How To Tell If A Hedgehog Is Sick Or Dying?

Hedgehog May 6, 2022
Written by | Updated Jun 27, 2024
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How To Tell If A Hedgehog Is Sick Or Dying?

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Small animals are a wonderful alternative to larger pets like cats and dogs, but they can be just as much work. The hedgehog is an example of a small pet that may seem simple enough but still needs a lot of care and attention.

Without adequate care, your hedgehog could become very sick.

One of most important aspects of caring for any exotic pet is providing an appropriate diet. A healthy diet is the best recipe for a healthy hedgehog!

On top of meeting your pet’s nutritional needs, however, you need to pay attention to his behavior and keep an eye out for signs of illness.

Animals have an instinct to hide their pain, so you may not immediately notice a change in your hedgie. Unfortunately, that means that by the time you do, it could be too late for treatment.

If you want your hedgehog to live a long and happy life, it’s your responsibility to provide everything your pet needs.

That means feeding your hedgehog well, giving him plenty of exercise, and keeping up with routine veterinary care to keep him in good health. If your hedgehog gets sick, take him to the vet immediately to give him the best chance of recovery.

Here’s what pet owners need to know about identifying the signs of illness in hedgehogs.

Common Signs Of Illness In Hedgehogs

A healthy hedgehog should be bright and alert. Though hedgehogs typically sleep during the day, they can be very energetic at night and can often be found exploring their habitat, looking for food.

If you’re not awake to observe your hedgie at night, you can look for signs of good health like normal urine and feces along with a good appetite. You can also observe your pet’s skin health while he’s asleep.

Here are some of the most common signs of illness in hedgehogs:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Dry skin
  • Sneezing or wheezing
  • Low energy
  • Labored breathing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody urine
  • Changes in feces
  • Behavioral changes
  • Loss of quills

Clinical signs may vary from one disease to another, so it’s important to keep track of your hedgehog’s symptoms as soon as you notice them. A change in behavior may seem like nothing big, but it could be the first sign of illness.

A sick hedgehog can go downhill fast, so don’t take these signs lightly – when in doubt, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian.

One thing hedgehog owners should know is that these animals will go into a state of torpor if the temperature in their habitat drops too low.

Torpor is like hibernation – your hedgehog will appear weak or lethargic and may sleep more than usual. Try increasing the heat in your hedgehog’s cage with a heating pad or blanket to see if things improve.

The Top 8 Health Issues In Hedgehogs

It can be difficult to notice the signs of illness in animals, but that’s why it’s so important to spend plenty of time getting to know your pet so you’ll notice the change.

With nocturnal animals like hedgehogs, it may actually be easier to notice signs like sneezing or difficulty breathing when your pet is asleep. Always check for normal urine and feces in the morning and keep tabs on how much your pet is eating.

In addition to doing your part to keep your pet hedgehog healthy, it’s important to know the basics about potential health problems. Knowing what to look for will help you identify symptoms later.

Here are some of the most common health issues in hedgehogs:

  • Respiratory problems: Pneumonia and other respiratory infections are unfortunately fairly common in hedgehogs. Symptoms include nasal discharge, sneezing, and trouble breathing.
  • Wobbly hedgehog syndrome: A neurological disease, wobbly hedgehog syndrome affects your pet’s ability to stay upright and may lead to seizures, paralysis, and eventual death.
  • Ringworm: A fungal skin infection, ringworm is fairly common and can actually be transmitted to humans. Secondary infections are also fairly common with ringworm.
  • Uterine cancer: Reproductive diseases like uterine cancer are particularly common in female hedgehogs which is why spaying is so important. This can help prevent cancerous tumors in the mammary glands and other reproductive organs.
  • Dental issues: Hedgehogs have as many as 44 teeth in their tiny mouths and they can be prone to a variety of issues like gingivitis, tartar, and abscesses.
  • Obesity: Overfeeding and lack of exercise can lead to obesity in hedgehogs which can be very dangerous for your pet’s health. High-fat foods and too many treats are often to blame.
  • External parasites: Also called ectoparasites, external parasites like ear mites are fairly common in hedgehogs. If your pet is itching and scratching, mites could be to blame.
  • Urinary tract issues: Hedgehogs can develop urinary tract infections or inflammation (cystitis) which can turn the urine brown or bloody. Urolithiasis (bladder stones) can also be an issue.

Keep in mind that health issues may vary among different types of hedgehogs. African Pygmy Hedgehogs are the type most commonly kept as pets, though you may also see European hedgehogs and four-toed hedgehogs as pets.

Do some research on the specific type of hedgehog you have just to make sure you know exactly what to do to keep your pet healthy.

What To Do With A Sick Hedgehog?

If your hedgehog displays any of the signs of illness listed above, or if he just changes in behavior, it at least warrants a call to your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to provide suggestions on what might help or recommend that you bring your pet in right away.

To make sure you have a veterinarian you can call if your hedgehog gets sick, it’s a good idea to do some research before you even bring a new pet into your life. Hedgehogs are sometimes considered exotic pets, so your local vet may not accept them.

Call around to find a hedgehog vet and take your new pet for a wellness visit when you first bring him home. This way you’ll have established care and your vet will have some records to reference if you call later with an issue.

If your hedgehog gets sick, the best thing you can do is follow your veterinarian’s advice. In addition to following your vet’s treatment plan, be sure to keep your hedgehog warm and hydrated.

Keep his water bottle full and make sure he has fresh food to eat. Hopefully, in time, your pet will recover.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do hedgehogs live?

The average lifespan for a hedgehog is about 4 to 6 years, though they can certainly live longer with proper care. Wild hedgehogs may only live 2 to 5 years.

Do hedgehogs need supplements?

When fed a properly balanced diet, hedgehogs do not require supplements. Be sure to provide a variety of insects like mealworms and beetles along with your pet’s regular kibble. A healthy diet is also the key to a healthy immune system.

Could my hedgehog be pregnant?

In the early stages of pregnancy, your hedgehog could exhibit changes in appetite or behavior, and you’d be right to wonder if your pet is sick. Hedgehogs have a gestation period of about 35 days and typically give birth to 4 to 6 hoglets. Signs of pregnancy in hedgehogs include weight gain, increased appetite, and enlarged teats.

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Kate Barrington is avid pet lover and adoring owner of three cats and one dog, her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. She has been writing about pet care and pet products since 2010
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