We recommend a health check shortly after bringing your new pet home.
Bring in details of all foods and any supplements or medicines you may be using and collect samples of urine and faeces from that morning if you can. Take videos of any behaviours that you are worried about or confused by.
Isolate from the rest of your animal family at home (that means do not introduce or let them play together) until after the first check up and the vet has assessed the pet as being healthy.
If you do wish to introduce then please ask us how and when this should be done.
At the ‘Health Check’ we will perform a full physical examination. We will be assessing your new pet’s overall condition, the muscle and fat levels, hydration and checking for anaemia.
We will be paying particular attention for parasites & for signs of any infectious diseases.
We will be focus on the diet, whether is it appropriate and the amounts suitable.
Once we have examined your pet hopefully we will have found nothing seriously wrong, and we will then make whatever recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and care of the pet. If there is time we will talk to you about handling and training as this is the right age to be teaching your pet !
Once your new pet is settled in and any health problems have been solved, then we recommend a yearly general health check.
Please ensure you know the brands of foods your pet is on, and any supplements or long term medications.
Bring urine and faeces from that morning if you can. We would also like to see a photo of the cage set up.
At this check we will assess body condition, muscle and fat levels, hydration and check for anaemia. We will check the eyes, ears and perform a dental examination. We will feel the lymph nodes, palpate the abdomen for any abnormalities and listen to the heart and lungs.
We will search for parasites, and examine the skin, and look for any pressure sores or ‘sore hocks’ on the feet and also assess the nail length.
Once we have examined your pet hopefully we will have found nothing seriously wrong, and we will then make whatever recommendations we think are necessary for the diet and care of your pet.
If our vet does find anything that concerns them they may recommend a general anaesthetic so they can perform radiographs and blood test to help identify any internal problems.
Hedgehogs are quite difficult to examine fully when they are awake !
By the time your Hedgehog reaches four years old we would class them as ‘geriatric’. Hedgehogs are prone to developing a few different types of cancers so our vets always like to try and detect these as early as possible in order for them to be able to help your pet.
At this time depending on your Hedgehogs general condition we may recommend a health check every 6 months.
Hedgehogs need a diet with a high protein, high fiber and relatively high fat content therefore we recommend that you feed a suitable commercial diet which is either Mazuri Insectivore Diet- 5MK8, or a high quality adult cat food to replace the insect and meat part of their diet.
This should be offered with a mix of chopped fruit and vegetables (dark leafy greens e.g. spinach, kale, lettuce, carrots, apple, banana, raisins, frozen vegetables). Hedgehogs will often prefer the high protein foods to the vegetables !
Always make sure all fruit and vegetables are fresh and wash thoroughly first before feeding.
The insectivore (or cat food) part of the diet with the fruit and vegetables should generally be offered just once per day, preferably in the evening, as this is when hedgehogs are most active and prefer to eat.
As a treat once or twice a week your hedgehog will enjoy live insects such as crickets, mealworms or earthworms. They get very excited when offered these; however limit their intake to just one or two as they are very high in fat. These are great for encouraging hunting and foraging behaviour in a box or in tunnels.
Dried fruits and snacks containing seeds are not appropriate for Hedgehogs.
Please make sure you do not over feed your hedgehog as it is easy for them to become obese. The amounts of the food offered should be adjusted up or down depending on your hedgehog’s weight.
Water should be available at all times. We advise you provide both a water bottle and a water bowl. Please make the water bowl is heavy as due to their inquisitive nature your hedgehog may tip up a light bowl. We suggest heavy based ceramic bowls which are available in many petshops.
Hedgehogs should ideally be kept individually. Young animals that are raised together may tolerate each other as adults but fighting can be common between males, even if brothers.
Hedgehogs prefer quiet, dim environments and often react with fear to loud noises or bright light. They cannot see very well, as they use hearing and scent in the wild. This means their depth perception is not good and they may run off the end of a table.
They should be kept at a temperature between 22 – 27 degree Celsius, and should be provided with 12 light and 12 hours dark each day.
The MINIMUM cage size MUST be at least size 60 to 100cm long or wide.
This is needed to provide enough space for a litter tray, hide box, plastic wheel and some toys and still leave enough room to move around comfortably. They can be quite dirty little animals (hog means pig ! ) and will often not use a litter tray but poop anywhere in their cage. This is messy in the wheel particularly.
A large plastic/glass aquarium/large rabbit cage with a plastic base works well for hedgehogs. The base must NOT be wire/mesh as wire causes pressure sores and injury to their toes and feet.
A shelter such as a hollow log or box must provided to help reduce stress. A solid walled exercise wheel must be provided to allow them to exercise (it needs to be solid to prevent injury to the foot) and also to help prevent obesity and related disorders such as pododermatitis (foot infections).
Bedding or some type of cage floor covering must be provided to prevent foot problems. This can be recycled newspaper, ‘Carefresh’ paper bedding or a soft bedding such as Vetbed. Do not use wooden cat litter or wood shavings as this can be painful to walk on and irritant.
We do not recommend routine de-sexing for Hedgehogs.
As hedgehogs are usually kept singly it is generally not necessary to perform an elective de-sexing surgery on them.
Female Hedgehogs may need to be de-sexed if our vet diagnoses a health problem such as infection of the uterus or uterine cancer.
If an owner does keep more than one Hedgehog and fighting is a problem we can castrate the males in an attempt to reduce fighting, but a better way to manage the situation would be to separate them and keep them singly.
Please speak to our vets during a consultation if you wish to know more details about de-sexing your Hedgehog.
Dental disease is fairly common in Hedgehogs and just like cats and dogs they are prone to the buildup of plaque and tartar which can cause periodontal disease (infection around the teeth).
It is also possible for your hedgehog to break its teeth and develop abscesses.
If you notice your Hedgehog losing weight, not eating normally, salivating, pawing at the mouth or developing bad breath please bring it in for a consultation.
If our vet suspects your Hedgehogs has a dental problem they will usually recommend that your pet received dental x-rays, a thorough dental exam and teeth cleaning all while under a full general anesthetic.
This is very important as oral cancers are common in Hedgehogs and can look very similar to gum infections. Therefore if regular dental cleaning does not solve the problem the vet would need to take a biopsy and send to an overseas laboratory to confirm a diagnosis.
After performing a dental on your Hedgehog our vet may advise you feed your pet special foods and provide items for chewing to help prevent or delay more plaque or tartar build up.
We have several hospital wards dedicated to our different classes of pets. The wards have been designed by our vets to keep our special animals as relaxed and comfortable as possible during their stay here.
Sick hedgehogs requiring hospitalization are either placed in our ‘Cool Ward’ which is cooled to 22 degrees to keep them comfortable or in our ‘Hot Ward’ which is heated to 28 degrees. Where your hedgehog is placed depends on its medical condition and what environment will be best suited to aid its recovery.
The cats and dogs which are potential predators (and therefore very scary) are kept in separate wards out of the sight and smell of these nervous creatures.
These wards are calm and quiet and most pet hedgehogs settle down quickly.
We have a wide range of diets ( Mazuri Insectivore, mealworms, king worms, crickets and a constant supply of fresh fruit and vegetables) suitable to tempt the appetite, but if you would like to pack a little lunch box of the home foods you are very welcome.
You may also bring in your pet’s own water bottle too.
We have a wonderful nursing staff, all with British and Australian qualifications, who are very experienced with the care and handling of these nervous creatures. This is particularly important when they are not eating and need support fed, as many of our sick patients do.
Parasites on the skin or hair (ectoparasites):
Skin parasites are quite common in Hedgehogs. Some, like fleas and ticks, can easily be seen on the skin between the spines of your hedgehog. Others, like mange mites are tiny and cannot be easily seen.
If you think your animal is too itchy, or has some skin disease then please bring them in for a consultation. Catch a parasite with a piece of sticky tape if you can!
Just like with a cat or dog if your pet is diagnosed with fleas or ticks you will need to treat its environment as well to prevent re-infestation. Our vets will give you advice on how to do this.
If your pet is diagnosed with parasites after treatment we will advise a course of treatments, after this we generally do not recommend any further long term routine preventative treatment.
We do not regularly diagnose worms in pet hedgehogs in Hong Kong, but due to eating insects in their diet there is the potential for them to become infected via their food. At the yearly health check we recommend owners bring in a faecal sample for testing, if any worms are identified they can be treated appropriately but we do not generally recommend routine de-worming.
To prevent injury and feet problems in your pet Hedgehog, do NOT keep them on wire, and do NOT use a ‘wire’ wheel- the wheel must be solid walled.
Please use an appropriate bedding material. Do not use linen or towel materials for bedding as the strands can become wrapped around their toes or feet leading to injury. Feet infections are also common if the hedgehog’s bedding is allowed to become wet or soiled. This can be prevented by providing a clean soft bedding and changing the substrate often.
Please follow our vet’s dietary advice to prevent obesity in your pet Hedgehog. If they cannot roll up into a ball or bulge out when they are rolled up then they are probably too fat. Weigh your pet regularly and if you think it is becoming too fat bring them in for a consultation so that we can provide you with further recommendations. Please provide an appropriate quantity of the recommend food items and provide the opportunity to exercise to prevent your Hedgehog from becoming obese.
Many of the pets we see become overweight as they mature. They have an easy and comfortable life with food available every day and often not enough exercise.
Obesity in hedgehogs is relatively common and the problem can become so severe that the pet can no longer fully roll up.
Obesity can lead to other metabolic and health problems such as ‘fatty’ liver which is life threatening for your pet.
If you feel that your little darling is overweight (or if the vet tells you this!) you are welcome to make an appointment for a ‘Weight Consultation’ with one of our veterinarians.
The vet may also discuss this and recommend a weight loss diet during a health check or consultation and give you advice on the right combination of foodstuff for weight loss for your pet as well as how to encourage exercise.
The vet will set a target weight & a time span to lose this weight over.
Losing weight too fast is not healthy, and as these animals are much smaller than us, we may plan for them to loose a few grams per week.
Once the diet plan has been set we will then be happy to make free “weight monitoring” checks for you to follow up, usually every month or two months, and these will be with one of our British Vet nurses or our Australian trained Vet Assistants.
It can be very rewarding to see a little fattie regaining a slim healthy shape and becoming more active and flexible!
Hedgehogs are nocturnal (active at night) and in the wild spend most of their night walking, digging and exploring in search for food. If needed they can run quite fast!
A pet hedgehog needs to be allowed out of the cage every day to exhibit these behaviors.
If you have space a good option is to buy/make a wire cage with a solid floor which is larger than his housing cage where your hedgehog can be placed at night when they are most active. If you do not have space for a large cage then a solid based wheel (ie not bars) is another way to provide exercise, and many hedgehogs will run for hours.
Within their enclosure hedgehogs need toys for stimulation ie cat balls and a digging or forage box. This is a cardboard box filled with hay/shredded paper or bedding material such as ‘Carefresh’ or ‘Eco bedding’ for your hedgehog to dig and explore as well as hide. You can place special treats e.g. a meal worm, for your pet to hunt and find.
Small dog or cat enrichment toys can also be used with your hedgehog. Place just a few cat biscuits inside and let your hedgehog work hard to get them out.
Parrot foraging toys can also often be used for your pet hedgehog to hide biscuits in.
If you can purchase some sterile potting soil place this in a cat litter tray and allow your hedgehog to dig for treats.
You can also buy at low cost plastic tubing from a local hardware store which hedgehogs love to run through. In our Pet Product shop we sell cardboard tubes and hay wrapped tubes which are suitable for your hedgehog to play with and run through.
If you exercise them on the floor in your home please be aware of any other pets which may attack your hedgehog or anything he chew which may cause him injury e.g. electrical cables.
Most of the products needed to provide enrichment for your pet Hedgehog are available in our Pet Product Shop.