Posted: August 27, 2012, 4 a.m. EDT
Hedgehogs need a clean environment to stay healthy. Long-term exposure to urine-soaked bedding can damage the skin on a hedgehog's feet.
Q: My new hedgehog that I rescued this past week seems to be having some foot problems. He originally lived in some type of wood shavings that seemed to make the skin on his feet come off. I gave him a bath when I brought him home, because he was covered in his own poop. When I gently dried off his feet, the skin came off like he was burned or had blisters of some sort. Now, his front left paw lost three toenails. I have been keeping him in a cage with blankets to let his feet heal, and then I was going to transition him to his new cage with no wood shavings. He is eating, drinking and seems to like walking around, but I can tell his front paw especially is sensitive. Is this an emergency? I have only had him for five days, and he seemed to be fine when I first adopted him. It was not until I gave him a bath that his feet became skinless and inflamed. I honestly did not expect for him to possibly need a vet so soon. What should I do?
A: That was great that you were able to rescue this hedgehog. It sounds like he would have been in extreme pain and died without your help.
What you describe sounds very painful and is likely the result of either a burn or chemical exposure to the feet. Just standing in urine-soaked litter for a length of time can cause what you are seeing. It sounds like the skin was so damaged that it “died off,” and when you gave a bath and cleaned this little guy, it became apparent that dead and damaged layers of skin were covering his feet.
Is this an emergency? Only you can tell that, but it is a very painful condition and if underlying tissue is exposed, these areas can easily become infected.
I am sorry that a pet you rescued may need extensive care but it sounds like this little guy was neglected much more than you had suspected. The good news is, skin heals quickly in cases like this and with some good pain relief and placing barriers to infection, you can make this hedgehog as good as new in no time.
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