Bathing

Bathing can be done in a sink, bathtub, or a bin with warm water. I don't recommend using a kitchen sink or anything used around human food preparation, to prevent cross contamination. Water used in a bath should be warm but not hot, like you would use for a human baby. You should check the temperature with your wrist before putting your hedgehog in to make sure it is not too hot. It isn’t recommended to directly rinse your hedgehog under running water, if the water temperature changes you can quickly burn their sensitive skin. You can place a piece of floor mat, non-slip mat, or facecloth on the bottom of the bath to help clean the feet and add traction to slippery surfaces. There are two types of baths you can give your hedgehog: foot baths and full baths.

Foot baths

 

A foot bath is when you only clean their feet in a small amount of water, just enough to cover their feet. You don’t need to use any soap or shampoo for a foot bath, plain warm water will work. You can let them walk around in the water to soften any debris on their feet, and then clean it off with your fingers, brush, or a cloth. You can give foot baths when they get poop boots from running on their wheels, or prior to handling to reduce the amount of poop they get on you! The warm water and movement will stimulate them to go to the bathroom. You can give a foot bath whenever needed since not much of their body actually gets wet.

Full baths

 

A full bath is when you clean their whole body. Hedgehogs do not require regular bathing, this should only be done as needed, like if they decided it was a good idea to roll in some poop! They should not have too many full baths because it can dry their skin out, a general rule of thumb is no more than one full bath a month.

You can use a bit more water for a full bath but always make sure your hedgehog can stand comfortably with their head above water, avoid getting water in their face and ears. You can add your soap or body wash to the bath water or lather with your hands and then apply to the hedgehog. To wash their quills, you can use a toothbrush or soft nail brush and gently brush the quills in the direction of growth (head to bum). Make sure to rinse all of the soap off when you’re done, dried soap residue can irritate and dry out skin. When you are finished the bath make sure to dry off your hedgehog as much as possible to avoid them getting chilled.

What soap to use

 

You can use an oatmeal or chlorhexidine cleanser from your vet, a baby body wash, or a very gentle adult body wash like Aveeno. Adult body washes intended for sensitive skin tend to work well, and unscented or lightly scented varieties are ideal. If the scent is too strong they may try to bite or anoint with it, or harm themselves afterwards. You want to stay away from human shampoos and anything with tea tree oil in it, this is toxic to hedgehogs.

Bath variations

 

Oatmeal - If your hedgehog is quilling, you can add some oatmeal to the water to soothe and moisturize the skin. It can be added to the water by putting it in a cheese cloth or other fabric (pantyhose works well) and squeezing it out in the water.

 

Moisturizing rinse - If you are trying to combat dry skin, it is best to add the oil to their food to work on skin health from the inside out, rather than adding it topically or as a rinse. They can be used as a rinse very sparingly, but it is so easy to overdue it the risks outweigh the benefits to me. 

A moisturizing rinse is done by adding a few drops of flax seed oil, wheat germ oil, or vitamin E oil to some warm water and pouring this over their skin at the end of the bath. Olive oil and coconut oil can be used but they are heavier oils so it’s easy to use too much. You only want to use a small amount of oil because too much can clog pores and lead to fungal infections - a greased up hog is never good! 

 

I never do any moisturizing rinses, with my hedgehogs prone to dry skin I use DermAllay Oatmeal Skin Conditioner, you can buy this over the counter at a vet clinic. It works extremely well!

How to Give a Bath

Gather supplies beforehand: a towel, toothbrush, cleanser, and an unwilling participant. I also grabbed the nail clippers to trim his nails while in the bath

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First I fill the sink with plain warm water and give a foot bath. This gets a lot of the gunk off the feet, and if they go to the bathroom in the water now it will keep the wash water cleaner later!

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After you're finished, towel off your hedgehog as much as you can so they don't get too cold. Keep in a warm area until completely dry.

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Gather supplies beforehand: a towel, toothbrush, cleanser, and an unwilling participant. I also grabbed the nail clippers to trim his nails while in the bath

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Nail Trims

Some hedgehogs will keep their nails short themselves, but with most you will need to trim them on a regular basis. If they don’t get trimmed they can curl under and grow into the pad of their foot! You can use baby nail clippers, regular nail clippers, or cat clippers to cut them. You want to cut down close to the quick, while not cutting it. Cutting the quick causes them to bleed and can be painful for your hedgehog. If you do cut too far, you can dip the foot into some corn starch or quik stop to help stop the bleeding. Don’t pull, twist, or squeeze the leg too hard while cutting nails, you need a firm but gentle grip - just remember how tiny they are!

If you are lucky enough to have a hedgehog that doesn’t mind nail trims, you can simply pick up a foot and cut the nails. If you need them to stay a little more still for you, you can hold them against your chest/abdomen with their backs against you so their legs are outstretched between your fingers, and then cut the nails. Most of mine will just lay on their backs on my lap and let me trim them.

If your hedgehog is difficult and doesn’t like nail trims, there are some ways to make it easier. You can try wrapping them in a towel, letting one leg out at a time, and cutting it that way. Some people put them on a cooling rack and let the legs dangle through, but I never had any luck with this. I find the easiest way to trim is to do it while they’re in the bath. This way they can’t ball up and will usually stay a bit more still for you. You don’t have to do all nails at one time either, you can spread it out into more than one session to make it less stressful.

When they are in the bath, you can hold them against the side of the sink with the side of your hand while holding a leg, using your other hand to cut the nails. When you are done one side, turn them around and repeat with the other two feet. Sometimes after you take them out of the bath they are just happy about being out of the water and will let you trim them while being held in a towel.

Your vet clinic should also be able to trim their nails if you can’t get them done at home. Some hedgehogs will be curious and distracted in a different location and be more open to having the nails cut. Others, however, will be nervous and may need to be lightly anesthetized before they allow anyone to touch them. This should be a last resort.

This is not a definitive list of all methods of nail trimming, you just need to find out what works best for you and your hog!

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