To be able to tell if your hedgehog is ill, you need to know what is normal for most hedgehogs and yours in particular. After a while you will get to know what is and isn't normal for your hedgie. Here's a list of how most healthy hedgies should be:
Behaviour: hedgehogs tend to be happy-go-lucky in the night as they explore and run around, and generally sleepy and perhaps huffy in the day. If your hedgie is acting differently you should keep and eye on them and check for any signs of illness.
Eyes,nose,ears and mouth: your hedgies eyes, nose, ears and mouth should be clear not running or releasing unusual liquids.
Food and water intake:your hedgehog should eat and drink every night. If you start to notice a change in the amount that they eat/drink then it may be a sign of illness.
Activity: your hedgie should be able to move around with no wobbles, limps or obvious pain. If you notice that your hedgie isn't moving as much or correctly, take them to your vet.
Skin: your hedgehogs skin should not be red or flaky. Some hedgehogs suffer from dry skin but it is easily soothed and managed (see further down ‘dry skin’)
Discharge: your hedgie should not have any discharge coming from anywhere as this could be a sign of infection.
Faeces and urine: your hedgies faeces (poo) should be dark brown (not green or black) and shouldn't be runny. Their urine should be pale yellow with no blood.
WOBBLY HEDGEHOG SYNDROME: is a progressive, neurological disease which occurs in African Pygmy Hedgehogs. This disease is a lot like Multiple Sclerosis in humans.Most of the time the onset is gradual and the back legs are often affected first. Then the paralysis spreads to the front legs and other parts of the body. Sometimes the paralysis affects only one side of the body, and your hedgehog will begin tipping over and will be unable to stay upright. In most cases the symptoms begin to show when your hedgehog is between the age of 18 and 24 months, although this disease has also been known to affect both younger and older hedgehogs. WHS slowly degrades the hedgehog's muscle control. The disease first appears as a wobble while the hedgehog is attempting to stand still and over time, the hedgehog will lose control of all muscles.
Hedgehogs with WHS will often experience weight loss, due to them not being able to get to their food dishes and in the late stages of this disease, they become completely paralysed. The cause of it is still uncertain and there are no known cures, but there are treatments and care you can give that could extend your hedgehog's life and add quality to it.
There are a few medications that hide the effects of WHS but do not slow or cure the disease. WHS is said to be hereditary so ask your breeder if your hedgehog's family have any history of the disease.
MITES: mites are very common and are easily treated. Symptoms may include: frequent scratching,tattered ears, dry or flaky skin and quill loss. In extreme cases your hedgie may experience open sores and inflamed skin. If left untreated in serious cases it may lead to blindness, infection, or death. If you suspect that your hedgehog may have mites, visit your vet asap.
DIARRHOEA/GREEN STOOLS: Diarrhoea or green stools may last only a few days and may be due to a change in food/water. If this is the case then the problem should go away after 2-3 days. However, if this lasts for longer than 2-3 days, then it may be a sign of something more serious. If the problem persists then see your vet.
WOBBLINESS/LETHARGY WITH RAPID ONSET: These symptoms may be similar to those of wobbly hedgehog syndrome. If they have a rapid onset then it may be a sign of a stroke. If you suspect your hedgie has had a stroke contact your vet immediately.
YELLOWING UNDER THE ARMPITS: If your hedgie appears to have a yellow colouring under their armpits and on their tummy, they may also be obese as this yellowing is a side affect of this. Obesity could also cause fatty liver disease which – if left untreated- could lead to death. To help your hedgie to lose weight, you can try to increase their exercise by supervised free roaming. You can also control their food intake (see DIET category for more info).
DISCHARGE: If your hedgie has discharge from any part of their body (particularly ears,eyes and nose) they may have some sort of infection. If your hedgie displays any of these symptoms then take them to your vet.
RUNNY NOSE/WHEEZING/COUGH: If your hedgie has a runny nose or is wheezing or has a cough, they may have a respiratory problem. If left untreated this could cause serious complications and possibly death. If your hedgie is displaying any of these signs for more than 2 days, contact your vet.
QUILLING: every hedgehog experiences quilling throughout their lives. This is where some of their old quills fall out and are replaced with new ones. The most important quilling will occur when your hedgie is at about 8-12 weeks old. This is the time where they lose their baby quills and grow larger, stronger adult ones. quilling is a painful time for all hedgehogs and it will occur periodically throughout their lives.They may be huffy during quilling and may not want to be handled much.Unfortunately this is a fairly painful process, however your hedgie may enjoy an oatmeal/aveeno bath to soothe their skin.
URINE INFECTIONS:Urine infections are common in African Pygmy Hedgehogs and luckily are easily cured. The symptoms will usually consist of a loss of appetite, drinking less and there may be a little blood in the urine. A quick trip to the vet and a dose of anti-biotics should clear this up within about 1 week to 10 days.
CANCER: Unfortunately, cancer is quite common for African Pygmy Hedgehogs aged over 3 years. It is a progressive, disease which spreads quickly and can be fatal. Symptoms may include: lumps or bumps anywhere on the body, loss of appetite, being huffy, and generally acting out of character. Sometimes there is surgery involved depending on where the tumor is, however most of the time there will be medication to help your hedgehog cope. If you notice any of these symptoms then contact your vet immediately.
HIBERNATION ATTEMPT If your hedgehog tries to hibernate, then it can be fatal if they are left to do so. This can be caused by a variety of things such as the room temperature being too cold (below 22oC) or an irregular light pattern.
An indication of a hibernation attempt is lethargy, shivering and the stomach area and feet being cold to the touch. If this happens then you need to warm them up. A great way to do this is wrapping them in a blanket and placing them on your stomach (which is usually very warm) or just snuggling with them until they warm up and become livelier.
Hedgehogs need enrichment to keep them entertained, especially at night when they are up and about. There are many ways to keep your hedgie entertained, such as: tubes and tunnels with food placed randomly throughout to allow your hedgehog to explore and forage. New scents and smells to explore, daily handling, time to roam around a roam about and investigate. Note: make sure your hedgie is supervised at all times whilst taking part in enrichment activities.
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