Hedgehog Dying Signs? A Guide for Troubled Times

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Recently, my friend’s pet hedgehog died. He was devastated and started blaming himself. I wasn’t there for him as I was also clueless. What should I tell him? So, I decided to stop being clueless and add to the information of others as well. Hence, the decision to research all about it became obvious. Here is what I found out!

Dealing with an ill & dying hedgehog


What are the hedgehog dying signs?

A sick and dying hedgehog can be identified by symptoms like lack of appetite, discharge from eyes and nose, bloody poop, unwillingness to move, lethargy, weight loss, abnormal breathing, etc.[1]

Hedgehogs can die of several reasons including old age, tumors, infections, cancers, injuries, dehydration, and not eating for a long time.

There is a lot more to know to keep your hedgehog safe and healthy. Therefore, read this article completely to get the most out of it.

Do hedgehogs die easily?

Hedgehogs are known to hide their illnesses. Even if a hedgehog has a broken bone, she will not likely to show it to you unless you completely examine her daily.

Hedgehogs are quite prone to tumors and cancers. A lot of deaths of household hedgehogs occur due to these. If the hedgehog is suffering from a painful disease like tumors, she is likely to die. And, she will suffer for a long time till her death.

What is the average lifespan of a hedgehog?

The average lifespan of a wild hedgehog is around 3 to 4 years. While, in household conditions, hedgehogs can live up to 5 to 6 years. But that’s not it.

A hedgehog of a known YouTuber (Earthling1984), lived for the whole 10 years. So, you can’t say the exact period with these resilient creatures.

How do you know if your hedgehog is dying?

If the hedgehog is suffering from a serious problem like a tumor or cancer and is not diagnosed early, then, you should be certain that your hedgehog is going to die.[3]

Only a vet can tell you exactly about the exact condition of the hog but there are signs of illness that you can recognize.

If your hedgehog is lethargic, isn’t eating anything, doesn’t want to play, is having blood in his poop or pee, is breathing slowly, is coughing or sneezing then likely hedgehog is sick and closer to death.

Weight loss is also a common symptom among disease-prone hedgehogs.

How can I help my dying hedgehog?

YouTube video

If your hedgehog is dying, you can make their situation a little better by making certain decisions.

  1. Firstly, you can decide whether you want to keep them till they die or relieve them of their pain by taking the tough decision of euthanizing.
  2. Secondly, if you chose the former, try providing a suitable environment where they can die. Regulate the temperature between 75 to 80°F so they feel comfortable and provide food/water through syringes.

If your hedgehog is on Anti-inflammatory medicines for their tumors, you can provide them with piroxicam or tramadol. Piroxicam has been known to reduce the size of tumors. [2]

You can also visit a good exotic vet who can see them in this dire condition.

Do Hedgehogs curl up when they die?

From Reddit user u/Elbriachi

Curling up in hedgehogs is likely a sign of attempted hibernation and not death [3]. Hedgehogs cannot sustain temperatures below 75° and therefore get into hibernation quickly.

You can check their tummy and if it is cold, it is likely a case of attempted hibernation. Large-scale temperature fluctuations can also trigger hibernation.

They should also have a good light schedule of about 10-12 hours to keep them sane.

In case of hibernation, put them under a heating pad and keep it on the low so that it can warm them up safely. You can also put them inside your shirt and provide them with body heat for immediate results.

Some try to put them in warm water which is completely unwarranted and could worsen the situation.

If the hedgehog doesn’t wake up in an hour, immediately visit a nearby vet. And, in the meantime do not provide a cold hedgehog anything to eat.

As the hedgehog is trying to hibernate, it is likely that he or she is not eating for a long time. Therefore providing them food and water is highly necessary in case they wake up and are out of hibernation.

How long can a hedgehog go without eating?

Hedgehogs should not go without food or water for more than 24 hours. If they do not get any food or water for more than three days it could lead to several diseases including fatty liver disease.

Dry nose, intractable skin, and sunken eyes are common results of dehydration.[4]

If your hedgehog is quite sick and is unable to drink anything, we will guide you through a technique through which you can rehydrate them.

How do you rehydrate a hedgehog?

If your hedgehog is having problems drinking with a bottle, you should shift to a bowl.

Bowls are much more natural to hedgehogs as in the wild environment there would be nothing similar to a bottle but they will be spots of water from which hedgehogs would have been drinking. And, these patches of water can be associated with a bowl not a bottle.

In case your hedgehog is unable to drink anything or doesn’t want to, you need to syringe feed them.

How to syringe feed a hedgehog

YouTube video

Follow the steps below to correctly administer the process:

  1. Go to a nearby pet store and find a feeding syringe. Stores like Petco and PetSmart do carry them. They should be in the dog’s or cat’s section. Be sure to pick up the 10 cc one. They are slightly expensive but whenever you have a problem like that, they are ready to go.
  2. For the contents of the syringe, you can either find high-quality canned cat food (like this one) or you can grind the dry kibble with some lukewarm water and make it mush. You can also provide some bits of canned pumpkin in the mush.
  3. As the hedgehog is quite dehydrated, and has not eaten for a while, providing an electrolyte solution is warranted. You can find the right in the children section in the supermarket.
  4. If your hedgehog is on antibiotics, they can seriously disturb the tummy hence you should add some pieces of probiotics (with high amounts of acidophilus) in them. These are readily available in the market so you don’t have to worry. The human ones are completely fine for them. There are also probiotics for pets named benbac available in the market.
  5. Now, put a towel on the floor and put the hedgehog gently on it. Some make the mistake of feeding the hedgehog while they are being on their back. They should be avoided.
  6. Put a clean glove on your left hand.
  7. Now, by your left hand, hold them by the scruff of their neck so that they allow you to feed This is how their mothers do in the wild.
  8. Take the syringe in your right hand and approach the hedgehog’s mouth through the side. There is a space between their back teeth and if you approach it correctly the food usually gets in. Approaching directly from the center should never be done because it may reach their lungs.
  9. Syringe not more than 5 ML of food and water at a time (you can also include an electrolyte solution in it to help with the dehydration).
  10. Do that every 1 to 2 hours till you visit the vet.

How can I help my sick hedgehog?

Helping your hedgehog will depend on its condition. If the hedgehog is suffering from a bacterial infection or something similar to that, you can’t do much without going to the vet.

In most cases, dealing with a serious condition at home is not advised. You should immediately visit a nearby vet and tell him the whole situation.

You can however diagnose some conditions at home and provide immediate relief before the hedgehog visits the vet.

The most common way to understand why the hedgehog is sick is to look at their urine and stool. The urine should be light yellow in color but if it is dark or bright yellow then there is a problem. Similarly, there are different kinds of stool that hedgehogs do and you can read more about them here.

By examining these and hedgehog’s actions, you can find a temporary solution to give them immediate relief but, visiting a vet is non-negotiable for their condition.

In case you are worried about money, many vets have payment plans. So, you should talk to them about it.


Related Questions

Q: Why is my hedgehog scratching so much?

YouTube video

Scratching in hedgehogs is likely a result of dry skin or due to mites [5]. Dry skin can occur due to various reasons but the main ones are: dehydration and bathing too many times. Mites can also cause dry skin.

If you are using anything that has wood or wood shavings in it, then it is likely a case of mites. Consult a vet immediately so that they can provide medications.

To check whether your hedgehog is suffering from dry skin, press their skin and hold for some time. If it gets back immediately, then there is no problem else your hedgehog is suffering from a dry skin problem. Also, dry skin can accompany with flakes (like the dandruff we have) and they would be visible near the places they sleep.

You can read more about proper bathing time and ways here.

To cure dry skin, you can rinse them with oils like flaxseed oil/olive oil et cetera. You can also Humilac topical spray.

Q: my hedgehog is not eating anything. What could be the reason?

Stress is one of the biggest reasons for this. A change in environment and many other reason can stress the hedgehog. You can read more about how you can reduce stress in hedgehogs here.

Q: my hedgehog is not eating dry kibble. What to do?

This is likely a sign of bad tooth or some other problems in the mouth. You should either provide mushed kibble, canned kibble or try to syringe the food. But, besides these solutions, a visit to the vet is highly necessary. They could be not eating due to other internal problems as well.

Q: my hedgehog died but how can I know the cause?

You can ask your vet to perform a necropsy. But, that would cost you and sometimes even a necropsy cannot absolutely provide you what you want. Still, it’s a good option if you’re really curious.

Q: my hedgehog is doing weird pee. It is smelling like ammonia. What could be the reason?

Ammonia like pee can be an outcome of urinary tract infection. Consult your vet immediately.

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