Digestive & Gastrointestinal Issues

May 21, 2013 by

Digestive & Gastrointestinal Issues

Overview

  • Bowl movements and elimination habits are a key indication of the digestive and gastrointestinal health of your hedgehog.
  • Hedgehogs have a simple stomach and no cecum
    • A cecum is where food would ferment
    • The colon is smooth and non-complex
    • Gut time for a hedgehog ranges 12-16 hours
    • A normal hedgehog feces is typically the shape and consistency of dog or cat feces but about the size of toothpaste.
    • Typical feces are brown in color but shades medium to dark brown color.
    • Healthy color can vary depending on type and quality of food.
    • Dried waste material looks almost black when dry.

Diarrhea, Loose Stool, and Green Stool

Not Caused by Clostridium

  • Symptoms
    • Watery fecal material
    • Loose green stool
      • Can vary in
        • Color
        • Texture
        • Consistency
      • Straining to eliminate
      • Dehydration can occur
  • Cause
    • Changes in Food that moves too quick through the digestive tract
    • Bile is left in the food, which gives it its green color.
    • Bile would normally breaks down during digestion.
    • Diet changes or food sensitivities to:
      •  Dry food
      •  Water
      •  Treats
      • Ingestion of milk or other dairy products
      • Cold or frozen food
      • Ingestion of bedding material
      • Certain antibiotics can cause this as well
      • Environmental causes
        • Heat
        • Too much handling
        • Travel
        • Illnesses or infection
          • Bacteria such as Salmonella
          •  Parasites
          • Other Pathogens in the stool
  • Severity
    •  Normal formed stool with a tinge of green
      • Mild
        • Common when babies go to new homes as described above
        • Keep food consistent during adjustment
        • Use bottled or filtered water
        • No introduction of new food until after an adjustment period of at least a week
  • Treatment
    • Veterinarian may prescribe antidiarrheals to treat the symptoms
    • Stress induced will clear up on its own in a few days
    • Determine offending foods and avoid them
    • A probiotic such an Ben-Bac may help
    • An antibiotic from a veterinarian may be required if the green stools persist, worsen, or your hedgehog quits eating or drinking and becomes dehydrated.

Blood in Stools

  • Symptom
    • The appearance of red mucous in the stool could indicate blood in the stool. 
    • Blood can appear bright red or as a dark “tar” in the stool.
  • Cause
    • One cause of blood in the stool is clostridium.
  • Treatment
    • You should take your hedgehog to the vet right away.

Dehydration

  • Symptoms
    • Listless, the gums are tacky when touched, or the skin doesn’t snap back when gently pulled up
    • Skin tenting or decrease in elasticity
    • Mucous membranes can become “tacky”
  • Cause
    • Water bottles becoming clogged
    • It is often secondary to another issue
    • Most dehydrated animals will not eat
  • Treatment
    • Watermelon juice or mixture of half Pedialyte and half bottled water is good for animals that are not severely dehydrated.
    • No eating or drinking warrants a trip to the vet veterinarian to have fluids administered subcutaneously and to determine the cause.

Constipation

  • Symptoms
    • Dark, hard, and smaller droppings in fewer numbers
    • Straining while trying to eliminate
    • Urinary problems
  • Causes
    • Stress
    • Food insensitive
    • Ingestion of bedding
    • Mild dehydration
  • Treatment
    • Swim in a few inches of warm water
    • Yogurt containing active cultures of Lactobacillus bulgaricusStreptococcus thermophilus and bifidobacterium helps with digestion 
    • Unseasoned pumpkin mixed with water and fed orally (by syringe tip with no needle)
    • If constipation persists for 48 hours or more, a trip to a vet is warranted
    • Long-term constipation could be a blockage.
  • Prevention
    • Live mealworms in place of dead mealworms because live mealworms have a softer exoskeleton that is easier to pass next to their dead counterparts.

Obesity

  • Symptom
    • The hedgehog can no longer curl into a ball due to fat
    • Double chins when viewed from ball position
    • Fat rather than muscular legs
    • Rolls of fat under the armpits
    • Yellow tint to skin under the legs
  • Cause
    • Overeating of foods high in fat and protein (examples: wax worms, meal worms, and superworms)
    • Lack of exercise
  • Treatment
    • Untreated obesity can lead to an early death due to other health complications
    • Extra caution is required in weight reduction because a drastic weight loss can cause hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease)
      • Source: google images
      • Reduce the calories in the diet by switching to a lower fat formula
        • Hills Science Diet R/D is a reduction diet food whose primary ingredient is non-process able fiber from peanut hulls
        • IVD Select Care is similar to R/D but it has processable fiber as a primary content (Klein)
        • A wheel can provide stimulation; however, a lazy hedgehog might not use it
        • Encourage foraging behaviors by hiding food around the cage

Anorexia (lack of appetite)

  • Symptom
    • Loss of appetite
    • Weight loss
  • Cause
    • New food
      • Introducing new food gradually instead of cold turkey will help the hedgehog adjust to a new regiment
      • Change in routine
      • The temperature is too cold
        • Hedgehog falls into a false hibernation
        • Dehydration
        • Injured or ill
  • Treatment
    • Check the temperature
    • Offer the hedgehog treats as an incentive to eat
    • Chicken baby food without onion or onion powder or crumbled chicken baby food sticks
      • High in protein and fat
      • Add acidophilus powder to the food as this will aid digestion

Nausea

  • Symptoms
    • Excess salivation
    • Vomiting
  • Cause
    • Food sensitivity
    • Ingestion of toxic material
    • Motion sickness
  • Treatment
    • Use a dab of pepto bismal (0.01cc of a 1cc syringe) onto their tongues
    • See a veterinarian if vomiting does not stop

Clostridium (bacterium that divides too rapidly in the intestine)

  • Symptoms
    • Characterized by runny, green, smelly stool
    • May contain mucous in the stool
    • Diarrhea
  • Cause
    • Stress
      • Change in environment or food
      • Compromised immune system
      • Poor living conditions
      • Over stimulation (handling, traveling, exposure to other hedgehogs)
      • Some hedgehogs are more sensitive to others about changes
  • Treatment
    • Small amounts of yogurt with active cultures or probiotics can help replenish the natural bacteria flora

References:
Klein, Tom; Hedgehog Drug Therapies;  E. Hilliard Vet Clinic, Columbus, OH.  614-876-7762
Love, Kirsten, DVM.; Formerly of Animal Hospital of Polaris; Columbus, OH

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