Hedgehog Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare

Hedgehog Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare

HOUSING:

Cage – The cage should have a footprint of at least 2 x 3 feet. A plastic bottom cage with narrow wire sides or a 20-30+ gallon aquarium may be used. A hiding place should be provided; large diameter PVC pipe, wooden/cardboard boxes, or commercially available hiding huts work well. Newspaper and/or paper bedding, such as Carefresh, can work well as cage substrates. Fleece bedding may also be used. Any bedding should be changed/cleaned daily to every few days as needed to maintain a clean environment for your pet.

Litter – Some hedgehogs may be litter box trained. If a litter box is provided, paper bedding, such as Carefresh or Yesterday’s News, work well. Sand or clumping litter (often made for cats) may stick to the hedgehog or be accidentally consumed and should be avoided.

Environment – Environmental temperature should be between 75-85 degrees F, with low humidity (less than 40%).  A daylight cycle with 10-14 hours of low light levels (and 10-14 hours of darkness) should be provided.

Exercise – Exercise wheels are highly recommended, as pet hedgehogs have a tendency to become overweight. The wheel should have a solid floor, rather than wire, to prevent entrapment of the feet. Hedgehogs should also be allowed out in a large area under supervision on a daily basis. This provides exercise and an opportunity for socialization.

 

 

DIET:

Commercial diets – The majority of the diet should consist of a commercially prepared hedgehog food in combination with a kibble cat food.

Water – Fresh water should be available at all times. A sipper bottle or bowl can be used.  and changed daily.  Most hedgehogs will learn to drink from sipper bottles.

Treats:  In addition to the main diet, 1-2 teaspoons of varied moist diet (low calorie canned cat or dog food, low-fat cottage cheese) and ½ teaspoon of fruit or vegetables should be provided daily.  Milk products should be avoided as it may cause diarrhea.

Supplements:  Scientific studies regarding exact nutritional requirements of the hedgehog are lacking, however supplementation does not appear to be necessary if the animal is on the diet mentioned above.

Insects:  mealworms and crickets may be offered as treats, but should not by more than 5-10% of the diet.

 

 

HANDLING:

A small towel or gloves may be used when handling to prevent injury form the dorsal spines. Make sure that the body is well supported to prevent dropping and to give the hedgehog a sense of security.   Loud noise or bright lights will frighten many hedgehogs and cause them to curl up into a ball.  Many times, patience and a dimly lit room is all that is needed to help calm a nervous hedgehog.

 

 

PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE:

An annual examination is recommended since hedgehogs will often hide signs of illness.  The physical exam should consist of weight measurement to assess body condition, oral exam to identify dental disease or neoplasia, fecal exam and an overall screen to identify any developing disease processes. Sedation may be required for the detailed oral exam or if the patient is uncooperative.  Nails should be checked for overgrowth and trimmed if needed.

 

 

QUICK FACTS:

Life span: 4-6 years

Body weight: 300-600g (female), 400-600 (male)

 

 

COMMON DISEASE CONDITIONS:

Mites:  Mite infestation is a commonly seen in young or newly acquired hedgehogs.  Signs include dry, flaky skin, quill loss and white or brown crusts at the base of the quills or around the eyes.  This condition is easily treated with the administration of anti-parasitic medications.

Obesity:  Food must be rationed to prevent obesity.  Overweight hedgehogs have large fat deposits under the legs and can not roll up completely.  Treatment involves elimination of high fat diets and exercise to encourage gradual weight loss.  Weight loss may be monitored using an accurate gram scale.

Fatty liver syndrome:  This syndrome may be caused by a number of factors including stress, poor diet, anorexia, obesity, and pregnancy.  Signs may include lethargy, yellow discoloration of the gums and skin under the arms, and diarrhea.  Treatment consists of correcting the underlying cause and maintaining a positive energy balance.

Dental disease:  Hedgehogs can develop a number of dental disorders.  Signs include red or swollen gums, tartar accumulation on the teeth, and gingival recession.   In cases of severe dental disease, tooth extraction may be required.

Tumors:  Oral tumors are common in captive african pygmy hedgehogs.  These masses may be locally invasive and cause considerable discomfort and impede eating.    Mammary gland and uterine cancer are also commonly seen in female hedgehogs.

Nutritional Disorders:  Hedgehogs primarily on a diet of insects may develop calcium related disorders.  Signs may include generalized weakness, tremors and may progress to musculoskeletal disorders.

Salmonellosis:  Several strains of salmonellosis have been isolated from hedgehogs and transmission to humans has been documented.   When handling any hedgehog, we recommend to wash hands immediately after handling or coming into contact with any fecal material.

Specific Requirements
Daily/nightly exercise, careful weight control
Reasons To
Visit A Veterinarian
Healthy annual examinations, not eating/defecating, diarrhea, drooling, appears painful, bloated, itchiness and/or quill loss, lethargy