Parasites are organisms that maintain and multiply at the expense of the animal they live on or in. They are divided into two groups of parasites: ecoparasites that live on the hedgehog’s skin and endoparasites that live inside the hedgehog.
Pathogens and causes
Because the different parasites each have their own symptoms and causes, the most common parasitic infections are listed and discussed below. When in doubt, it is of course always best to consult a vet.
Ear mites can occur in all animal species, including hedgehogs. Ear mites are parasites that feed on skin flakes. Most mites are host-specific, meaning that a given mite infects only one animal species. Animals that have ear mites are contagious to other animals and can transmit ear mites through physical contact. Symptoms of ear mites are:
- Black-brown, granular earwax
- Inflammation of the ear canal
- Wounds on the head and ear base
Ear mites can be treated with an anti-parasitic agent recommended by a veterinarian.
Scabies mite, like ear mites, can occur in almost all mammals. Like ear mites, scabies mite is host-specific, which means that a certain mite can only survive for a long time on one animal species. Animals that have mange mite are contagious to other animals and can transmit mange mite through physical contact. Scabies mite lives in the skin and is therefore sometimes difficult to diagnose. Diagnosis is made by skin scraping. Scabies mite symptoms are:
- Intense itching
- Shortest and wounds, starting around the head
- Skin inflammations
- Weakness and weight loss
Scabies mite can be treated with an injection by the vet (ivomectin) or with pipettes in the neck (selamectin).
Lice can occur in all animal species. The nits (eggs) of the louse are easier to see than the lice, because they are larger. The nits are stuck to the hairs. Lice are mainly visible on the head, shoulders, back and abdomen of the animals. Lice are stinging animals and can transmit diseases. Symptoms of a louse infestation are:
- Slight itching in case of severe infection
Lice can be treated with anti-parasitic agents applied to the skin (selamectin) or a subcutaneous injection by a vet (often ivermectin)
Intestinal coccidiosis can occur in all mammals. It is caused by the Eimeria ciccidia: a single-celled intestinal parasite. There are 8 pathogenic species that can spread through manure. Cocciciosis is very contagious and when stressed it spreads even more easily, because animals then become weaker and relieve more. Symptoms of intestinal coccidiosis vary by species, but the following may occur:
- Mild diarrhea (watery, foul-smelling diarrhea with bits of stool and sometimes blood in severe cases)
- Dirty anus and hindquarters
- No appetite
- Weight loss
- Dull, open coat
- Grind your teeth
Intestinal coccidiosis can be prevented by good hygiene and avoidance of stress. Treatments consist of isolating the animal to prevent spreading, daily cleaning of the isolation accommodation, possibly force-feeding and administering fluids in the event of serious weakening of the here, a possible course of antibiotics and treating for three days with an anti-coccidial agent via the drinking water ( Baytrox, Toltrazuril, ESB3). This 3-day cure is repeated again after 14 days and the animal may not return to its own enclosure until it has fully healed and has reached strength.
E-Cuniculi occurs in hedgehogs, but also in rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, cats and humans. It is caused by Encephalitozoon cuniculi: a single-celled parasite. Animals are often already carriers of the parasite and the infection only becomes noticeable when resistance is reduced (e.g. stress). It can spread through faeces and urine or through the uterus from mother to young. Young hedgehogs, older hedgehogs and stressed hedgehogs in particular have a higher risk of disease. The symptoms can be very diverse:
- Spinning tops
- The back and forth movement of the eyeballs
- Waving the head
- Seizures similar to epilepsy
- Pulling or dragging with hind legs
- Paralysis of the hindquarters
- Falling over
- Uncontrolled movements
- Urinary burn: leaking urine over the hind legs and abdominal wall
- Kidney inflammation: excessive urination and drinking
- Lens discoloration (including cataracts)
- Cloudy thickening in the eye
- Losing weight without a clear indication
E-Cuniculi can be prevented by not letting the hedgehog eat green food where wild rabbits or rodents live (city parks, meadows, etc.), regularly disinfecting food and water bowls and housing animals separately from each other to prevent spread. It can only be treated by an experienced veterinarian due to the length, intensity and complexity of the treatment. Long-term treatment with Fenbendazole in combination with antibiotics, vitamin B injections and corticosteroids. Increasing the temperature in the enclosure to 27-28 degrees Celsius promotes the healing process.
Worm infestations occur in all animals and can be caused by many different species. In general, a worm infestation is caused by poor hygiene, feeding contaminated raw meat, feeding unwashed fruit/vegetables or feeding live insects/prey animals. How a worm infestation spreads depends on the species. Younger animals, older animals and stressed animals in particular have a greater risk of becoming seriously ill. Even healthy animals can become seriously ill without timely intervention. The symptoms vary by species.
- Stomach ache
- chest tightness
- Intestinal blockage
- Hard stomach
- Weight loss
- Visible worms or eggs in stool
- Persistent rattle in the nose
- Throwing up
- Difficulty eating
- Weight loss
- Labored breathing
- Anemia (light gum color is an indication)
Worms can be prevented by only feeding raw meat intended to be eaten raw (KVV, BARF) and pre-cooking everything else. CDV and BARF can be pre-frozen to kill eggs. Fruit and vegetables must be washed beforehand. Only feed insects and prey if they have been bred in captivity (do not feed wild animals, they may be carriers). And always maintain good hygiene. Treatment against becoming highly dependent on the species of worm. Roundworms can be treated with selamectin applied to the skin (pipette). Lungworm and heartworm should be treated by an experienced veterinarian.