To properly monitor the health of a hedgehog and to be able to intervene quickly when the hedgehog becomes ill, a daily health check is necessary. It doesn’t have to take that long at all and is not difficult at all, you often even do this automatically while handling the hedgehog. Yet we explain it to you step by step, so that you can certainly not forget to do it!
A healthy skin is supple and without flakes and wounds. Dry skin appears somewhat whitish and often has some flakes. Wounds can be the result of parasites or accidents. For example, flakes in combination with wounds can be an indication of a mite infestation. A blue or red glow in the abdomen may indicate an internal infection.
The fur and quills
The fur of a hedgehog can be seen on the belly, the head and parts of the legs. The hairs are replaced regularly, but there should be no bald spots. The same goes for the quills of a hedgehog. Although young hedgehogs have quilling phases where they temporarily lose old and grow new quills, an adult hedgehog also lose and regrow quills for the rest of its life. Damaged hairs and quills can mean a lack of nutrients or excessive stress. Extreme loss of hairs and quills often indicates fungi or infections, but can also indicate hormonal imbalances and other health concerns.
Hedgehogs are very dependent on their hearing, as they do not have a very clear vision. The ears are therefore quite important that they function properly and are healthy. So they must be clean and dry. Yellow bulges can be accumulations of dead skin flakes, but can also be the result of fungi. Wounds on the ears in combination with flakes are often an indication of mites. But, for example, a crooked head with one ear hanging down is often an indication of ear infection or neurological problems.
Hedgehogs have poor vision and their eyes are naturally quite bulging because the eye sockets are not very deep. The eyes of a hedgehog are therefore very sensitive to damage and also to blindness. So the eyes should be clear and clean. Many hedgehogs have a visible light blue border at the eyes, this is the 'sclera': the white of a hedgehog's eye. Yellow mucus near the eyes may indicate inflammation of the eyes. A pink piece of 'flesh', often near the outer corners of the eyes, indicates eye fat. This can be a result of being overweight, but this does not always have to be the case. Hedgehogs' eyes can also fall out, in this case it is important to call the vet immediately for an emergency appointment, they can safely reposition or remove the eye and close the eye socket.
Hedgehogs have little vision and are therefore extra dependent on the ears and nose. They smell exceptionally good! The skin of the nose may therefore be slightly moist and smooth. A dry nose can mean that the hedgehog is dehydrated. A mucous nose can indicate an infection or lungworm infestation. The latter also applies to a hedgehog with a 'rattling breath' as if they have a cold. This could indicate a respiratory infection or lungworm.
The teeth of hedgehogs are very sensitive, especially because no specific food has been developed for hedgehogs in captivity. Chunks of cat food are often too large to keep the teeth clean, which is why gum disease is common and teeth fall out prematurely. It is therefore very good to check the health of the teeth regularly and to call in a veterinarian if necessary.
Because hedgehogs run a lot in their running wheel and also let their faeces run there, the legs are also important to check well. Hedgehogs hardly make calluses, so the legs should be soft and the pads should be a nice pink or gray, depending on the color of the hedgehog. Yellow, hard cushions are often a sign of urine burns and unfortunately a common problem with running wheels that are not cleaned regularly and "poop boots" washed in a timely manner. Wounds can be an indication of too hard ground cover on an unsuitable running wheel. The paws have good blood supply, which makes it easy for infections to arise, good treatment of paws with wounds or urine burns is very important. In case of urine burns, washing the paws regularly and rubbing the paws after washing is very important. Use a nourishing cream or ointment, such as 'Vetramil honey ointment'.
A hedgehog's anus and vulva or penis are sensitive parts of the body, especially when the animals are being bred. But even as pets, these body parts are often forgotten when checking. Ground cover can get in, which can cause infections. But the hedgehog can, for example, also suffer from an anal prolapse or the hedgehog can bleed from the vulva or penile shaft. In these last three cases, veterinary assistance is always necessary. A prolapse cannot simply be pushed back into the body without further treatment and bleeding from the body is often an indication of complicated health problems. The genitals should therefore always be clean and dry. In a male hedgehog, dried sperm can hang on the abdomen, they are often visibly more active masturbating. You can soak this sperm with lukewarm water and remove it with a cotton swab.
The tail is also often forgotten because it is so small. Yet it is important to include the tail in the daily health check. Because the tail is close to the anus, it is possible for stool to stick to the tail and irritate it. The same goes for urine when the hedgehog runs on the running wheel. The tail can become quite red and in an advanced state it can even lead to an open wound from urine burns. This will need to be treated by a vet, so always pay close attention to this!