Home Blogs 9 Common Hedgehog Diseases You Must Know: Protect Your Prickly Pal Today With These Proven Tips!

9 Common Hedgehog Diseases You Must Know: Protect Your Prickly Pal Today With These Proven Tips!

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Hedgehogs, with their unique appearance and adorable demeanor, have captured the hearts of animal lovers all over the world. While there are 17 different species of hedgehogs found across the globe, none of them are native to North America. However, this has not stopped African pygmy hedgehogs from becoming a popular household pet in the United States.

African pygmy hedgehogs are highly active nocturnal creatures that spend most of their day sleeping and become active at night to search for food. Their diet usually consists of fruits, vegetables, and insects in the wild. These spiky little creatures are known for their solitary lifestyle and rely on their ability to curl up into a ball and their spikes to protect themselves from potential predators in the wild.

On average, hedgehogs live for 4-6 years, with males weighing between 500-700g (17.6-24.7 oz) and females weighing around 250-400g (8.8-14.1 oz). However, despite their seemingly low-maintenance lifestyle, hedgehogs can suffer from various diseases that can impact their health and well-being.

Obesity is a common issue that can affect hedgehogs, especially if they are not provided with a healthy diet and enough exercise. This can lead to other health problems, including diabetes and liver disease. Additionally, hedgehogs can develop neurological problems, which can affect their movement and coordination. Respiratory infections, skin infections, and dental problems are other common health issues that hedgehogs may face.

To ensure that your prickly pal stays healthy and happy, it is crucial to be aware of these common hedgehog diseases and their symptoms. By recognizing the signs early on, you can seek prompt veterinary care and provide your hedgehog with the best possible treatment.

In this article, we will discuss nine of the most common hedgehog diseases, including their symptoms, causes, and treatment options. We will also provide you with some valuable tips on how to prevent these diseases from affecting your hedgehog’s health. So, whether you are a new hedgehog owner or an experienced one, read on to learn how to protect your prickly pal from these common hedgehog diseases.

Common Hedgehog Diseases

1. Skin Disease

Hedgehogs are prone to various skin diseases that can cause dry, scaly skin. These conditions can be diagnosed through skin scrapes or cultures to identify the irritants causing the problem. One of the most common skin diseases among hedgehogs is dermatophytosis, which manifests as scaly areas around the base of the spines. This condition can be treated with topical antifungals.

Another common skin problem that hedgehogs face is mite infestations, which can cause crusting and flaking of the skin. Anti-parasitic drugs can be used to eliminate the infestation, but it is also important to keep the hedgehog’s environment clean and treat any other hedgehogs living in the same space, as mites can easily spread through the environment. It’s worth noting that these mites are specific to hedgehogs and do not pose a threat to humans or other pets.

Skin diseases can cause significant discomfort and distress to hedgehogs, so it’s important to take preventative measures to protect your prickly pal. Maintaining good hygiene practices and providing a clean and comfortable living environment is essential to preventing skin diseases. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting your hedgehog’s cage, bedding, and toys can go a long way in preventing mite infestations and other skin issues.

If you notice any symptoms of skin disease in your hedgehog, such as dry, scaly skin or crusting and flaking, it’s essential to seek veterinary care promptly. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the condition from worsening and causing further discomfort to your pet. In addition to medication, your veterinarian may also recommend changes in your hedgehog’s diet and living environment to promote healing and prevent the recurrence of the skin disease.

In summary, skin diseases are common in hedgehogs and can cause significant discomfort. Dermatophytosis and mite infestations are two of the most common skin problems in hedgehogs, but they can be treated with medication and prevented by maintaining good hygiene practices. If you notice any signs of skin disease in your hedgehog, seek prompt veterinary care to prevent the condition from worsening.

Common Hedgehog Diseases
Photo by Siem van Woerkom on Unsplash Common Hedgehog Diseases

2. Obesity

Obesity is a significant concern for pet hedgehogs, as they tend to have unlimited access to food and often lead a sedentary lifestyle. This can cause various health problems, including the inability to curl up into a ball for protection and even more serious illnesses such as fatty liver disease. Preventing obesity is the key to avoiding these problems, which can be achieved by feeding your hedgehog an appropriate amount of high-quality food, providing opportunities for physical activity, and monitoring their weight regularly. 

It’s a good idea to use a food scale to weigh your hedgehog weekly to ensure they are not gaining weight. If your hedgehog is already overweight, a weight loss program consisting of a reduced-calorie diet and increased activity is necessary. One way to boost your hedgehog’s activity level while also supporting their natural feeding behaviors and providing essential nutrients is by offering them insects to eat.

3. Gastrointestinal Diseases

Gastrointestinal diseases can affect various parts of the digestive system in hedgehogs, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, dehydration, decreased appetite, and weight loss. One common type of gastrointestinal disease in hedgehogs is Salmonella infection, which can be diagnosed with a fecal culture. This disease can also be spread to humans, so it is essential to handle potentially infected animals with care and caution. Treatment involves antibiotics and supportive care.

Fractured teeth can also lead to gastrointestinal issues, as they can make it difficult for hedgehogs to eat. This can result in unwanted weight loss and excessive salivation. Diagnosis involves dental radiographs and an oral exam, and treatment includes pain medicine, antibiotics, and even tooth extractions in severe cases.

Diarrhea and intestinal inflammation can have various causes, ranging from inappropriate diets to bacterial infections. Diagnosis involves diet trials, fecal cultures, and radiographs, and treatment depends on the specific findings.

Hepatic lipidosis, a specific disease relatively common in hedgehogs, can develop as a result of any disease that causes a sudden lack of appetite, such as infections or cancer. Treatment involves addressing the underlying disease and providing supportive care to manage symptoms. It is crucial to monitor hedgehogs for signs of gastrointestinal disease and seek prompt veterinary care if any issues arise.

Common Hedgehog Diseases- 2
Photo by Sierra NiCole Narvaeth on Unsplash Common Hedgehog Diseases

4. Cancer

Cancer is unfortunately a common disease in hedgehogs over 3 years old, and they can develop many different types of cancer, including reproductive tumors, cutaneous mast cell tumors, squamous cell carcinomas, and cutaneous hemangiosarcomas. The signs of cancer can vary depending on the type of cancer the hedgehog has, but they may include weight loss, difficulty eating, lethargy, weakness, and swelling of the belly. Other signs can include blood in the urine or vaginal discharge.

Diagnosing cancer in hedgehogs may require bloodwork, radiographs, ultrasounds, or biopsies. Treatment involves removing the tumor and providing supportive care, and in some cases, chemotherapy or radiation may be necessary. It is essential to take prompt action if you suspect your hedgehog has cancer since early detection can lead to a better prognosis.

To help prevent cancer, it is essential to provide your hedgehog with a balanced diet, appropriate exercise, and a healthy living environment. If you notice any changes in your hedgehog’s behavior or health, take them to the vet immediately. Regular check-ups and routine health screenings can help detect cancer early and prevent serious complications.

5. Heart Disease

Heart disease is a significant concern for hedgehog owners, and the most common form of heart disease in hedgehogs is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This condition leads to the enlargement of one or more of the heart’s chambers and can cause various symptoms, including difficulty breathing, lethargy, weight loss, heart murmur, and sudden death if not treated early. It is crucial to keep an eye out for these signs and seek veterinary care as soon as possible if you suspect your hedgehog may have DCM.

While DCM cannot be cured, medication can help manage the symptoms of chronic heart failure, improving the hedgehog’s quality of life. However, it is important to understand that the damage to the heart is irreversible. Hence, it is best to prevent heart disease in hedgehogs by providing a healthy diet, regular exercise, and veterinary check-ups. Additionally, avoid exposing your hedgehog to stressful situations as stress can contribute to heart disease.

By being vigilant and proactive in monitoring and treating heart disease in hedgehogs, you can help your prickly pal live a long and healthy life.

Common Hedgehog Diseases
Photo by Ratapan Anantawat on Unsplash Common Hedgehog Diseases

6. Respiratory Disease

Respiratory disease is a common problem in hedgehogs caused by various bacterial infections such as Bordetella, Pasteurella, and Corynebacterium. Look out for signs like sneezing, nasal discharge, or difficulty breathing. A diagnosis is typically done with radiographs and a culture of their discharge, and treatment involves antibiotics.

In severe cases, oxygen therapy and opening of the airways may be needed to prevent a serious lack of oxygen. It is essential to monitor your hedgehog’s breathing and seek veterinary attention promptly if you notice any of these symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of their respiratory system and causing more severe health problems. Keeping their living environment clean and free of irritants can also help prevent respiratory disease in hedgehogs.

7. Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome

The neurological condition known as wobbly hedgehog syndrome affects hedgehogs and causes progressive limb weakness and weight loss, eventually leading to paralysis. Although the exact cause of this condition is unknown, it is thought to be genetic. Sadly, wobbly hedgehog syndrome [white matter demyelination] currently lacks a known cure, and treatment typically consists of supportive care, such as hand feeding and mobility assistance.

If your hedgehog begins to exhibit any signs of neurological impairment, such as a loss of balance or muscle weakness, it is critical to seek veterinary care because the disease can be fatal. While there is no surefire way to prevent wobbly hedgehog syndrome, it is best to avoid breeding hedgehogs with the disease’s symptoms and only buy hedgehogs from reputable breeders who screen for genetic conditions.

Common Hedgehog Diseases
Image by Alexa from Pixabay Common Hedgehog Diseases

8. Musculoskeletal Diseases of Hedgehogs

Musculoskeletal injuries can seriously affect the hedgehog’s mobility and cause discomfort. Common injuries include the strangling of their toes and legs due to frayed cloth in bedding, and overgrown toenails that can grow into their footpad or get caught in the cage.

Preventing these injuries requires consistent grooming and monitoring of the hedgehog’s environment. It is important to keep their cage clean and free of any hazards that could cause harm. Regularly check their toenails for overgrowth and trim them as needed to prevent them from getting caught. With proper care and attention, you can help your prickly pal stay healthy and active.

9. Zoonotic Disease

Zoonotic diseases, or diseases that can spread from animals to individuals, are a concern for hedgehog owners. Salmonella and dermatophytosis are two cases of diseases that can be sent from hedgehogs to individuals. It is furthermore fundamental to observe that foot and mouth ailment has been found in wild hedgehogs, but not there of the brain in subjugation.

To prevent the spread of these diseases, it is indispensable to get hedgehogs from reliable raisers and to give untamed life their space. Expecting you to experience a hedgehog that necessities help, it is ideal to arrive at a specialist for help. By avoiding any and all risks, you can safeguard yourself and your hedgehog from potential prosperity bets.

Common Hedgehog Diseases
Image by Amaya Eguizábal from Pixabay Common Hedgehog Diseases


"Overall, keeping an eye on your hedgehog's health and well-being is crucial to prevent and treat common diseases such as respiratory infections, heart disease, cancer, and musculoskeletal injuries.
In addition, it's important to be aware of the potential for zoonotic diseases and take appropriate precautions to minimize the risk of transmission to humans. With proper care, monitoring, and prompt veterinary attention when needed, you can help ensure that your prickly pal stays healthy and happy for years to come."

Hedgehogs are prone to several diseases, and as responsible pet owners, it is crucial to be aware of the symptoms and seek prompt veterinary care. Salmonella and dermatophytosis are zoonotic diseases that can spread from hedgehogs to humans. Hedgehogs may also contract foot and mouth disease from the wild, which is contagious in humans. Therefore, it is essential to acquire exotic pets from reputable breeders and maintain appropriate hygiene standards while handling hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs can develop a range of conditions, including cancer, heart disease, neurological disease, and musculoskeletal injuries. Squamous cell carcinomas, cutaneous mast cell tumors, and reproductive tumors are common types of cancer in hedgehogs. Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common heart disease, while Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a neurologic condition that leads to paralysis. Musculoskeletal injuries are also prevalent and may occur due to overgrown toenails and inappropriate bedding.

Diagnosing hedgehog diseases may require radiographs, ultrasound, bloodwork, or a biopsy. Treatment typically involves medication, supportive care, tumor removal, and in severe cases, oxygen therapy. Overall, it is essential to ensure that hedgehogs receive proper veterinary care, a suitable environment, and a balanced diet to prevent diseases and promote their well-being.

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Dr. Chandrika

About Me

I am a veterinary doctor who is passionate about providing top-quality care for pets and their families. My mission is to share my knowledge and expertise with pet owners through my blog, petearnest.com.


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