) and six (6) years mark before they go back to pet heaven.
That is if they are given the right care and raised under proper pet-keeping practices.
In some instances, these pets might even live to be eight years old.
However, those numbers can be very low for a variety of reasons.
From not taking proper care of your hedgehog, to the pet getting plagued by several diseases, there is quite the list here.
Speaking of diseases and infections, this article discusses some of the common infections, parasites, and diseases that affect hedgehogs.
There’s a lot of diseases out there but these are the ones that you should know if you have a pet hedgehog, or you’re planning on adopting one soon.
What kind of diseases do hedgehogs carry?
Like any other living species, hedgehogs can carry quite some diseases.
From carrying cancerous cells to getting affected by parasites, these cute animals are also susceptible to neurological and dental diseases.
We have discussed the variety of these diseases under the various headings that group them for better understanding below.
Dental diseases can also lead to gastrointestinal infections, which is one of the many reasons why you want to take them seriously.
For such small animals, they have a set of 44 teeth that are prone to similar dental issues as can be found in humans.
Thus, they could suffer from dental fractures, gingivitis, tartar accumulation, or even abscessed teeth, among other things.
These health issues are more common in hedgehogs due to the complexity involved in helping to clean their teeth.
For an animal that will rather roll itself into a spiky ball than let you do anything that bears semblance to hurting it, you’d have to do a lot to get to its teeth.
That said, managing your pet’s dental hygiene yourself is not the lonely solution here.
Before they get into a situation where they have dental issues to contend with, schedule regular check-ups and clean-ups at your local vet’s place for them.
There is a growing case to support the fact that cancer could show up from the third-year mark.
This makes it paramount to keep important dates and tabs on your vet’s notebook and have a detailed background of their history since the adoption.
Cancer in hedgehogs are mostly focused on the mouth, stomach, and intestinal tract. However, that does not mean other body parts are safe from infestation with cancerous cells.
Carrying general symptoms such as weight reduction, loss of appetite, and lethargy, you might think that your pet has come down with something lighter when in fact, they are dealing with a potential cancer.
This is, yet, another reason why your pet should have a regular healthcare plan and be closely monitored by their adoptive parent (i.e., you).
In households where you have other animals, it is very wise to limit the contact between both pets.
You should socialize them such that they get along fine, but not too much that they have unfettered access to one another.
One of the reasons for that is in the transmission of the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica, which is also found in dogs.
When transmitted to hedgehogs, it leads to a respiratory condition that comes off as even more serious than what your canine experiences.
When suffering from respiratory diseases such as this one, they are bound to sneeze a lot, exhibit nasal discharges, and have difficulty breathing.
The most life-threatening one is pneumonia, which could be common in pet hedgehogs.
Speak with your vet on best practices to prevent them from getting a case of pneumonia – and what to do when they do get it.
Neurological diseases (a.k.a – the Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome)
If you have ever heard of the wobbly hedgehog syndrome, it is a neurological infection that cripples the physical and mental abilities gradually till they become paralyzed.
Despite a ton of research and resources put into the disease, there is still no concrete known cause for it.
It is, however, believed that diet might play a role in curbing or facilitating the disease in hedgehogs.
Likewise, some evidence points to the genetic predisposition of African and European hedgehogs to this disease.
Due to the limited bloodlines of the African pygmy hedgehogs, about 1 in 10 of them will experience this disease in their lifetimes.
While this syndrome has been observed in younger pets too, the onset is usually between the first 2-3 years of the pet’s life.
How to recognize the syndrome?
It often starts with the loss of muscle control in the hind legs, which leads to the show of wobbling when the pet tries to stand and walk.
From there, the disease progresses to the forelimbs where partial to total loss of limb functions is recorded.
The worst part is that this progression happens quickly, usually in the period of just a few days.
According to VCA, there is no clear way to identify the syndrome in advance. Unfortunately, there is neither a certified treatment nor cure for it as of the time of this article.
Working closely with your vet, though, you can still keep the pet alive and comfortable for 18 – 24 months before they finally pass on.
Common Hedgehog Infection and Parasites
Hedgehogs can come down with external and internal parasitic infections, even before you adopt them.
Despite of having breeders that have very good condition for them to live, they could easily get affected by these health threats.
Let’s dig a bit more on what they are.
Illness cause by parasites
As the names implies, they refer to when the parasites are either on the body or within the body of the pet respectively.
A common internal parasite infection can cause a gastrointestinal disease, which leads to diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, among other symptoms.
In this category, most trips to the vet will come back with a positive test for Salmonella. Fortunately, parasites can easily be managed and treated with the right prescriptions.
Ectoparasites – or external parasites – will often cause skin irritation and damage. These parasites include but are not limited to, fleas, ticks, and mites.
Common symptoms observed when ectoparasites are in play are often itchy, dry, and scaly skin, which tells the extent to which the parasite has burrowed onto the skin of your pet.
While it is normal for hedgehogs to shed their quill once in a while, ectoparasites increase the rate and quantity of the shedding.
Thus, if you are seeing more quills in your pet’s cage than usual, it might be time to take them to the vet’s for proper checking.
So, Is That All?
Not by a long shot.
The above diseases and infections are an approximation of the common categories that your hedgehog might be affected by so that you know the severity of these ailments.
As more studies are conducted on these pets, vets and professional caregivers can identify more health issues than they are susceptible to.
With proper keeping, routine visits to the vet, and committed care, though, you should not have to worry about most of these diseases.
How Can You Tell if They Are Sick?
As we have mentioned before in this article, the majority of hedgehog sicknesses and diseases come with the same set of symptoms.
In some instances, you might see some specific symptoms that tell what is wrong with the pet right away.
More often than not, though, all you would observe is the combination of weight loss, dehydration, and loss of appetite.
This is why we recommend getting your pet checked as soon as you observe that they are behaving outside of the norm.
Even if they were just going through a phase then, it is better to be sure than to delay in wait for more concrete symptoms.
Do Hedgehogs Carry Diseases to Humans?
Not all the time.
There are species-specific diseases like cancer, dental diseases, and more that cannot be transmitted between this pet and humans.
There are, however, other forms of diseases (especially parasitic infections) that are zoonotic.
Based on hedgehog investigations carried out by Doctor Grayson A Doss from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Professor Jason W. Carpenter from the Kansas State University, they can be infected with Salmonella (the internal parasite which causes a gastrointestinal infection as discussed before) and it can infect its human caregiver – or other humans in the same vicinity.
Unless you have a degree in pathology / veterinary or extensive education in related fields, you might not be able to distinctly tell which diseases are zoonotic or not.
Regardless, it is advised that you handle your sick pet safely and securely, disinfecting all surfaces that they might have come in contact with while practicing proper hygiene yourself.
Likewise, properly dispose of their wastes and other discharges so that they are not an infection risk to other pets or persons in the same area.
Should you be in doubt, ask your vet if the particular infection is zoonotic and if they believe you should go get checked yourself.
What Are Common Hedgehog Dying Signs?
Seeing the sickness signs in your hedgehog can lead to the fear that they are dying, but that is not always the case.
As long as you get the pet to a licensed vet on time, you should be able to salvage the situation more times than once.
In some cases, though, our beloved pets have fought the good fight enough and their internal organs are slowly shutting down, one after the other.
That’s when you’ll observe trends such as:
– Rapid weight loss.
– Stool with mucous.
– Unusual stool coloration (green, black, or tarry).
– Difficulty breathing.
– Sleeping in hours when they are more active.
– Losing the ability to roll up anymore.
– Constantly laying by the side.
– Unusual lumps growing on their body.
Even at that, you should still take your pet to the nearest vet’s to see if there is anything that you can do for them.
When it’s their time to go they should not be abandoned either. Make the pet as comfortable as possible before they pass.
Contrary to what many might believe, hedgehogs are not disease-ridden animals.
They might not live as long, on average, as other house pets, however, they are worth having and keeping as long as you know you’ll care for them right.
Knowing what diseases tend to affect them, and helping to prevent it the best way you can, will ensure that your hedgehog lives a quality, healthy life for longer.
Speak with your vet today to develop a recommended diet, exercise, and handling plan that will help your pet be a part of your life for a longer time.