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Hedgehogs can make great pets but know that they are nocturnal creatures that sleep during most of the day and are active at night. Most people who decide upon a hedgehog as a pet look for the African pygmy hedgehog, which is considered to be the species most suited to domesticity.
However, what most individuals do not realize before getting a hedgehog is that these cute little animals are actually prone to an illness known as wobbly hedgehog syndrome, or WHS. It is a terminal disease that leads to almost complete paralysis as it progresses. Therefore, it is important to be alert to the signs of WHS but equally important is knowing what the signs of a healthy hedgehog are.
How to Know if Your Hedgehog is Healthy
Hedgehogs are alert and mobile when awake. They should be responsive and bright and will spend their waking hours walking about their enclosure and sniffing at various objects.
A healthy hedgehog will have clear bright eyes that are wide open. The eyes should not be watery or have any discharge. A hedgehog’s nose will be moist but clean; again, there should be no discharge.
A healthy hedgehog walking about should have its stomachs off the ground. You will also be able to tell if a hedgehog is healthy from its appetite and the fact that it is pooping and peeing a lot.
How Often Do Hedgehogs Poop and Pee?
New hedgehog owners are often surprised at quite how often their hedgehog poops. It is a lot! Young hedgehogs will poop while they are walking about and may even poop and pee while playing about or running on their wheel. As they get older though, it becomes easier to train them to poop and pee in specific areas, which will make life easier for you.
Why is My Hedgehog Pooping So Much?
Due to their high metabolism, hedgehogs need to poop very often. But also note that, because they are prey animals, hedgehogs can scare quite easily, meaning they can literally poop themselves out of fear. Indeed, they often poop when taken out of their enclosures due to an initial fear.
As you might imagine then, hedgehogs can be quite smelly as poop often gets stuck in their spines. It is therefore important to ensure you clean yours every day. Hedgehog enclosures need to be cleaned out every day as well to remove the feces and pee. Hedgehogs themselves should be given a warm bath (in water without any soap as soap can cause their skin to become quite dry).
Although it can be frustrating seeing how much poop a young hedgehog does every day, it is a sign of good health.
Signs of a Sick Hedgehog
Sick hedgehogs often lose their appetite as a first symptom of illness. This means that they will also not be pooping as much, so it is important to be alert to any such changes.
Sick hedgehogs can also become lethargic and will not be moving about much. You might notice this in the morning when you peep into their enclosure and see that furnishings or other items have not been moved about in the way they usually are.
If you notice other signs in addition to weight loss, loss of appetite, and reduced poop, then it is almost a sure indication that your hedgehog is not very well. Panting, mucus around the eyes and nose, lethargy, labored breathing, and a dull expression can all be signs that something is not right. At times like this, visit a vet. He or she can examine the hedgehog to diagnose any illness. It could be an infection, in which case treatment can be prescribed. Nevertheless, it might be that your hedgehog has WHS. If this is the case, the vet will discuss ways in which you can make your hedgehog more comfortable as there is no treatment or cure for this illness.
- Featured Image (North African Hedgehog): Conselleria de Medi Ambient i Mobilitat, Govern des Illes Balears – CC BY-SA 3.0
- Four-Toed Hedgehog: Pueri Michał Klimont – CC BY-SA 3.0
- Indian Long-Eared Hedgehog: Kamal Yadav – https://www.projectnoah.org/spottings/26706044
- Long-Eared Hedgehog: I.V. Korneev, Leningrad Zoo