what are common hedgehog diseases?

Is my hedgehog sick: what are common hedgehog diseases?

Hedgehogs can get sick just like people. There are many diseases that could potentially be carried and experienced by hedgehogs. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the typical conditions that might make your pet hedgehog feel under the weather.

External parasites

Pet hedgehog’s enemies include quite a few external parasites. Particularly, the suspects are fleas, mites, and ticks, all of which can cause irritation and dermatitis symptoms. In the case of a serious infection, you could see with the naked eye how mites move on your little buddy’s ears and face. Still, many hedgehogs might not demonstrate any other signs because not all animals develop skin irritation.

But when they do, you could notice flakes and crust on the skin alongside losing spikes. When hedgehogs feel itchy, they might rub themselves against the wall or parts of the cage. After all, some hedgehogs get mites after playing with others. Therefore, switching or just staying in a cage with an infected animal raises the risk of picking up mites as well.

Fleas and ticks

Fleas and ticks are a bit more rare, especially the latter. Hedgehogs get ticks when moving outside; these blood-sucking parasites aren’t a threat for indoor pets unless some other animal brings them indoors. You can remove ticks by yourself or let the vet do the job. Usually, these ticks attach themselves to hedgehogs’ undersides because it’s easier for them to suck the blood in that region. Ticks are considered to be relatively harmless, yet carrying many parasites could indicate health issues.

Flea problem? Most likely, it’s caused by hedgehog fleas that are specific to these small creatures. They can’t live for a long time using other animals as hosts. Combat the fleas using topical powders. Does your hedgehog have a more serious condition brought on by mites? Let the doctor decide on the treatment. Many times, veterinarians inject hedgehogs with a medication called ivermectin. It’s used in humans, too, in order to fight parasite infections.

Internal parasites

Hedgehogs can stumble upon parasites when they eat their prey in the wild. For example, slugs and snails may host different parasites. The same risk applies to pet hedgehogs. They can eat some of the same things carrying the risk of internal parasite infection.

One of the most common parasites is the lungworm, which makes its way into the airways and lungs. Does Your prickly family member suffer from a lungworm infection? They might experience appetite loss, coughing, breathing difficulties, and wheezing. Fortunately, many of the symptoms are easily detectable and suggest a quick visit to the vet.

Intestinal worms

There are quite many intestinal worms, including tapeworms, intestinal threadworms, and hedgehog intestinal flukes, that might attack the insides of your hedgehog. Whenever an intestinal worm is present, there’s a highly likely combination of symptoms like diarrhea, weight loss, weak appetite, anemia, and even blood in feces. Some worms may induce hyperactivity in the host animals that can easily lead to death. That’s why it’s very important to get help when the first symptoms arise.

Doctors often don’t aim to kill all of the worms inside the hedgehog’s intestines. The idea behind this lies in the assumption that hedgehogs get infected on a regular basis.

In the wild, hedgehogs frequently eat earthworms and snails. Their bodies will contain parasites, but it becomes a disease when the amount of parasitic life gets overwhelming. Otherwise, there could be parasites living in the intestines without any symptoms.

Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome

Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome, or WHS, is a disease affecting both African and European hedgehogs. The name comes from one of the prominent symptoms. When hedgehogs suffering from this disease try to stand still, you can easily notice them wobbling around. Both sexes are affected and the disease starts from the hind legs. Since it’s a progressive disease, the symptoms move to the front of the body. In advanced cases, the piling issues lead the affected hedgehogs to totally lose control over their limbs.

This unfortunate condition has been compared to Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in humans. Still, the exact mechanisms might be completely different. What might the causes be for such a worrying disease? Nobody knows for sure. Scientists have proposed a few potential factors such as genetic predisposition and nutrition. As of now, there’s no cure. Usually, this syndrome usually leads to death within 18-24 months after the initial symptoms.

What to do?

While there’s no comprehensive treatment available, there are some things owners can do to make their pet’s life easier. Supportive care is the pillar for maintaining the quality of life at that point. Try to make food and drink more accessible. Clean your hedgehog when he soils himself. You can also use different objects to help keep your hedgehog upright. Consult with your vet for how long the supportive care is viable. In some cases, euthanasia might be the most honest decision.

But do keep in mind that sometimes other problems are misdiagnosed as WHS. Wobbliness might result from hibernation, injuries, cancer, and even strokes. Don’t self-diagnose. Find a veterinarian who’s willing to do all the important tests to rule out any other diagnoses besides WHS. Otherwise, there’s a chance that some underlying disease won’t get recognized.

Oral problems

Many people suffer from dental problems. Hedgehogs don’t differ in that regard. The buildup of tartar leads to gingivitis and periodontal issues. Sometimes you might think that it’s dental problems, but your veterinarian may discover oral tumors. The symptoms are quite obvious: appetite loss (actually reluctance to eat because it’s painful), blood coming from the mouth, and halitosis. Also, you might observe the hedgehog repeatedly pawing at the mouth. These symptoms need close inspection and relevant tests to find the underlying disease.

We mentioned oral tumors in the last paragraph because some mouth issues might become life-threatening. Squamous cell carcinoma in oral tissues is the third most ordinary cancer in hedgehogs. Usually, the cancer is aggressive as it invades other soft tissues or metastasizes into completely different parts of the body. When there’s evidence that your hedgehog might have oral cancer, your vet will carry out a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. The prognosis isn’t good. The most important variables regard the particular tumor type. Also, the extent of tissue invasion.

Oral care for hedgehogs

All of the talk about oral issues might make you wonder about care concerning hedgehogs’ teeth. After all, they might have a wonderful chewing mechanism consisting of up to 44 individual teeth. It’s well known that most hedgehog owners wouldn’t even think about brushing their pets’ teeth. That’s something that only people do! Well, calculus, plaque, and tartar are serious problems. If these are left untreated, your hedgie might develop a systemic infection.

Deciding to brush your pet’s teeth means definitely not using toothpaste. Dental products designed for humans aren’t a good fit for hedgehogs. Some of our ailments may be similar, but our bodies are nonetheless different. The best solution is gently using a moist Q-tip. Rub all the teeth without making your little buddy too stressed or anxious. Nevertheless, spotting problems mean finding doctors. Strong tartar buildup can’t be combated at home. You have to see a professional for that procedure.

Urinary tract problems

Lower urinary tract infections are caused by various bacteria that have entered the problematic areas. The signs of your hedgehog experiencing urinary tract issues include urine discoloration and a squealing voice made while urinating. Cystitis might also explain why your hedgie’s urine turned darker than usual. Spotting blood in the urine may be a symptom of bladder stones as well. That’s why you need a proper diagnosis from a certified veterinarian.

Urinary tract infections will be attacked using antibiotics such as cephalexin. Cystitis and bladder stones need different interventions compared to bacterial invasions. Before beginning any treatment, your vet will probably analyze the urine, conduct radiographs, and organize a bladder ultrasound. Actually, mixing the different methods will likely help to find particular causes.


Cancer affects typically hedgehogs that are at least three or older. Of course, there are exceptions. Any body part has the potential risk of being affected by cancer. Intestinal, mouth, and stomach cancers are leading the statistics. In fact, many of the tumors are easily hidden away inside the body and you wouldn’t really have an idea that your pet has this condition. Specifically, that’s why it’s smart to look out for drastic changes in their behavior. Although, low appetite and lethargy might be caused by numerous factors. Unfortunately, cancer is one of them.

Blood work along with ultrasound or other medical imaging technologies might be used to diagnose cancer in hedgehogs. Usually, there’s no cure for cancer and owners need to provide supportive care. Cancer may have devastating symptoms. If the hedgehog is suffering severely without passing away, euthanasia might be a humane solution. However, please don’t have a cancer scare if your hedgehog acts slow or different. There are always many possible reasons for one set of symptoms. Just make sure that your hedgehog gets checked out by a vet.

Respiratory infection

So many animals can fall ill from respiratory infections. Hedgehogs need to deal with the same usual suspects: bacteria and viruses. Besides, milder infections can turn into pneumonia. That’s why having a quick reaction to all respiratory problems is the key to avoiding complications. What are the first signs? Sneezing and discharge from the nose are quite obvious symptoms. The discharge can be colored, but sometimes is just a bit cloudy. Normal discharge from your hedgehog’s nose should be transparent. Also, your hedgie might be lethargic and lose the regular appetite.

By the way, did you notice how the same symptoms repeat? That’s why you need to see a vet when your hedgehog behaves unusually. When there’s a respiratory infection, a medical professional conduct a physical exam that’s followed by an X-ray. Veterinarians treat bacterial infections with antibiotics. In fact, some animals may need subcutaneous fluid because the illness makes them severely dehydrated. Eventually, more difficult cases call for oxygen therapy in order to assist the hedgehog with breathing.

Eye problems

Protruding eyes just invite injuries and irritation. There are nothing hedgehogs could do about it. But you can, though! Hence, keep the cage free of any objects that could injure your pet’s eyes. Dust can easily irritate hedgehogs’ eyes. That’s another reason you should keep the cage constantly clean and tidy. Hedgehogs definitely show visible symptoms when something is up with their eyes. For example, pawing at the eye or holding one of the eyes shut are tell-tale signs of eye trouble.

Eye problems don’t always manifest in behavior. Your hedgehog’s eye might just look cloudy or a bit swollen. In this case, you can never be sure if it was just a scratch from a sharp object or it’s a symptom of some disease. When in doubt, take you hedgie to a vet and they’ll figure out what’s wrong exactly.


Is obesity really a disease in hedgehogs? Yes, it’s not a bacterial or viral disease, but it will still negatively affect your hedgie’s health. Moreover, obesity may be a risk factor for developing other illnesses. Fatty liver disease and heart attacks are a real thing among hedgehogs. In the wild, hedgehogs have far more difficulties getting fat. In fact, they have to exercise a lot to get their teeth on tasty food. Domesticated hedgehogs are living happy lives, indeed, but their obesity risk is definitely higher.

One of the things you need to keep in mind is that hedgehogs are able to eat a lot. When you don’t restrict your hedgehog’s food, they might easily eat double their usual amount. Plus, burning all of that extra energy isn’t easy. And when the treats are especially calorie-dense, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that your pet will gain a lot of weight. Fighting obesity is easier when you stick to a rigid plan. Consult with your vet to create a reasonable meal schedule along with tracking the animal’s exercise routine. After all, running on the wheel and exploring the cage is essential for burning all the stored energy.

Heart disease

Hedgehogs, especially the older ones, may develop heart diseases. Dilated cardiomyopathy is one of the most common heart problems present in hedgehogs. Altogether, this disease is progressive as the stretched heart muscle weakens, which negatively affects the heart’s strength to pump blood. In a serious case, weakening can lead to congestive heart failure.

Heart diseases may go unnoticed for a long time. Until the situation isn’t too dire, there might not be any visible symptoms at all. Some of the apparent symptoms include shortness of breath and increased breathing rate. Moreover, it’s not possible to diagnose a serious heart problem at home. Therefore, you need to get to the doctor. They will use a stethoscope and echocardiogram among other tests to diagnose the heart disease.

What to do?

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many known ways to prevent the weakening of heart muscle or other cardiovascular diseases. Regular visits to the vet, balanced nutrition, and exercise are all needed to keep your hedgehog healthy. Keep in mind that sometimes there aren’t straightforward explanations, especially when your hedgehog has reached an older age.

Foot and limb problems

Just take a look at your hedgehog’s tiny feet! It’s no surprise that the little cuties get them stuck in unexpected places. But there’s nothing cute about the results. See a hedgehog limping? You should get them to the vet as soon as possible. Notably, new cuts and injuries have a much better prognosis compared to the old ones that might have already become infected.

Not all foot injuries look the same. Evidently, you might see red swelling, other times it’s bleeding or hematoma. Multiple colors, including yellow and green, send a very strong warning signal. Infections may turn into a very dangerous thing for hedgehogs, so once again, better be safe than sorry. Try to get urgent help for your little bundle of joy if you notice anything unusual.


Could hibernation really be a medical problem? It’s certainly not a disease. Wild hedgehogs hibernate as it’s a natural part of the yearly cycle for them. Pet hedgehogs are different as they shouldn’t be allowed to hibernate. The problems arise when winter temperatures drop and houses turn cooler. Notably, hedgehogs living in a home need their surroundings to be between 70 and 80 degrees, preferably around 75 degrees.

Moreover, it’s very important to understand that hedgehogs kept in captivity won’t go into full hibernation. In particular, the cooler temperatures make them go partly into the hibernation mode, but this situation is a very dangerous one. When your hedgehog isn’t warm to the touch, looks lethargic, and his appetite drops significantly or disappears completely, then there’s a high chance that the partial hibernation has already started.

Hibernation treatment

You need to warm your hedgehog slowly. The safest way is to use your own body heat by putting her under your shirt. Warmed towels are another solution. You just need to keep in mind that the heating must be slow and gradual. No quick heating! Also, a heating pad must be used with extreme caution. Otherwise, leaving your hedgehog alone with the heating pad can end up in death.

After warming her up, your hedgehog should start to move around a bit more. Then, it’s time to visit a vet! Some very dangerous illnesses mimic the hibernation symptoms. This makes it absolutely important to get your hedgie checked. Did Hibernation confirm? Now you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Use a digital thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature fluctuations. Also, keep your hedgehog in a place where chilly drafts can’t reach the cage. Otherwise, the ambient temperature might be suitable, but the unexpected drafts significantly drop the degrees around the cage.

Ear infections

Mites and fungi threaten to create ear infections in hedgehogs. For instance, crusty and flaky skin alongside heavy wax buildup are signs that your hedgehog might have an ear infection. And when your hedgie scratches her ears often, it’s time to check the situation more closely. Treatment depends on the particular cause as not only mites and fungi cause infections, although these are the main culprits.

Bacterial ear infections aren’t rare either. The bacterial infection’s discharge is a bit runnier compared to regular ear wax; also, there’s a high chance of an accompanying bad smell. Your veterinarian conducts a bacterial culture in order to choose the most reliable medicine for a particular strain.

What are common hedgehog diseases?

Hedgehogs are susceptible to bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. All of these intruders may cause anything from mild, almost undetectable symptoms to very serious illnesses. Indeed, the environment may play a role in developing diseases. Too much food and not enough exercise causes obesity, which is an important risk factor in developing a plethora of medical ailments. Finally, random injuries may occur all over the body. Especially, in hedgehogs’ legs and eyes. Whatever the medical problem, seeking urgent care is always the best option.