Hedgehog

Quick Facts

Life span: 4-6 years
Body weight: 300-600g (female), 400-600 (male)
Weaning age: 4-6 weeks
Gestation: 34-37 days
Body Temp: 95.7-98.6 F

Housing

229936_3883978137160_2141711016_nCage: Minimum 2 x 3.5 ft cage. A plastic bottom cage with narrow wire walls or 30 gallon aquarium may be used. A hiding place made of PVC pipe or a wooden or cardboard box should be provided. Recycled newspaper bedding is the substrate of choice.

Litter: Some hedgehogs may be litter trained. If a litter box is provided, natural plant litters used for cats make the best litter substrate. Sand or clumping litter may stick to the hedgehog and should be avoided.
Environment: Environmental temperature should be between 75-85 F with low humidity (less than 40%). A daylight cycle of 10-14 hours of mild light should be provided.
Exercise: Exercise wheels are highly recommended. The wheel should have solid floor to prevent entrapment of the feet. Hedgehogs should also be let out into a large area for exercise under supervision on a daily basis.

Diet

Commercial diets: The majority of the diet should consist of a commercially prepared hedgehog food. If hedgehog diet is not used, a premium(less active) cat food should form the basis of the diet.

Water: Water should be available at all times 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 and ½ teaspoon of fruit or vegetables should be provided daily. Milk products should be avoided as they may cause diarrhea.
Supplements: Scientific studies regarding exact nutritional requirements of the hedgehog are lacking, however vitamin 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 be more than 5-10% of the diet.

Handling

A small towel or gloves may be used when handling to prevent injury from 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 while sedated.

Common Disease Conditions

Mites: Mite infestation is commonly seen in young or newly acquired hedgehogs. Signs include dry, scaling skin, quill loss and crust at the base of the quills or around the eyes and ears. 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 the skin under the arms and/or 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, cause considerable discomfort and impede eating. Mammary gland and uterine tumors are also commonly seen in female hedgehogs.
Nutritional Disorders: Hedgehogs on a primarily insect based diet 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. With any hedgehog, it is recommended to wash hands immediately after handling or coming into contact with any fecal material.