Most Common Hedgehog Diseases
Hedgehogs are fun, unique, and cute little pets to have around and are becoming steadily more popular in the US year on year. However, good hedgehog care is vital if you’re going to keep your tiny friend fit and healthy. And importantly, being able to spot the signs of those ailments prevalent in hedgehogs could prevent yours from becoming seriously ill down the line.
We’ve pulled together a list of some of the most common diseases found in hedgehogs, how to look out for them, and the actions you can take to help them.
Hedgehogs can be subject to a surprising number of dental diseases, including gingivitis, tartar, gum disease, fractured teeth, and oral tumors. If you’re concerned your hedgehog might have a dental problem, there are a few warning signs you can watch out for. If your little friend starts to frequently paw at the mouth, or you notice blood around the mouth, it’s a good sign there are dental issues.
If you’re still unsure, get up close and personal with your hedgehog and smell their breath. Halitosis is another key indicator there could be something wrong with those gnashers. If you notice any of these signs, get your hedgehog to a vet. They’ll be able to complete a full dental cleaning and extract any bad teeth where necessary.
Of course, though, prevention is always better than the cure and you can take certain steps to help care for your hedgehog's teeth at home. Try giving them rough vegetables like broccoli and carrots as well as cleaning their teeth every once in a while with a wet Q-tip. Whether your hedgehog will let you clean their teeth, however, is another matter!
Cancers of the reproductive system are very prevalent in hedgehogs, especially those over three years old. However, many of these can be prevented through spaying female hedgehogs and neutering male ones. In females, this will primarily prevent uterine cancers and mammary tumors while neutering males will prevent testicular cancer.
The best time to perform these procedures is around 6-8 months of age. Speak to your vet first, however, who’ll examine your little hedgie and confirm if they’re ready.
Parasites like ticks, fleas, and mites are very common in wild hedgehogs but relatively rare in domestic ones, especially those that spend most of their time indoors. That doesn’t mean to say they’ll never get parasites, though! If your hedgehog starts to scratch a lot more, has dry skin or you notice them shedding a lot of quills, they may have mites.
Hedgehogs could contract mites through their bedding, food, or even if they lived close to other animals like rodents in the petshop you got them from. The good news is mites are quite easy to treat. If you suspect your hedgehog has mites, take them to the vet who’ll perform a small skin scraping to confirm and provide treatment.
It's always worth freezing any new bedding you buy your hedgehog before placing it in their cage. This will kill any mites that might be living there and you can place it in their enclosure worry-free.
Unfortunately, around 1 in 10 hedgehogs will be affected by the neurological disease known as “wobbly hedgehog syndrome”. This disease often starts with ataxia in the hind legs, meaning a full or partial loss of control. This then progresses to seizures and eventually total paralysis.
The cause is not known though it’s suspected to be a genetic condition that mostly affects hedgehogs over 2-3 years of age. There’s currently no cure but your vet may be able to ease some of the symptoms with steroid treatments.
Urinary tract diseases
If you notice your hedgehog's urine has changed color and has become brown or bloody, they may have a urinary tract infection. Any part of the urinary tract may be infected, including the bladder, kidneys, and urethra.
A lot of hedgehog owners use lightly colored bedding for their hedgie, making changes to urine color easy to spot. Other signs they may have an infection include loss of appetite and lethargy. Bladder stones could make your hedgehog pee more often but in smaller amounts. They’ll definitely show signs of discomfort, however.
A good exotic pet vet will know to perform an ultrasound, urinalysis, and radiograph to get to the bottom of your hedgehog's problem. Thankfully, urinary tract diseases are relatively easy to treat in hedgehogs and your vet can prescribe a number of medicines and treatments.
You can also help out your spiky friend by making sure they stay well hydrated, which can help prevent some urinary tract diseases from developing.
Whatever ails your pet hedgehog, though, always make sure you have comprehensive exotic pet insurance. All animals will likely need some form of medical treatment in their lives and it always pays to be ready for it.