Quilling

Quilling is a normal process for hedgehogs. You can expect your baby to start quilling anytime after bringing them home. Quilling is when they lose old quills and grow in new ones. They start quilling after birth, with 6-14 weeks usually being the heaviest. They may quill heavily for a couple weeks, to months. During this time, they can seem grumpier than usual from the pain/discomfort they are in. Listen to your hedgehog, and don't force quill contact during this time (eg holding them on their backs). I like to get babies in their new homes as soon as possible, so they are settled in before quilling starts. Your hedgehog's color may change a bit as they get in new quills.

You can expect to see quite a few quills throughout their cage, but you should not see any bald patches on your hedgehog, this may be a symptom of mites, or another skin issue. Some adults will go through lighter quillings through their lives, while others only lose occasional quills (like we lose hair).

"Reverse Mohawk"

Hedgehogs have a part, or bald strip, in the middle of their quills on their head. This is completely normal, and helps your hedgehog pull the quills over their eyes when they curl up. Some hedgehogs have a more noticeable part than others.

Dry Skin

Dry skin is quite common in hedgehogs, commonly caused by dry air or frequent bathing. Try not to give a full bath more than once a month, unless absolutely necessary. You can help promote healthy skin by adding a few drops of fish oil, or other omega 3 containing oil, to their food. My favorite dry skin remedy is a product called DermAllay Oatmeal Spray Conditioner. It works extremely well, and can be bought over the counter at vet clinics. It does have a strong smell though, so use with caution with scent sensitive hedgehogs.

Tattered ears

Old skin and oils can build up on your hedgehog's ears, resulting in a bumpy, tattered look. To remove, rub some oil on the tatters with your fingers, a cotton swab, facecloth, etc. and the build up should soften, allowing you you to gently remove it. It may take a few tries to remove all of the build up - go slow and try to be gentle.

If it doesn't clear up, or if your hedgehog is scratching or has bald spots in it's quills, you may want to take your hedgehog to the vet as it could be a sign of fungus or mites.

Mites

Mites are the most common parasite for hedgehogs. Signs of mites include scratching, excessive quill loss, dandruff, and yellow crust around the base of the quills. Sometimes you can see the mites as tiny white dots moving on the skin. You will need to take your hedgehog to the vet and get them treated with topical Revolution, as well as disinfecting the cage and all cage items.

Your hedgehog does not need to go outside or use wood bedding to get mites, parasites can come inside on other pets or us.

Poop Talk

You may find it kind of gross, but your hedgehog’s poop color can tell you quite a bit about their health and stress levels.

     Brown: Normal poop should be firm and brown in color.

     Green: Dark green, mucoid poop can be caused by stress or a change in diet. This is usually not an overly troubling sign, unless it occurs for more than a few days; you may see this after taking your baby home. If the poop is lighter green, and/or accompanied by a rancid smell, your hedgehog may have a more serious problem, such as an infection or bacterial overgrowth, and should be seen by a vet.

     Bloody: A vet visit is needed.

     Black: Black poop can be a sign of internal bleeding, a vet visit is needed.

     Diarrhea: This can be dangerous to hedgehogs as they can get dehydrated easily. To tell if they are dehydrated, lightly pinch the skin and hold it, when you let go it should go right back to normal. If it doesn’t, they need fluids. Plain pumpkin can be given to make the poop more firm, but if it doesn’t get better in a day, a vet visit is needed. Especially rancid smelling poop also calls for a vet visit to rule out a bacterial infection. 

Whenever you take your hedgehog to the vet for a poop related problem, try to bring in as much fresh poop as you can, so they can run tests or send it out to an external lab.

Hibernation

Hedgehogs in captivity no longer have the ability to hibernate successfully, and if they attempt it without being revived in time it can lead to death. Hibernation usually occurs when your hedgehog gets too cold, but can also be caused if they can see the days getting shorter, making them think it’s nearing winter and time to hibernate. This is why you should not only rely on daylight to light your hedgehog’s cage.

 

If the temperature in their cage is too cool, they may not be as active and eat less than usual. When hedgehogs start to hibernate they may feel cool to the touch, move slowly and wobbly, or they may not be able to uncurl or stand at all. If this occurs, you need to warm them up slowly. You can put them under your shirt or sweater and warm them up with your body heat, or you can set a heating pad on low, wrap it in a towel, and set them on that (don’t leave unattended!). If they don’t show signs of improvement, you should take them to a vet.

 

After a hibernation attempt, your hedgehog’s immune system will be lower and they are likely to attempt hibernation again. Their cage temperature should be raised to prevent additional attempts and keep them healthy.

WHS

Hedgehogs are prone to a neurological disease commonly known as Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS). It causes progressive muscle atrophy and paralysis. This can happen at any age, but is more common in older hedgehogs. It can only be proven after death through a necropsy, so be sure to have your vet rule out all other health problems before labeling your hedgehog with WHS. Symptoms include difficulty moving, falling to one side, seizures, trouble eating, bulging eyes, and paralysis.

Tumors

Unfortunately, hedgehogs are prone to various tumours/cancers. Oral, uterine, mammary, and testicular cancers are common. They can progress quickly, so a fast diagnosis is important. Be sure to take your hedgehog to the vet if you see any out of the ordinary bumps. If caught early, some tumours may be surgically removed. 

Eye Injuries

With a combination of bulging eyes and relatively shallow sockets, hedgehogs are prone to eye injuries. They have been known to poke themselves in the eyes, and catch their eyes on things in their enclosures. If anything looks wrong with your hedgehog's eyes, it is important to bring them to the vet. You may be prescribed eye drops for superficial scratches or ulcers, or your hedgehog may need to have the eye removed if it has ruptured. Fortunately, hedgehogs do very well with one or even both eyes removed, since they don't have great vision to begin with.

Older hedgehogs may develop cataracts in their eyes, just like older humans. This can cause blindness but it doesn't tend to affect their day to day. It is a good idea to have them checked out by a vet though, especially if the eye also looks like it is bulging out more than usual. 

If your hedgehog is blind, try not to rearrange their enclosure so they can easily find their way around.

Some hedgehogs also have fatty deposits in the corner of their eyes. This can be from obesity, or they can be born with it. If this is a new occurrence and your hedgehog has not gained weight recently, or if it looks red or irritated, please see a vet, it is possible it is a prolapsed gland.

*Always consult a vet if you think something is wrong with your hedgehog!*

They hide illness well, so when symptoms show vet care is needed.