HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR AFRICAN PYGMY HEDGEHOG
Copyright © 1999 - Laura Mowrey - All Rights Reserved
It is vitally important that you have a Vet lined up who is knowledgeable about hedgehogs "prior" to acquiring one. A great many Vets have little, if any, knowledge of these animals and that can pose a lot of problems should your pet become ill. Once you have established a Vet you feel comfortable with and have acquired your hedgehog, it is a good idea to have a check up done on your new pet to make sure he/she is carrying no external or internal parasites. The first exam should include the following:
*Review of diet, husbandry, habitat, behavior, and methods for handling.
*Physical Examination: weight, visual inspection, auscultation, oral exam, body temperature, palpation, digit exam.
*Fecal float and direct smear; salmonella culture and screen.
*Toe nail trim, skin scraping to check for mites, ear exam, CBC, and chemistry panel.
*Tooth Scaling if this is an older animal.
Bring a fresh stool sample along with you...as well as a urine sample if possible. Stool samples are easy to collect, urine isn't always as easy. To get a urine sample from one of mine, I place the hedgehog in a tall sided rubbermaid dish pan until he "goes" and then suck it up with a syringe and place it into a clean glass container. Try to make sure the sample isn't contaminated with feces. Put the urine in a clean covered glass container and refrigerate until it is time to take it to the Vets. Having a through exam will give you a good foundation as to the health of your animal and will catch any small problems that may be not be obvious to you. After that, unless a problem arises, I would recommend at the very least, a yearly checkup (if not every 6 months).
Miss Murray at one of her check-ups with her Vet, Dr. Lanford.
Miss Murray after successfully wrestling the stethascope away from her doctor :)
(Murray's Owner: Heather Johnson)
Photo Compliments of Heather Johnson
My Vet, Greg Stoner, holding my albino hedgie, Ms Vidalia.
If you cannot locate a Vet in your area who is kowledgeable about hedgehogs, try contacting Pat Storm at: firstname.lastname@example.org Make sure to include your area code when you write to her, as her files are listed by area code.
You can also check out the following online Vet Locator Services:
One of the best barometers of your pets health is how it's stool looks. A healthy normal stool for a hedgehog will appear long, round and almost as big around as a pencil. The color should be a medium to dark brown. It should be firm, but not hard like a rabbit pellet. It should be moist but not excessively so. You should be able to easily pick it up with a tissue in one complete piece. Now lets look at abnormal stools:
GREEN STOOLS: A stool of this color can indicate that there is an excessive amount of bile in the digestive tract, and it is also a sign that food is not being properly digested. Green/mucousy stools can be caused by stress, change in diet or water, an infectionary process or even pancreatitis. Keep an eye on your hedgie if you notice abnormal stools (take note of how much it is eating and drinking), do not feed anything new during this time, keep the diet bland and if the problem persists for more then a few days, take your hedgie and a stool sample in to your Vet.
DIARRHEA: Diarrhea can be a very temporary problem, but it can also actually be life-threatening. If you notice this in your hedgie, make sure he/she is drinking enough water so as not to dehydrate and keep the diet bland. Take note of whether or not you have changed anything lately; are you feeding your hedgie something new? Is his water coming from a different source? If the diarrhea lasts for more then a couple days, see your Vet and bring a fresh stool sample with you. Diarrhea can be caused by much of the same things as green stools are, but could also be a sign of illness or infection, allergies, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, internal parasites or other internal problems. You can give yor hedgie a drop or two of Imodium AD, this will usually stop the diarrhea, but do not be fooled into thinking your hedgie is back to normal if it does, for this medication is just a temporary "fix" and does not address what is causing the diarrhea in the first place.
Plaque build up and gum disease is fairly common in hedgehogs. Signs of dental problems may include a reluctance to eat hard foods (or any foods at all), a foul odor eminating from the mouth, swollen, red gums, or swellings in the jaw itself; drooling and missing, or discolored teeth. Make sure to make a complete dental exam a part of your hedgehogs regular Vet checks. If necessary, your Vet can clean your hedgies teeth in the same manner as they do a cat, dog, or any other animal. Bad teeth can lead to systemic infections, liver, kidney and heart disease so it is very important to pay attention to the condition of their teeth.
Yes, hedgehogs can have allergies!
(Excerpt from Heather Johnsons webpage:)
A hedgehog may develop certain environmental allergies, including sensitivities to chemicals or even food allergies.
Symptoms of food allergies include:
Red, puffy, flaky, and/or scabby patches on the face and/or feet
Patches appear and disappear frequently
For information on additional common disorders, and other illnesses, please click on the following link to my other webpages:
Common Disorders of The African Pygmy Hedgehog
Photo compliments of:
Jennifer Plombon and Skeezix, and Jeanne Stanoch and Coquino
(actually Coquino is yawning here :)
Biting can be a real issue for those who have hedgehogs that have developed this habit. It is important to be able to distinguish between a hedgies licking/nibbling and an all out clamp down and bite! As difficult as it is, if your hedgehog bites down on you, try not to pull your hand away! This can result in causing damage to both yourself and your hedgehog.
Hedgehogs may be prompted to nibble or bite if they smell strong scents on your hands such as food, lotions or colognes, just to name a few.....so make sure your hands are clean. If the hedgehog begins to lick, nibbling or biting is usually not far behind so remove your fingers from the vicinity of your hedgehogs mouth and don't give him or her the opportunity. If your unfortunate to have one really bite down hard and it won't let go, try blowing a puff of air in its face. Other folks have used water to make the hedgie let go.....and still others have taken a q-tip with rubbing alcohol and placed it up close to (but not on) the hedgehogs nose. Somehow I find the picture of someone with a hedgie latched on to their fingers running to the bathroom and struggling to find the rubbing alcohol and q-tips a bit unrealistic. If the alcohol should accidentally get into the hedgies eyes, it will cause a great deal of pain and damage. The point is though, is to have your hedgehog associate biting you with something "unpleasant" so it won't continue doing so.
Fortunately, hedgehogs who are serious biters seem to be the "exception" rather then the "rule". In all my many years of owning hedgehogs, I have only had 1 biter, and I have learned to just keep my fingers out of the vicinity of her mouth when holding her.
Getting medications into your hedgehog can be quite frustrating for a lot of people (including myself at times), so here are a few tips on how to get the job done:
Draw the specified amount of medication into a syringe and offer it to your hedgie. If your lucky, your hedgehog will lap it up, however, most will not open their mouth willingly and drink it down. If you find this to be the case, wrap your hedgie up in a towel, tip him/her onto their back with the head held slightly elevated to prevent choking, and wedge the syringe into the side of their mouth and slowly inject the fluid. If your hedgie balls up before you have the chance to do this, I often find by prodding the syringe close to where I know the mouth is, will cause them to open just enough to slip it into their mouths. If THAT fails, when your hedgie does finally open up, tuck your thumb underneath the chin to prevent him/her from completely balling up again and slip the syringe into the side of the mouth.
Amother way to get meds into your pet is to mix it with a tiny amount of his favorite food.....you must however make sure he eats it! I know some folks who have literally injected meds into large, (dead) crickets and then feed the insect to their hedgehog, however I have never done this. Too much medication could cause the cricket to crack open, thus losing the medication.....or maybe even causing your hedgie to have an aversion to eating them. I always offer my kids a treat after they have taken meds...to help remove the taste of some of the nastier medications from their little mouths.
In any case, perservere! You will get better with practise, I promise!
The following are some examples of oral solutions should your hedgehog become dehydrated:
*Lactated Ringers Solution (best): 1 part Ringers / 1 part distilled water.
*Pedialyte: 1 part Pedialyte / 1 to 3 distilled water.
*Gatorade: 1 part gatorade / 5 parts distilled water.
*Apple Juice: 1 part apple juice / 5 parts distilled water.
*Homemade: 1 cup distilled water, 1 tsp sugar, 1/4 tsp salt.
As a hedgehog owner, there are some items I would just not be without, for you never know when some small emergency might arive. I use a tool box to put all my supplies in and it is stored underneath my cages. In it I keep Stop Quik, in the event I accidentally cut the nails too far back and they bleed, human fingernail clippers, a very small flashlight and magnifying glass to see into their mouths and ears with, as well as to inspect for mites. Tweezers, a small pair of scissors, multiple sized syringes for feeding or administering medication to a sick hedgie, pipettes, peroxide and calendula gel for wounds, rectal thermometer and KY jelly, Multistix for testing urine, eye droppers, q-tips, gauze, a nasal aspirator (the kind sold for infants), stool and urine sample containers, along with all my homeopathic meds (which will be discussed in a future webpage). With this ready made kit, I feel I am reasonably set to take care of most minor problems. Another must, I believe, is a reliable weight scale. I have one made by Terraillon from which I purchased from Standing Bear for under $50.00 (and that included shipping costs). Its important to keep track of your hedgehogs weight, especially if they become ill.
When you have pets of any kind, it's a good idea to keep a well-stocked medical supply box.
Spicket sitting inside of my scale.
To order one of these scales, you can contact Standing Bear at: MGSpikers@aol.com
Gina Anderson has made up an excellent chart for keeping track of your hedgehogs weight and other medical history. To print out a copy of this chart, go to:
Gina's Weight Chart
The picture below was taken from an article in Nature Reviews of which I contributed the photo of the hedgehogs for:
You will need to scroll from side to side and up and down.
A HEDGEHOG BY ANY OTHER NAME
IS STILL, WELL, A HEDGEHOG!!
Anglosaxon: igil or il
Bengali: kata chua (spikey mouse)
Chinese: ci-wei (needle animal)
Czech language: jezek
English: hedgehog, hedge-pig, herichun, urchin
Hindi: aik parkar ka jangli chuha ("a spikey sort of mouse")
Hungarian: sŁn, sŁni, sŁndisznů
Japanese: hejjihoggu or harinezumi
Mandarin Chinese: Cžwež
Punjabi: kanderala ("thorned animal")