The Aging Hedgehog

Sep 2, 2013 by

Hedgehogs go through an aging process similar to humans and other animals. Activity and Movement As hedgehogs age they become less active and are generally slower in what they do. Their gait may appear to be stiffer and as they age it may be more difficult to get around. Physical Appearance Change Colors of spines begin to dull and fade Spine tips begin to dull Fur on face begins to fade and may look disheveled Nails thicken and darken Their teeth may wear down or some may be missing Care for Aging Hedgehogs Routine veterinary check-ups will help both you and your vet monitor the aging process.   Also, it ensures that changes in health are age associated and not due to illness or injury. Older hedgehogs do better at warmer temperatures and will benefit from additional heat sources. Softer diets may be necessary as teeth wear down or fall out. Author:  Gail Dick, Millermeade Farm’s Critter...

Quills, Spines & Fur

Sep 2, 2013 by

The most unique and obvious physical characteristic of hedgehogs is their quills. The weight of the spines accounts for approximately 35% of the hedgehog’s weight. (Miller) Spines Versus Quills Most breeders and enthusiasts alternate between using “spines” and “quills” which is often confusing. Hedgehogs technically have quills, which are modified hairs that form a spine.  All quills are spines but not all spines are quills.  For example, a lizard can have spines but they are not made out of hair.  Instead, they are made out of scales. Hedgehogs cannot shoot quills or detached quills by shaking or huffing their bodies. They do NOT have barbs on the end, as do porcupine quills that can stick in your skin. Primary Defense Hedgehogs use their spines as their main line of defense by erecting them so they crisscross and point in different directions protecting the skin and body. Hedgehogs have an orbicularis muscle, that it contracts like a drawstring, when it rolled into a ball. The hedgehog hides it’s head and legs by creating a ball and using it’s spines as protection. Hedgehogs can puff and pop. If an individual spine pokes you it can be painful. Proper handling techniques allow the hedgehog to become relaxed and handled comfortably. It’s spines will lie flat, toward the tail, when relaxed and the spines will feel relatively smooth, when petted from front to back. Fur Hedgehogs have soft,...

Senses: Motion & Emotion Detection...

Jul 23, 2013 by

Motion Detection Hedgehogs are very good at detecting motion around them, even when they are rolled into a ball or cannot see.  Hedgehogs will often perceive movement as danger unless they are completely relaxed with their surroundings.  A sleeping hedgehog (or a hedgehog trying to go to sleep) may display it’s annoyance of movement, even if it knows the cause of the movement. For instance, if you are in the dark you can sense movement even if you cannot see what is moving.  A good example is a haunted house – you are naturally afraid when something moves close to you until you can distinguish between the unknown and a friend. Hedgehogs will raise their quills when they sense movement to protect themselves.  They are naturally defensive until they are convinced they are safe. It is human nature to want to reach out and touch a hedgehog when it is sleeping or curled into a ball in it’s cage. What we might consider touching, a hedgehog considers a poke, and it will almost always raise it’s quills with a huff and puff, resulting in a prick to the poking finger. Proper handling can help prevent the automatic fear when being picked up. Motion Detection Related to Handling First and foremost when you are attempting to pick up your hedgehog – just do it.  Don’t reach in and have “false-starts” in picking it up.  Your...

Random Physical Characteristics

Jul 19, 2013 by

Size The average hedgehog weighs approximately ½ to 1-¼ pounds and most are the size of a softball or slightly larger when they are rolled into a ball. Some adult hedgehogs have a slightly larger build and can weigh up to 2 pounds (the size of a small guinea pig) without being fat. Most hedgehogs are 6-8 inches in length, but it is hard to accurately and consistently measure a hedgehog, because their body changes shape when it is balled up, relaxed, sitting or moving. Teeth Hedgehogs have 36-44 teeth in a long, pointy snout. The first pair of incisors is slightly larger than the rest, but they are certainly not as dramatically different in size from their other teeth as a rodent’s front teeth. Hedgehog incisors do not continuously grow, as do rodent incisors, and so they do not have an innate need to chew or gnaw on things to wear down their teeth. The baby teeth are shed early and replaced by rooted adult teeth. Poor diet can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Feet Hedgehogs have 4 toes on the rear feet and 5 toes on the front feet in the Atelerix species. The nails on the front feet may need trimmed more frequently than the rear feet to prevent them from curling into the foot and damaging the footpad. Hedgehogs’ feet and toes are made for walking and running. They do not...

Hedgehog Longevity

Jun 11, 2013 by

Natural Longevity Hedgehogs typically live two to three years in the wild.  The most common cause of death in the wild is due to predation rather than age. Various resources report a relatively wide range in the maximum life expectancy of hedgehogs kept as pets. Hedgehogs can live up to 10 years in captivity, but those hedgehogs are few and far between.  A 10-year-old hedgehog would be as rare as 104-year-old grandma. Some believe the hybridization of the Algerian and White Bellied species resulted in a more resilient hedgehog that lived longer.   After several generations, hybrid offspring’s longevity began to more closely compare to the original bloodlines.  This is called the Founder’s Effect and can be seen in other animals as well. A 5-year-old hedgehog is about 76 in people years, so if your hedgehog lives 5-7 years it has lived a full life, but five years is longer than the national average. Hedgehog Age in Calendar Years Equivalent Human Years 2 months 10 years 6 months 20 years 14 months 30 years 3 years 40 years 3 years and six months 50 years 3 years and 8 months 60 years 4 years and 2 months 70 years 5 years and 4 months 80 years 6 years and 2 months 90 years 7 years and 8 months 100 years *adapted from Laura Ledt’s website     Average Life Expectancy of Pets According to the...

Weight Log & Size

Jun 11, 2013 by

The average hedgehog weighs approximately ½ to 1-¼ pounds, and most are the size of a softball or slightly larger when they are rolled into a ball. Some adult hedgehogs have a slightly larger build and can weigh up to 2 pounds (the size of a small guinea pig) without being fat. Most hedgehogs are 6-8 inches in length, but it is hard to accurately and consistently measure a hedgehog because their body changes shape when it is balled up, relaxed, sitting or moving. One way to keep track of your hedgehog’s health is to keep a weekly weight log. Around 6 months of age your hedgehog should have reached it’s adult size. If an adult hedgehog’s weight changes too much in a single week then you should find out why. If it is a steady weight gain over a couple of weeks in an adult hedgehog then perhaps you should reduce the treats to avoid an obese pet in the near future. A weight loss (when not on a diet) can be a sign of an underlying illness and a veterinarian should evaluate your hedgehog. When searching for reasons of a weight loss please keep in mind that a hedgehog is quite capable of “losing” around 20 or 30 grams in a single trip to the potty. It can also “gain” just as much if you allow it to eat it’s dinner before...

Hibernation & Estivation

May 27, 2013 by

In the Wild European species of hedgehogs hibernate in the wild when the temperature becomes too cold. They spend the warmer months building fat reserves to sustain them through their periods of inactivity. In the wild, African species of hedgehogs may go into a dormant period of inactivity called estivation (also referred to as aestivation; see below for a definition) when the weather is too hot and dry in the summer. Hedgehogs are very vulnerable when they wake up from hibernation or estivation. In such a weak state, hedgehogs are easy targets for predators. Some hedgehogs are unable to recover from hibernation or estivation and die from related illnesses. In Captivity Hedgehogs in captivity can also go into periods of partial-hibernation. Indoor room temperatures that are too cool can induce a false hibernation attempt. Some hedgehogs attempt hibernation in response to barometric pressure changes or external temperature changes even though the indoor temperature is acceptable. Captive, bred hedgehogs generally have lost the ability to recover from hibernation and need immediate attention.   These hibernation attempts for the pet hedgehog are very dangerous and can result in death if not given immediate attention..   Estivation attempts are rare for pet hedgehogs, but are equally dangerous. Hedgehogs living in captivity should be kept in a controlled environment to help prevent hibernation or estivation. Signs and Symptoms When the hedgehog begins to hibernate, it will be cold...

Ears & Hearing

May 27, 2013 by

Ear Description and Hearing Hedgehogs have large ears and have an excellent sense of hearing, making them alert to their surroundings. Unfamiliar sounds or loud noises can cause hedgehogs to react by huffing and ducking their heads, in defense. Hedgehogs can become accustomed to a busy household, but it may take some time to get used to new surroundings. Providing continual background music to animals is quite beneficial, because it diminishes other, possibly disturbing sounds. Hedgehogs are able to sense high pitched sounds that the human ear cannot. You must take into consideration, any electronic devices near your hedgehog, such as computer.  These high-pitched sounds can be irritating to your hedgehog. Hearing Related to Handling Hedgehogs can and will become accustomed to your voice and sounds in its environment. Use this to your advantage in your handling and bonding process. When you get your hedgehog out of its cage, first tap on the side and talk to it for a moment.  That will give your hedgehog advance notice of what you are preparing to do. At Millermeade Farms our hedgehogs all know the sound of their feed cart and most of them are ready and waiting at feeding...

Eyes & Sight

May 27, 2013 by

Hedgehogs are born blind and have small bead like eyes. Sight Hedgehogs have a poor sense of sight.  This is probably due in part to their burrowing nature. Compared to humans, and even dogs and cats, hedgehogs have limited binocular vision. They have a hard time with depth perception and will often fall from dangerous heights, because they simply cannot tell how far they are from the ground. Other hedgehog senses are much stronger and overcompensate for this weakness. Sight Related to Handling Since hedgehogs have limited eyesight, they don’t always see you approaching them. When you move your hand toward the hedgehog, petting it back to front, the hedgehog senses “Something big coming in from behind – HIDE!” We encourage you to pet your hedgehog from front to back – from tip of nose to up and over the head and back. By allowing your hedgehog to see your hand and smell your hand, it will see that it’s you approaching them and relax into your caress, rather than tense up from the unknown approach. Contributor:  Jamie...

Nose & Smelling

May 27, 2013 by

Keen Sense of Smell Hedgehogs have a keen sense of smell that is very useful to them in search of food and detecting danger. Their nose is warm and moist and a curious hedgehog will have their snout in the air sniffing, in order to gather information from it’s environment. At the slightest threat of danger (usually detected by noise or movement) they will duck their head for protection. Smell Related to Bonding Placing a T-Shirt that you’ve slept in, over your hedgehog’s cage, is one of the simplest ways for you to bond.  The hedgehog will associate your smell as part of it’s environment. Another way to incorporate your smell with your hedgehog, is to sleep with your hedgehog’s sleeping bag. Again, the hedgehog will associate your smell with a comfortable place. Some people take fleece and cut it into two-inch squares and tuck those fabric squares into their clothing. Many hedgehogs have been known to carry around these little squares like security blankets. Holding your hedgehog and allowing it to snuggle into your arm or fall asleep on you is an excellent form of bonding. Your hedgehog will appreciate your warm body and the comfortable place to snuggle. Your goal is for your hedgehog to associate your scent with comfort or something that is pleasant. For instance when our kids come into the house and smell chocolate chip cookies they immediately think...

Gender Differences

May 27, 2013 by

Physical Gender Differences Male hedgehogs are called boars. Their penis is retracted within a penile sheath that is located in the mid-abdominal region of the hedgehog. The external portion of the sheath most closely resembles a belly button. The testicles are located in the abdomen and are generally not seen. Female hedgehogs are called sows, and their vulva and anus are very close in proximity to each other.  They have five pairs of mammae or teats. Male and female hedgehogs should be housed separately from the time of weaning and should only be allowed contact for breeding purposes.  Hedgehogs can breed as early as eight weeks.  Breeding at this age can be very dangerous for the female and is highly discouraged by most breeders. Male hedgehogs can get bedding or other material inside their penile sheath.  You will need to check this area daily to make sure there is no blockage or irritation.  Most irritations can be freed during a normal bath, but if a problem persists, a trip to the veterinarian may be necessary. There are no odor differences between males and females. Neither males nor females mark their scent. Females do not have obvious menstrual cycles. Gender Differences in Temperament  We at Millermeade Farms along with a majority of hedgehog owners and breeders do not believe that there are major temperament differences between males and females. Female hedgehog’s cohabitate better, than their...

Small Oddities

May 26, 2013 by

Forehead Furrow or Reverse Mohawk There is a natural part on the forehead of the hedgehog where there are no spines.  This natural bald spot is normal and is in no way related to the presence of mites or injury. A hedgehog can raise it’s forehead spines, when it is nervous or mildly irritated.  The furrow provides space for the raised spines so they point forward, instead of criss-crossing when the skin is pulled down over the eyes. Tail Both sexes have short, stubby tails that are usually hidden under their quills. Hedgehogs’ tails are approximately a half-inch in length. The tail can be confused with a penis, because the tail curves toward the head when the hedgehog is placed on it’s back.  The male’s penile sheath and hidden penis are located mid-abdominally. One thing to look for is a tail is sticking straight out or up:  that means it needs to potty, so be prepared! Chin Mole This small bump under the chin is harmless and normal. It is often referred to as a “cutie mark.” Contributor:  Susan Crocker, Susan’s Hawkeye...