COMMON DISEASES OF PET HEDGEHOGS
What are some of the common diseases of pet hedgehogs?
Common conditions of pet hedgehogs include parasites, ringworm, cancer, and pneumonia.
What are the signs of these diseases?
Both internal and external parasites are seen in hedgehogs. Internal parasites ("worms" and protozoa) can cause diarrhea (intestinal parasites), coughing (lungworms), or be diagnosed during the yearly fecal examination in animals that are not showing any symptoms.
External parasites that may be seen include fleas, ticks, and mites, and cause various types of dermatitis.
Ringworm is not really a worm but rather a fungus. Clinical signs can include missing spines, hair loss, flaking, and crusting of the skin. It can be transmissible to other pets and people.
Respiratory diseases, especially pneumonia, are often seen in pet hedgehogs. Nasal discharge, sneezing, and difficulty in breathing may be seen. Severely affected pets may be listless and stop eating. One of the most common causes of pneumonia in hedgehogs is the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica, which causes kennel cough in dogs. It might be wise to limit contact between dogs and hedgehogs; all dogs in the house should be vaccinated against kennel cough.
Cancer often occurs in hedgehogs 3 years of age and older. Most commonly, the cancer involves the stomach or intestinal tract. As is true with many hedgehog diseases, clinical signs may not be specific for cancer and simply include lack of appetite and lethargy.
How are hedgehog diseases treated?
Internal parasites are treated with the appropriate deworming medication. External parasites are treated with a safe flea spray, injectable medication, or medicated bath and dip.
Pneumonia and other respiratory problems are treated with antibiotics. Hedgehogs that are lethargic and have stopped eating require aggressive therapy in the hospital; fluid therapy and force feeding may be necessary.
It may be possible to surgically remove cancerous tumors. Those involving the internal organs are often too far advanced at the time of diagnosis to properly treat.
How can I tell if my hedgehog is sick?
Signs of disease in hedgehogs may be specific for a certain disease. Often, signs are vague and non-specific, such as a hedgehog with anorexia (lack of appetite) and lethargy, which can be seen with many diseases including pneumonia, overgrown teeth, cancer, and even kidney or liver failure. ANY deviation from normal should be a cause for concern and requires immediate evaluation by your veterinarian.
This client information sheet is based on material written by Shawn Messonnier, DVM.
© Copyright 2002 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. February 22, 2018.