Hedgehogs are susceptible to worms, fleas, mites, and other common pet parasites. If you have other pets (especially indoor/outdoor ones), if you give your hedgehog access to the outdoors (even supervised), or if you bring in noncommercial grown earthworms, crickets, or other insects, you might want to be especially concerned about parasites. Even taking precautions, it is still possible for your pet to get parasites.
Almost all forms of parasites that a pet hedgehog is likely to encounter are quite treatable, and a visit to the veterinarian will provide you with the answers and medications to do so properly.
The single most common problem that affects pet hedgehogs is mites, which 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 -- quills shed much like human hair. 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.
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, mites may cause mange.
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.
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 porous bedding (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.
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.
Another home remedy method 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.
Tattered or ragged ears is probably the second most common problem that appears in hedgehogs, but is far less worrisome than mites.
Some hedgehogs develop what looks to be tattered, ragged, or fringed ears, rather than the smooth round edges that are normally seen. The edges of the ears end up looking like a ripped piece of paper, as if something has been chewing at them.
In almost every case, what you are seeing is a waxy buildup on the edges of the ears, rather than the ear itself being ragged. That means that cleaning it off will solve the problem and restore your little friend to his normal healthy round ears.
Recent research seems to point to a number of possible causes for this buildup, with fungus being the most likely and most common. That said, there is no single cause which always is the reason. Most likely it is exacerbated by some minor dietary problem (either too little or too much of something), but the problem often occurs in only some animals getting the same diet as others. As noted, the most common trigger/cause seems to be due to fungus, while other cases are traceable to mites, but it has also been found in animals that have been tested and found to definitely have neither -- in such cases dietary supplements seem to solve the problem.
Probably the best solution to the ragged ears is to treat the ear Panalog (antibiotic/anti fungal cream), or with Panalog mixed with Ivomec, which cleans the ears up quite quickly, and seems to prevent reoccurrences.
Other treatments may be:
- add vitamins to the diet
- add cod liver oil, Linatone, or Ferritone to the food
- use either mineral oil or isopropyl alcohol
For fleas, most safe (non-long-lasting) commercial flea treatments should work. Try a small amount on the rump first, and wait for a couple of hours to see if there is any adverse reaction, before doing any serious treatment. Avoid getting it into the eyes.
Hedgehogs, especially males, have an unfortunate tendency to get things caught in rather sensitive places. Things such as bits of litter (clay, corncob, etc.) can easily become caught in the penile sheath, which can cause serious inflammation and infection, along with a host of other problems. Females are not exempt from this type of problem, either, though the incidence is much lower. A daily inspection is strongly recommended to avoid a minor irritation becoming something serious.
Normal hedgehog droppings can range from almost pellet-like to quite soft and sticky. Color is usually very dark brown, almost black. Depending on diet, especially treats, they can vary quite a bit. If your hedgehog is leaving unusual droppings after having had a treat or change in diet a day or so before, then it is probably related to what he ate. If the problem continues (assuming the hedgehog is back on his normal diet), or if your hedgehog is suffering from severe diarrhea, see your vet, immediately.
This description covers a myriad of different problems, all of which seem to have very similar
symptoms. Your hedgehog is being wobbly on his feet. Either just unsteady as it moves around, or even falling over and laying on its slide. This is a pretty scary thing to encounter, and while the vast majority of these wobbly hedgehogs are due to being too cold (a sign of semi-hibernation), in some very rare cases, the problem can be from a neurological disorder. This can be very hard to diagnose, and generally will only be known with any certainty after a necropsy. In this case, the hedgehog will slowly continue to get worse, and may only show signs of problems in the rear limbs.
More common causes can stem from strokes, injuries, or tumors. In the case of injuries, treatment (assuming you or your vet can determine that an injury occurred) will depend on just what kind of injury it was. For strokes, which do happen to hedgehogs, there will often be improvement over time. For tumors, surgery or steroids may help.
One other factor that has been traced to causing wobbly hedgehog syndrome -- especially in cases where multiple hedgehogs are affected, is from some sort of dietary deficiency. Exactly what is lacking, or in excess, is not known. This particular form of wobbly hedgehog syndrome seems to only affect hedgehogs which are raised on cat food, and generally unsupplemented with vitamins, as opposed to one of the better hedgehog foods now on the market. Hedgehogs which have had supplements, or which eat a good, balanced hedgehog food do not appear to show any signs of this problem. As yet, there is no scientific answer as to why, but a change in diet might be the best solution.
There are a number of serious medical conditions that can appear in hedgehogs These include pneumonia, Fatty Liver Disease, tumors and cancers.
Pneumonia rarely happens on its own. Instead, it usually appears following some sort of injury, or other medical problem, or due to extended or repeated bouts of partial hibernation. If caught early, it can be treated by a knowledgeable veterinarian -- most instances of pneumonia in hedgehogs are bacterial, and hence respond well to antibiotics.
Some signs of pneumonia are:
- bubbles coming from the nose (this can also signal an upper respiratory infection)
- irregular raspy breathing
- unwillingness to eat.
Hedgehogs are sometimes inclined to getting Fatty Liver Disease (FLD). While all the reasons are not understood, there have been some suggestions that it can be due to the type of diet, or in some cases the quantity, lack of exercise, or even genetic. One of the best ways to help prevent FLD is to provide a wheel or other regular exercise.
The key signs to look for to tell if your hedgehog may be a candidate for FLD are whether there are yellowish fatty deposits showing, especially under the front legs. If these are present, something needs to be done quickly before the liver is irreparably harmed.
3 and 4 year old hedgehogs are prone to tumors and cancers. It is advised to have any tumors removed as soon as possible. Treating hedgehogs who have tumors or cancers with steroids can have a positive effect.
Hedgehog first aid kit
Although you may never need it, hedgehogs have a knack for getting into mischief at the most
inopportune times. The following is a list of items that hedgehog owners should keep handy in case of an emergency.
(1) Emergency Vet's Phone Number and Address.
(2) Antiseptic/Antibiotic Cream such as Polysporin, or something equivalent for pet use.
(3) Hydrogen Peroxide for cleaning cuts and wounds.
(4) Iodine as an antiseptic.
(5) Gauze and Tape for bandages and splints (solid splints are likely not needed until you
can get to a veterinarian).
(6) Clean Cloth.
(7) Quickstop or Cornstarch to help stop bleeding, especially for toenails clipped to close to the quick, or torn in an accident.
(8) Cotton Swabs / Q-tips.
(9) Nail Clippers for Toenails.
(11) Sharp Scissors or Razor blade / Razor knife (for hairs or threads caught around legs or feet).
(12) Chemical Hand Warmers and/or electric heating pad.