Hedgehogs aren’t common pets like cats and dogs. With the latter, we already tend to know what to feed them and which food items to skip. Exotic animals raise much more confusion. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the relationship between hedgehogs, dog food, and other (in)appropriate food options.
No, dog food isn’t a good or healthy choice for hedgehogs. You should only feed them dog food if:
a) the dog food product’s nutritional content matches the hedgehog feeding guidelines;
b) it doesn’t contain any food items harmful or not recommended to hedgehogs;
c) and you break down the kibble into an appropriate size.
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Feeding hedgehogs dog food creates confusion
Dog food. What is the first image that comes to your mind? Maybe it’s a well-known brand. Maybe it’s something you used to give your first puppy. Whatever you can imagine, the chances are that the person next to you would see something else in front of their eyes. That’s why there’s so much confusion online about giving dog food to hedgehogs. Different people carry their own understanding of what dog food exactly means. Hence, when you read internet discussions about this subject, steer clear of the know-it-alls. They might think huge lamb bones when others think softly boiled chicken meat.
But what’s wrong with dog food?
Most dog food products are harmful to hedgehogs. For example, the dog treats might contain fish. Hedgehogs shouldn’t eat fish or seafood. But that’s just the beginning. Many of the dog food mixes contain a big amount of corn or some grains. Hedgies don’t have a natural capacity to properly digest this food. Even further, when you compare the protein and fat content, it’s definitely out of balance regarding hedgies’ needs. Dog foods have more fat, but hedgehogs actually need more protein in their diet.
And dog foods are just that, dog food! This means that the nutritional content is optimal for dogs, not hedgehogs. When the package says that the food contains X or Y, making it look beneficial, then there’s a chance that product is a big fat zero nutrition-wise for hedgies. Another aspect concerns the kibble size. Dogs are much larger than hedgehogs, which makes the bigger kibble size completely reasonable. But the big size makes chewing and swallowing much harder for hedgehogs. In some cases, it might be just plain impossible to properly eat the food.
Attention! Dog food is a controversial topic. We stay cautious. Some rescue centres and other organizations claim to feed hedgehogs dog food without any problems. Other people online claim the same thing. But that doesn’t really negate the idea that the nutritional content usually won’t serve the hedgehogs’ needs. Plus, the kibble size is definitely out of proportion compared to the hedgehog’s mouths and throats.
Is there any dog food I could feed my hedgie?
Yes, sort of. This isn’t easy as you need to check the dog food labels. See if the protein and other nutritional content matches the recommended guidelines for hedgehogs. The current standard is at least 20% protein. But the protein should originate from insects or poultry only. Furthermore, you need to check if the ingredients list has any food sources that are forbidden in a hedgehog’s diet. If the product really matches all the demands, then you could give a green light. But is it all worth the hassle? Just buying the proper food isn’t enough, in the end, you need to break down the kibble as well.
I’ve heard they could eat cat food.
Hedgehogs can eat cat food. In fact, dried varieties are a perfect choice for hedgies. The fat to protein ratio is almost just that’s needed for the prickly creatures. Of course, you still need to watch out that the dry cat food wouldn’t contain anything entirely suitable for hedgehogs as their main ingredients. Be careful not to overfeed your hedgehog with dried cat food, though. The calories add up easily. It’s similar to people and their common failure to stop eating savory cookies or chips.
Is there any hedgehog food available?
Yes, there’s a wide variety of hedgehog food brands on the market. But many hedgehog owners opt out. The reason behind that is simple. A lot of people find that these foods have not been planned to keep the hedgies’ best interests in mind. You see, the packaging says that it’s ‘designed for optimal hedgehog health’. In reality, this claim might be far from the truth. The food could easily lack essential nutrients. Also, the food mixes usually contain nuts and raisins that pose health hazards to hedgies.
What could I feed my hedgehog besides cat food?
Did you know that the perfect protein to fat ratio for hedgehogs is 34%:15%? These are oft-cited numbers. You can feed your hedgehog boiled eggs, lean poultry, some fruits and vegetables, and insects. But all of these foods come with notable exceptions. For example, you can give cucumber to your hedgehog, but onions, garlic, and potatoes are not allowed. Take a look at the next paragraphs to learn more about it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that whenever you give them vegetables, it’s better to properly prepare the veggies beforehand. It’s a bit hard for hedgie to digest raw vegetables. That’s why you should cook veggies before handing them out as food. Also, since some vegetables tend to be quite large compared to hedgehogs’ diminutive size, dice the veggies to smaller pieces before or after cooking. In this way, your hedgie will have a much better time eating all that necessary plant fiber and vitamins.
What should I definitely not give my hedgehog to eat?
Let’s start with the more obvious foods. Chocolate, avocados potatoes, pineapples, grapes, raisins, and citrus fruits should be out of the question. These food items have never been available to hedgehogs in the wild. Therefore, their digestive system and body overall aren’t ready for the consumption of these foods. Allium vegetables aren’t suitable as well. Consuming vegetables like garlic and onion could be toxic for hedgies!
It’s true that hedgehogs never say no to insects. Some people even incorrectly call them insectivores (they are omnivores, instead). But avoid the insects found from the wild or sold in a bait shop. You never know whether these bugs harbor bacteria and parasites that could easily induce many illnesses. Use commercial-grade canned or dried insects and you’ll lower the risk significantly.
Ditch processed meats from your hedgehog’s meals. Eating sausages or canned meat isn’t okay! Same goes for raw meat because of contamination and possible digestion issues. When you boil the meat (no frying!), don’t use any seasoning or oil. Since hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, it’s important not to give them any milk or dairy products. Nuts and seed mix is another no-no. The little pieces can easily get stuck in their throat, effectively creating a choking hazard. Furthermore, it wouldn’t even be sure that your hedgie could digest the seeds.
Should I worry about fatty foods?
Yes, and this is one of the concerns about dog food. The truth is: it’s very easy for domesticated hedgehogs to turn obese. When you compare the wild and domestic hedgehogs’ lifestyles and average calorie expenditure throughout the night (they are nocturnal after all!), they could literally be like different species. In the wild, hedgehogs need to clock in quite a lot of hours to get the food. But when they live in a house as a pet, let’s be honest, not that much effort is required to get the same amount of calories.
Prevention is better than cure. This principle fits perfectly to the topic of hedgehogs’ obesity problem. You can’t really control how much exercise your hedgehog does on a nightly basis. Of course, you should put an exercise wheel in the cage as a way to provide the means for burning some calories. Consequently, the best way is to restrict food. Don’t give too much speciaity hedgehog food or other high-calorie substitutes for more lean whole foods. Lean protein is always better than foods rich in fatty acids.
The bottom line: can hedgehogs eat dog food?
No, please don’t give your hedgehogs dog food. Or if you insist, then check the package for the nutrients ratio and the ingredients list for anything unsuitable to your hedgehog. Also, you should make the kibbles smaller. Otherwise, your hedgie will have a very hard time eating the food. Instead of the dog food, it’s much smarter to give them dried cat food. On average, the protein to fats ratio is much better compared to typical dog food.