Bacteria and viruses

A bacterium is a single-celled organism that can spread very quickly, because a bacterium can split itself in two and thus continue to live as two organisms. not all bacteria are bad: for example, there are bacteria in the intestines that help to digest food.

A virus is much smaller than a bacterium: a virus is a piece of genetic material surrounded by proteins. Viruses settle in body cells and process them until the body cells start making virus proteins themselves. The body cell itself dies, while the virus can multiply itself quickly in this way.

Weil's disease

Weil's disease can be contracted by all mammals. It is caused by the bacteria Leptospirosa spp. and is transmitted by the brown rat. They do not become ill themselves, but spread the bacteria through their urine. The symptoms differ according to how different organs are affected after an infection:

  • Lethargy
  • Little food
  • Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
  • Diarrhea (sometimes with blood)
  • Jaundice after liver inflammation
  • A fever
  • Neurological abnormalities
  • Mucous membrane damage in the mouth, eyes and genitals

  • Due to the often insignificant symptoms, making a diagnosis is very difficult. Blood tests by a veterinarian can clarify this. Treatment consists of administering antibiotics, a fluid infusion and medication against diarrhea and vomiting.

Uterine infection

Uterine infections can be caused by bacteria such as Escherichia coli, streptococci, staphylococci or Proteus sp. Female hedgehogs from 6 months in particular belong to the risk group. The following symptoms are visible with a uterine infection:

  • Lethargy
  • Bad or no food
  • Weight loss
  • Sometimes a blue glow in the abdomen
  • Sometimes bleeding from the vulva
  • Urine mixed with blood

Hedgehogs can be castrated preventively, but this procedure can be risky and is not recommended as standard. However, after a previous uterine infection, this may be a wise choice. A treatment of uterine inflammation can be done with an antibiotic cure if detected early. However, sometimes removal of the uterus and ovaries is necessary.

Salmonella

Salmonella can be contracted by many mammals. Hedgehogs are usually asymptomatic carriers: they usually do not become ill. They can transfer the bacteria to humans and that is why good hygiene is very important when handling a hedgehog. Wash your hands after every time you handle a hedgehog and avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands. Keep the enclosures clean and make sure that hedgehog faeces cannot come close to food that you intend to eat yourself: so also keep the counter clean if you want to wash a hedgehog in the sink.
Treating a hedgehog that carries the bacteria is often unsuccessful and can lead to resistance of the bacteria to medical agents and is therefore not recommended.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a well-known health problem caused by bacteria and can occur in any animal. Due to a weakened resistance due to stress or previous illness, the animal can contract a bacteria that causes diarrhoea. As a result, the animal loses a lot of moisture, can lose a lot of weight and therefore become even weaker and sicker.
After 48 hours, diarrhea should normally be gone. If not, a vet may recommend a course of antibiotics. Often this is sufficient, sometimes a fluid infusion is necessary to prevent the animal from drying out.

Corona virus

The Coronavirus has kept us busy since 2019 and the question arises whether hedgehogs can also get Corona. This is not an easy answer to give: there are many types of Coronaviruses.
Hedgehogs can get 'Hedgehog corona': a betacoronovirus from the subgenus Merbecovirus. They have so far only been found in wild European hedgehogs in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Italy. Although the virus is a zoonosis, it does not pose a direct risk to humans.
There is no link between hedgehogs and the Covid-19 virus.

Adeno virus

The first known outbreaks of Adenovirus 1 in exotic hedgehogs occurred in Japan and the United States. The Adenovirus 1 causes a viral respiratory infection with the following symptoms:

  • Snot/moisture from the nose
  • Rattle
  • Excessive sniffing
  • To sneeze
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing

There is as yet no known treatment against Adenovirus 1 in hedgehogs.

Herpes virus

Herpes occurs in many mammals and can also occur in hedgehogs. The most affected place is the liver: it can become very inflamed and eventually die. Acute uncoordinated muscle spasms can also occur. Unfortunately, there is no known treatment for the Herpes virus, but it is known that hedgehogs can transmit the virus to humans and humans can also transmit it to hedgehogs.

Retroviral infections

Sarcomas (tumors in the soft tissues of the body) are very common in hedgehogs. These can be caused by retroviruses: viruses that store hereditary material in the form of RNA. During an infection, the genetic material stored in the RNA is copied to the DNA. For this, the virus needs some kind of enzyme, because the host cell is not capable of making the conversion of RNA into DNA. If this process is successful, the cell can now make its own virus proteins and infect other cells, causing tumours. The sarcomas can appear anywhere in the body: visible under the skin or in the body.

FMD virus

Wild African hedgehogs are very susceptible to the FMD virus that causes foot and mouth disease. Importing African hedgehogs into the United States was therefore banned by the USDA in 1991 to prevent the introduction of the disease. In the Netherlands, the disease has been very active in cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Hedgehogs can develop fluid-filled blisters on the tongue, snout, and paws. To prevent an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, it is better to avoid importing wild-caught hedgehogs.