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Hedgehog Mite And Dietary Issues

What can be done to help two hedgehogs, both possibly suffering from mites and one with dietary issues?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, DABVP
Posted: March 27, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

Q: My son and I recently purchased two hedgehogs for pets. Since bringing them home, we have noticed a few things we aren't sure is quite good. First, my son's little boy has a real problem with dandruff and flaky, dry-looking skin. He also is quite overweight and has some kind of growths on his lower eyelids (not sure if they have eyelids, but these growths are at the lower part of the eyes). He and my little girl were both at a vet last week and put on Revolution mite medication, because the vet thought they both had mites. My little girl had a bloody ear and was scratching constantly. She seems to be getting better, but she is not eating her food and will not eat unless it is cooked, boneless chicken or beef baby food.

We were told to keep them both on what the breeder fed them, which was a specific brand of cat food. Dante (the little boy) eats his food with no problems, but Sophie hasn't touched it since moving here. I do cook for her, including carrots, peas and chicken. I also give her cottage cheese, but she doesn't like it and doesn't like yogurt either; she only eats the meats and veggies. Oh, and she loves apples cut up real tiny. Anyway, I hope you can give me advice. I am worried Dante has something wrong with his skin and eyes and Sophie is not getting the right diet. I would appreciate any help you can give us. We both have grown attached to these little hedgies and would hate to take them back to the breeder to exchange.
A: It does seem that there are two different problems here. First, mites are very common in hedgehogs. Mites can cause both skin and ear disease. It is important that all hedgehogs be treated even if there is only evidence of mites on one hedgehog. It may take days to a couple of weeks for the mites to disappear even when the proper treatment is used.

The gastrointestinal problems are a little bit more concerning. There are now some excellent commercial diets for hedgehogs available. And although homemade diets may have some wonderful merits, one needs to be very careful when using homemade diets, as they may be deficient in essential vitamins and minerals.

For your female hedgehog that is not eating, a visit back to the veterinarian would be the first thing to do; explain what you have been trying to feed and what she is not eating. A physical examination along with a microscopic examination of her stool will help to determine what could be the problem. There are various medications that we use to treat gastrointestinal disease in hedgehogs and your doctor will be able to better direct treatment once he or she knows exactly what is causing the problem.

See all of Dr. Rosenthal's Critter Q&A articles>>

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Reader Comments
My hedgehog definitely had mites (flaky skin, large patches of quills falling off, constantly itching) and thought i might share what worked for us as it was not my first and favorite idea to take her to the vet and use the Revolution wash on her. I thoroughly cleaned her cage and lined it with towels. I moved her cage to a warmer room with more privacy. I washed her in a warm bath mixed with apple cider vinegar and massaged her skin with coconut oil (one time). It has been well over two months now and all I have been doing is cleaning her cage every 3 or 4 days and relining it with a new towel and not only has she stopped itching and her skin is not flaky but her quills are coming back!
Tracy, Minneapolis, MN
Posted: 4/4/2013 10:22:41 PM
Hello, I'm Kelly from Hamor Hollow Hedgehogs in Pelham, NH. Revolution is excellent for mites and will take care of the issue pretty quickly, if the hedgehog has mites. Do not bathe. Over bathing is a common mistake and causes dry flakey skin. Hedgehogs do not have scent glands, have no smell of their own, and as long as their cages are clean they really don't need baths.

As far as diet, stay away from the commercial hedgehog foods. The original 'Hedgehog Foods' were developed as a snack for the European hedgehog in order to attract them to your garden so they would eat the pests damaging your vegetables. Subsequent foods have been based on the originals and the quality has not improved enough to sustain your hedgehog. Stick to whatever cat food your breeder has been using.
As far as your hedgehog not eating, here's the deal: Hedgehogs have very small stomachs, so sometimes it can be tough to tell if they are eating. Add to that the fact that many hedgehogs won't eat much or anything the first few days they go to a new home. Many owners get worried that their hedgehog isn't eating and they start to offer other options: usually fresh foods. These fresh foods smell and taste better then the cat food your hedgehog should be eating, so you hedgehog isn't going to eat the cat food if it thinks it has a tastier option. Stop offering the other foods and your hedgehog will be forced to go back to eating her cat food. Hedgehogs aren't dumb, they won't starve.

Kelly, Pelham, NH
Posted: 3/28/2011 1:44:07 PM
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