Posted: December 27, 2011, 5 a.m. EST
Q: We purchased a 4-month-old, male hedgehog approximately two weeks ago. His habitat is currently a glass aquarium with a red bulb heat lamp. He has recycled paper bedding and he eats hedgehog pellets. His habitat includes an exercise wheel and a small igloo to hide in. Our question is related to his chin/neck area. Because he continues to ball up, we can't quite see clearly, however, it appears that he has a scab that is growing. It almost looks as if a piece of the litter is stuck to his neck at the folds of skin. Is this a result of mites? Allergy? What should we change? What should we do?
A: Sadly, whenever veterinarians hear of a growing mass on a hedgehog, the usual worry is about cancer, because this disease is so common in pet hedgehogs. But your hedgehog is only 4 months old and, therefore, the mass is unlikely to be cancer. It is more probable that this condition is what you suggested — a scab, an infection, a piece of material that is causing an irritation and/or infection or even a reaction to mites.
In other pets, you might be able to investigate this for yourself and gently clean the area. But with hedgehogs, if they feel threatened, they will not allow you to look at their body and quickly roll up into a ball. In these cases, your best answer is to go to your veterinarian. If your hedgehog is so inclined to “ball up” in the hospital, your veterinarian can use a small amount of sedation to get a better look at the area.
What you describe sounds like a minor problem, but it should be investigated as soon as possible to keep this from becoming a serious infection or a skin irritation that causes discomfort and pain to your hedgehog.
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