Health Advice

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Health Advice

Post by animal addict on Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:17 pm

The average lifespan of an APH is 3-4 years with some living up to 5 years. A typical lifespan for a hedgie is as follows:

6 week-old hedgehog = 2 yr-old human
6 month-old hedgehog = 9 yr-old human
1 yr-old hedgehog = 17.8 yr-old human
2 yr-old hedgehog = 35 1/2 yr-old human
3 yr-old hedgehog = 53 1/2 yr-old human
4 yr-old hedgehog = 71.2 yr-old human
5 yr-old hedgehog = 89 yr-old human
6 yr-old hedgehog = 106 yr-old human
7 yr-old hedgehog = 124 1/2 yr-old human

Hedgehogs are fairly hardy animals if conditions are right but like any animal will need vetinary attention from time to time. It is important to identify a vet that deals in exotics and preferably with some experience of APH’s if possible.

When to seek veterinary attention:
If at any time if the hedgehog is unresponsive or lethargic, wobbly or unsteady on his feet which has been unresponsive to warming up within an hour, convulsions, paralysis, head tilting, decreased appetite, unexplained vomiting, decreased urine and faeces or blood present in either, blood from the eyes ears or nose, runny eyes, runny nose, gasping or raspy breathing and sneezing needs to see the vet IMMEDIATELY. Forum members cannot diagnose over the internet and any delay in treatment could prove dangerous for your pet. Any lumps or bumps found should be checked out as soon as possible and hedgies are prone to cancerous tumours.

What to do if your hedgie is sick:
Make a vets appointment for as early as possible – this is vital to prevent worsening of symptoms.
Ensure your hedgehog is kept warm as when they are ill they often need more warmth. Have a heating pad on hand in case it is needed, such as a covered hot water bottle or a snugglesafe disc, and which can be used in the car journey to the vets also.

Common Ailments/Illnesses


Obesity – A hedgehog should be pear shaped when viewed from above and able to curl into a tight ball – round shaped hedgies who are unable to curl tightly and have obvious excesses of folds around their necks etc are as at risk as humans and other obese animals!

Dry skin and/or quill loss – commonly associated with quilling, mites or fungal skin infections. Quilling is perfectly healthy and all hedgies do it. They basically are shedding baby quills and getting adult ones. It occurs at around 6 weeks, 8 weeks and 12 week points – hedgies will naturally drop quills throughout their lifetime also. If there is a root ball attached to the quill then it is generally quilling. Quilling will not cause bald spots and this is indicative of mites or a fungal skin infections. Quilling and bathing will be discussed further on also.

Fungal Skin Infections – can result in skin irritation and quill loss – will require vet care

Mites – cause dry and itchy, flaky skin and quill loss – look like little moving white dots. If you place your hedgie on a piece of dark material and brush your hand over them and examine the bits that fall off if they move they are mites!! Forum members have used stronghold drops, frontline spray and xeno 50 mini drops and there are numerous threads on these items. If in any doubt please seek vetinary treatment.

Worms – Faecal testing by a vet can diagnose the presence of worms and will recommend treatment

Abscesses – will require a vet’s visit for antibiotics and possible further intervention. Can be recurrent

Ingrowing Quills – again will require vetinary attention for safe removal and possible antibiotics. Can be recurrent

Small scrapes and Cuts – usually best left alone as long as the area is clean and free from infection. It is common for hedgies to split the area between their toes, esp. when young, whilst wheeling and this usually heals without intervention. Any sign of infection (redness, inflammation, seeping areas) will require vets care.

Sneezing – Can be an irritation caused by dusty bedding. If it’s just sneezing place your hedgie onto fleece liners for 24 hours to see if it helps – any other signs including lethargy, loss of appetite, runny nose accompanying sneezing should not be left and treated by a vet immediately as it is indicative of an upper respiratory tract infection which is serious to hedgies. It is not uncommon for a hedgie to sneeze from time to time whilst taking a drink or clearing their nostrils.

Poop - Normal hedgie poop is brown, usually dark brown and is about the size and texture of toothpaste although not quite as sticky. Depending on what food the hedgehog is eating the shade can vary from medium to dark brown. Often once dried, it looks almost black. Stress in moving or sudden changes in diet or too much wet cat food can cause loose, overly offensive or greeny tinged stools. Diarrhoea is always a concern and can be life threatening very quickly. Diarrhoea causes dehydration. To check to see if your hedgehog is becoming dehydrated, lightly pinch some skin and hold it a few seconds. When you let go, it should immediately pop back to normal. If it doesn't the hedgehog is dehydrated and needs fluids now. You can carefully syringe him/her some water. Vetinary care needs to be sought if the diarrhoea continues for more than a day. Ongoing green, slimy poops accompanied by lethargy and loss of appetite can indicate a gut infection and vet care should be sought asap as should any poop showing blood (can show as bright red streaks or black, tarry type poops)

Teeth – Hedgehogs teeth do not grow continually throughout their life time – once they lose or break a tooth then the tooth is gone for good. Cat biscuits in the diet help to keep the teeth free from plaque. Any bleeding from the mouth or lumps around the mouth area should be checked out as teeth can cause numerous problems.

Choking – commonly caused by food getting stuck in the roof of the mouth whereby the will gag and sometimes vomited and hyper salivate to remove the item. Most of the time they will remove it themselves failing that you can help remove the item by using a tip of a small syringe or cotton bud flicking it forward and taking care not to push it down the hedgies throat. Using appropriate sized cat biscuits and avoiding nuts and seeds can help avoid this as prevention is much better than cure.

Weight loss – continual and gradual weight loss should always be checked out by a vet. Hedgies naturally differ from day to day as to whether they have done a big poo or not, adding in higher fat cat biscuits (around the 15% mark) can help especially if your hedgie is particularly active.

Ringworm – uncommon. This is a fungal infection that will cause itchy red rings in humans which needs antifungal treatment. Vet care needed – vets can do skin scrapes or use an ultra violet light to diagnose.

Inner Ear Infections – can result in WHS type symptoms such as wobbliness and head tilting and can be accompanied by discharge from the ears – requires quick vetinary attention.

Upper Respiratory Infections – sneezing, runny nose and/or eyes, raspy or laboured breathing or panting – urgent vet treatment needed – can quickly result in pneumonia which can be fatal.

Lumps – Hedgies are prone to cancerous tumours and any unusual lumps and bumps must be checked out as soon as possible as problems tend to escalate and spread quickly in small animals

Fatty Liver Disease - caused by obesity or too much fat in the diet - shows itself by a yellowing of the abdominal skin (not to be confused with just yellowing of the belly fur which can be caused by urine stains) - requires vet treatment.

WHS (Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome) – This is a progressive, degenerative, neurological disease, the cause of which is still uncertain. There are no known cures, and may have a rapid onset, though more often the onset is gradual. The hind legs are often affected first, and then the paralysis spreads to the front legs and other parts of the body. Sometimes the paralysis affects one side of the body, and your hedgehog will begin tipping over and unable to stay upright. In most cases symptoms occur between the ages of 18 and 24 months, although this disease has also been known to strike both younger and older hedgehogs. Hedgehogs with WHS will often experience weight loss, due in part to their inability to get to their food dishes and in the advance stages of this disease, they become completely immobilized. WHS can only be diagnose by autopsy and there are a small handful of proven cases in the UK at this present time so please be aware of who you are buying from!!


Toxic Items - Tea Tree oil is highly toxic to APH and so are certain medications and treatment hence the importance o finding a vet who is confident and knowledgeable in treating our spiky little friends.
Anaesthesia – As with most small animal’s anaesthesia is quite risky in APH and should only be used in much needed circumstances such as necessary surgical procedures.

Left the biggie until last as this is the one most people worry about:


Hibernation


APH should NOT be allowed to attempt hibernation – it will prove fatal to them!! To prevent this they should be kept within an ambient air temperature range of a minimum of 18 degrees centigrade and maximum of 28 degrees centigrade, the average being between 21C – 24C. For some hedgies 20-21c is still too cold and will still attempt to hibernate - get to know your hedgehog and what temperature range is comfortable for them. Sudden drops in temperature can trigger hibernation attempts so try to keep a consistent temperature.

If your hedgie does attempt to hibernate:

*WARM THEM UP IMMEDIATELY! * You can do this by putting them on a heat mat, covered hot water bottle, under your clothes to let your body heat warm them, a snugglesafe disc – NEVER put them in warm water. Do not leave your hedgie unattended and once they start to relax and unball then help spread them out onto their bellies on the heating source (watch also that it does not get too hot and burn them) to help the warming up process If there is no response within approx 60 minutes of warming, he needs to see a vet immediately.

Once a hedgehog has attempted hibernation there is a good chance they will try again and therefore the cage environment needs to be kept warmer and care must be taken to ensure he does not get cool again. Each hibernation attempt lowers the hedgehog immune system which leaves them at risk for illness.

Signs of Hibernation:

-A cool belly

-Unable to stand or hold up head

-Wobbliness

-Slowed reactions

-Lethargy, not eating as much, not as active as they once were. These may be signs that the temperature is too cool for them to function normally, but not cool enough to induce hibernation. Raise the temp’s!!.

-Curled into a ball- and unable to uncurl

General monitoring and maintenance:
It is recommended to check your hedgie over when you get them out each night – check their feet, eyes, ears and ‘naughty bits’ All areas should be injury free with an absence of blood and swellings. Weigh once a week and record so you get a general average of what your hedgie weighs.

Quilling and bathing:
Quilling is something that cannot be avoided. It is basically shedding their baby quills to grow their adult ones and can be quite uncomfortable for them resulting in a bit of a personality change during the quilling process. Some hedgies sail through quilling whereby others find it a lot more difficult – it is important to note that handling should continue as per normal throughout this process. Hedgies can take from a few days to a few months to finish quilling and during this time you will see numerous quills in their cage area which need to be removed. Quilling can cause dry and irritated skin which can be alleviated by giving them an oatmeal bath. This can be done by either running some porridge oats in a pair of tights through some warm water until the water goes cloudy or using aveeno oil or a few drops of baby oil in the water. Bathing strips the natural oils in the skin and can exacerbate dry skin so therefore it should be done once and then repeated a week later if problems are persistent. The use of pure Vitamin E oil can be used for one off applications to aid try dry skin also – overuse of this method can suffocate the skin.

Bathing in general:
Hedgies don’t need baths very often, but do get dirty feet from running on their wheel therefore a foot bath is better than a whole bath. To give a foot bath, simply run an inch or 2 of warm (not hot) water in the sink or tub, and let hedgie walk around. This will loosen and wash off the residue.

To give a full bath, fill the sink, bath or tub with warm water with added aveeno oil or suitable product to about belly level, so they can wade but do not have to swim. Gently pour the water over the hedgie avoiding their eyes and ears. A soft toothbrush can be used to rub the spines to remove any stubborn stains. Some people place a flannel or similar on the bottom to give the hedgie something to grip onto. Ensure that the bathroom is kept warm and draught and it is important to completely dry the hedgie, particularly in their arm pits to prevent sores from developing. Ensure your hedgie is kept warm for a period of tie afterwards – a bit of snuggle time works wonders!!
Some hedgies really dislike baths and others are far more comfortable with it. If your hedgie is distressed then keep bathing times to a minimum and only as necessary – why stress out your little critter more than you have to!! Never leave a hedgie unsupervised in water – even for a moment!!!

Nail cutting:
Nail trimming can be a challenge and unfortunately one that we cannot get away from! If you have a super chilled hedgie, you should be able to simply grab each foot and cut the nails. This can be done when hedgie is on his back, standing, however you find comfortable. Many hedgies don’t like nail-trimming time, and will ball up. The best thing to try is to give his a warm bath, because they can’t ball up in water and it also softens the nail making it easier to trim. You should be able to hold each foot and trim from there. Other methods include holding the hedgie in your hand and letting a foot drop between your fingers and you can quickly clip away or if they sprawl out on you and start to snooze off and don’t mind you touching their feet to trim one here and there. If you can’t finish all the nails in one go, particularly if your hedgie is getting upset, its best to leave it for that night and try again another time. Hedgies nails are generally quite soft and easy to cut but like other animals you need to avoid the quick which you should be able to see as a small pink line within the nail and you should aim to cut just under this line. You can use small human clippers, baby scissors, nail scissors or small pet clippers to cut your hedgies nails – whichever you feel most comfortable in handling and using.


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