Health Care & Common Hedgehog Illnesses

Chinchilla & Hedgehog Pet Forum

Help Support Chinchilla & Hedgehog Pet Forum:


Hooked on Hogs
Jan 28, 2009
Kingston, Ontario
Written by jandshyne:

Health Care & Common Hedgehog Illnesses

*Please note before reading this section we are NOT veterinarians. The information contained in this section is simply a guideline based on our experiences and the experiences others have shared with us. If you are in doubt see your vet!!! Chins-N-Hedgies and the accept no responsibility should anything happen to your pet due to lack of immediate veterinary care when necessary*

Unfortunately there are a myriad of health problems hedgehogs may face. Some will come with age and some can strike at any time. Below you will find a list of the most common problems. Unfortunately we find new things every day so I will do my best to make certain this is updated when I hear of something new and unusual. Most hedgehog health concerns require fast action and immediate veterinary attention. Feeding the proper diet, maintaining proper temperatures, a clean environment, and regular veterinary exams will help to keep your hedgehog healthy and happy.

Mites: Mites are perhaps the most common of all hedgehog problems. Some wood shavings harbor mites. There are some vets who believe hedgehogs always have a few dormant mites. Whatever the case may be at some point you may have to deal with mites in your hedgehog. Mites can actually be life threatening to hedgehogs by causing a secondary anemia. Mites must be dealt with immediately by a veterinarian and you should never ignore them or try to treat them at home unless you are certain you can kill every mite and eliminate every egg safely and you’ve been instructed how to do so by a veterinarian. Some signs of mites are: tattered ears, lethargy, weight loss, dry flaky skin, loss of quills (hedgehogs shed quills all of the time, 2-3 a day are not a concern, more than that over a period of a few days is cause for concern), itching, and redness. An Aveeno Oatmeal Bath will help soothe itchy, irritated skin immediately. The only way to diagnose mites is to take them to the vet and have a skin scraping done. The vet will scrape a few of the top epidermis (skin) cells and look at them under a microscope. This is generally painless and very inexpensive. Your vet will probably treat your hedgehog with either Ivermectin (topical, oral, or injected under the skin), which requires a 3 dose regimen over a 3 week period to rid your hedgehog of all mites, or Revolution. Revolution is our choice because it seems to kill ALL of the mites and it’s a one time topical treatment as opposed to a 3 dose treatment of Ivermectin. Some hedgehogs were believed to have been having adverse reactions to Ivermectin (especially young hedgehogs exposed to the injected version) and in our case it did not kill all of the mites and eggs. Revolution has been safely used on pregnant and nursing mothers as well as babies as young as 4 weeks with no adverse reactions reported. When using Revolution we use the dog formula rather than the cat formula. Aside from treating the mites on the hedgehog you will have to thoroughly clean the cage, throw away all wooden boxes, or toys, all nest materials, wash all blankets and liners in hot water, and if you’re using wooden shavings you will want to throw the remaining shavings away and start with fresh shavings from a different supplier.

Dry Skin: Dry skin is a common problem among hedgehogs. Signs of dry skin are: tattered ears, itching, flaking skin, and loss of quills (ONLY assume it’s dry skin if mites have been ruled out). Bathing your hedgehog in Aveeno Moisturizing Bath with Colloidal Oatmeal will help to soothe any itching and irritation immediately. After that try adding 3 drops of Flax Seed Oil to your hedgehog’s food, or placing two to three drops of Vitamin E Oil directly behind your hedgehog’s ear. This ensures the oil is high enough up he can’t reach it to anoint with it and also prevents it from running in the eyes. Dry skin that doesn’t clear up within a week warrants a vet visit to rule out other more severe health problems such as allergies. Sometimes in severe cases your hedgehog’s ears will not grow back if they’ve become tattered but they should be smooth to the touch and not feel ragged under your finger tips. You can place some Aveeno Oatmeal Lotion or Aloe on the ears themselves to help prevent further damage to the ears.

FLD or Fatty Liver Disease: Fatty Liver disease can be a progressive issue caused by a diet too high in fat or it can be an immediate issue in hedgehogs who go off their feed for more than 3 days. Generally by the time they start to exhibit symptoms this disease is highly progressed and it can be fatal. Symptoms include: jaundice (seen most clearly in the belly area), lethargy, sudden severe weight gain or loss, and refusal to eat. FLD can be treated if caught early enough but many times it can’t be cured. There is no home remedy, if you suspect your hedgehog has FLD a vet visit is immediately in order.

Tumors, Cysts, and Cancers: Hedgehogs are known to be susceptible to a wide array of Cancers and tumors from dental tumors to ovarian cancers in females. Symptoms would include: a recognizable lump or bump (NEVER ignore a lump or bump on your hedgehog), vaginal bleeding in females, decreased urination in males, blood in stools, loss of appetite, lethargy, anorexia, sudden weight gain, refusal to eat dry kibbles, and hibernation attempts. Feeding a diet of high quality cat or dog food low in fat with no preservatives may help. Purchasing your hedgehog from a known breeder who discontinues lines showing a pattern of certain cancers may help. Spaying female hedgehogs at 6 months of age if not in breeding, and regular exams (including dental exams) are your best defense. If a lump or tumor is detected early enough some can be successfully removed, some may be inoperable but supportive therapies are available to enhance quality of life. I can’t stress enough the need for regular exams especially in the dental area, we’re seeing a lot of mouth cancers which can easily spread to the sinus cavities, brain, eyes, etc… Early detection is your hedgehog’s only protection.
Last edited by a moderator: