Hedgehog Losing Weight

Why is My Hedgehog Losing Weight?

Medical Contributor:

Dr. Bianca Zaffarano

Nov 20, 2023

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Who doesn’t love a hedgehog as a pet? They may be shy around strangers but they’re so interactive and social with their owners. Hedgehog owners are hip to their hedgehog’s health through their pet’s behavior and noticeable problems. One common emergency indicator we see in hedgehogs is weight loss.  

What Causes Weight Loss in Hedgehogs?

There are a few reasons why your hedgehog might be losing weight. Here are our top five reasons that would be cause for concern for hedgehog owners. 

1. Mouth Issues, Tooth Fractures, Gingivitis, or Oral Tumors

If, along with weight loss, you notice that your hedgehog is not eating as much as usual or their food is sitting in the bowl longer than normal, their weight loss may be dental related. Just as with cats and dogs, dental disease can be common in hedgehogs. A veterinarian can examine your hedgehog to evaluate for any lesions inside the mouth. 

Some dental issues can be related to diet. Ensure your hedgehog is maintaining proper nutrition. Their diet should also be supplemented daily with 1-2 teaspoons of chopped, mixed vegetables and/or fruit as well as insects. Three to four crickets or mealworms or one earthworm may be offered as well.

2. Salmonella

While the cause of salmonella in hedgehogs is still unclear, it appears that they carry this bacteria in their gastrointestinal system and in times of stress, may shed the organism. This could cause loose stools and severe weight loss. Your pet parent instincts may lead you to want to snuggle up with your hedgehog when you notice they’re losing weight or see “off.” But beware: one of the biggest concerns is that salmonella can be transmitted to you. Be sure to practice good hygiene if salmonella is a concern in your hedgehog and get your pet to a veterinarian.

3. Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome

If you have a hedgehog 2-year-old or younger that is having trouble walking, stumbling, or a little “off kilter” when they walk, one of the possible causes is called “Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome.” Though the name sounds cute, Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a serious neurodegenerative disease that among other things causes brain and spine deterioration over time. The afflicted hedgehog develops an inability to use their muscles. They may have trouble controlling their limbs, have weight loss, and may eventually experience paralysis. The disease is ultimately fatal, however other treatable potential causes for stumbling and abnormal gait should be investigated by a veterinarian.  

There is no diagnostic test for Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome. However, bloodwork and radiographs can be performed to determine if there is any other disease causing similar signs in your pet.

4. Heart Disease

Is your hedgehog breathing a bit faster than normal or having difficulty breathing? Or maybe they’re not as active as usual? Pay attention to these symptoms: your hedgehog may have heart disease. A thorough physical exam by your veterinarian can help determine if heart disease is the cause of your pet’s weight loss. When diagnosed early, treatment can be started to help prolong your hedgehog’s life and keep them comfortable. Heart disease is a progressive disease that needs routine follow-up with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is on the best treatment regimen.

5. Cancer

Hedgehogs of any age can develop cancer, but it’s more common as they get older. If your hedgehog is losing weight, has new “lumps or bumps,” or is just not as active as usual, cancer is one of the many possible causes. A veterinarian can perform a thorough physical examination, with possible diagnostic tests to determine if this is a cause of weight loss, or new bumps and lumps. Often cancer can be in internal organs and not readily apparent from the outside.    

Some forms of cancer are treatable, and a veterinarian experienced with hedgehogs can explore the different possible treatments. See your primary vet if you suspect your hedgehog may have cancer, or has unexplained weight loss.

Contact VEG if Your Hedgehog is Experiencing an Emergency

There are many more causes of weight loss in hedgehogs than just the ones discussed here. Start with your primary vet for a diagnosis for your hedgehog’s weight loss.

Contact VEG if your hedgehog needs emergency or urgent care. We have locations all over the country with emergency vets who are available 24/7 to help you and your pet. When you come to VEG, our team will help get to the bottom of your hedgehog’s condition and you can be rest assured that your pet will get the proper care they need.