Understanding an Illness or Health Problem

Oct 11, 2011 by

Understanding an Illness or Health Problem

Small animals often hide signs and symptoms of illness until it is in urgent need of veterinary intervention or it too late for veterinary treatment.  Non-domesticated animals hide illnesses to survive predation, and this defense mechanism is still present in captive bred situations.  It is important to be able to track your pet’s health. You can more easily recognize a problem by weighing your hedgehog weekly and handling everyday.

Changes In Diet

The first things to think about are changes in diet.

  • Is your pet eating the same amount or was there decrease in appetite over last week or month?
  • Did you recently change foods or anything in their diet?
  • What were your pet’s recent treats?
  • Did you start a new batch of food or treats?
  • How old is your food and how has it been stored?
  • Is it possible that your food is moldy or contaminated?
  • Have you checked for any recalls for the brand of food you are using?
  • Is your pet drinking the same amount? It is absolutely necessary to check that the water bottle isn’t plugged.
  • Is the water bowl used and is it always available?

Activity Levels

  • Is your pet sleeping in its normal spot?
  • Is your pet’s activity level the same? Sleeping more, lethargic, or possibly frantic behavior?
  • Is it possible your hedgehog could have fallen from any height or climbed the side of the cage?

Overall Condition

Next you need to look at the overall condition of your pet.

  • How old is your hedgehog?
  • Is your pet thin or was there been a weight decrease over last week or month?
  • Did your hedgehog gain weight in the last week or month?
  • How is its fur (or quill) condition and has it changed recently?
  • Are there any change in your pet’s stool color or consistency?
  • Are your pet’s eyes bright and perky or sunken?
  • Is your hedgehog’s body temperature normal or unusually warm or cool?
  • Have you noticed any strange or unusual smells either from the body or stool in the past month, week, or day?

Changes In Health

Progressive and/or gradual changes in health are also important to recount.

  • How long ago did a problem first develop?
  • What was the first sign of a problem?
  • Please describe the progression of the illness.
  • Have you sought veterinary care and what was the diagnosis?       

Temperature

  • What is the average temperature of the floor of the cage and the room and in the room where the cage is kept?
  • How do you monitor changes in both the room and the cage?
  • Did the temperature ever fall below 73F or did your hedgehog ever attempt false hibernation?
  • What type of heat do you use?  For example:  heat emitter, black light, red light, traditional heat bulb, or another form of heat?

Environment

The environment also needs to be evaluated.

  • If the cage was not purchased from the breeder, what type and size was your hedgehog’s cage?
  • Did you have your carpets cleaned or home sprayed for bugs?
  • Did the hedgehog have any environmental stress or injury?  For example: escape from cage for three days before found, hunger strike related to change in cages or types of food, accidental injury.
  • Was your hedgehog ever treated for mites or given a mite preventative?  If so what product, dosage amount, and how often?
  • Did you recently add a new pet to your home?

 

For Suspected Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome

  • The information below is very important to rule out other potential causes of Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS).
  • Due to the generalness of the symptoms, many people sometimes confuse other diseases for WHS.
  • Did a veterinarian evaluate your hedgehog for the following conditions
    • Inner ear infection?
    • Semi-hibernation?
    • Orthopedic problems?
    • Injuries/Trauma?
    • Strokes?
    • Tumors?
    • Spondylosis (intervtebral disc disease)?
    • Arthritis (degenerative joint disease)?
    • Nutritional deficiencies?
    • Discospondylitis (infection of the spinal vertebrae and intervertebral disc)?
    • Fungal and bacterial infections?

Understanding Pet Death in Order to Help Other Hedgehog Owners and Breeders

How & Where

How and where did you find your pet when it died?

  • Was your pet out in the open?
  • Did it pass during the day or night?
  • Was it in an awkward position?
  • Was its tongue hanging out? 

Observing Your Pet After Death

Looking at your pet after death is often a sad and heartbreaking thing to do, but observing your pet after death could also lead to an insight about what caused your pet’s death.

  • Were there any signs of an injury?  Even a minor one such as an irritated toenail?
  • Were there any signs of lumps or masses?
  • Did the abdomen look discolored or distended?
  • Were there any signs of digging or scratching at its body before death?
  • Was there any strange or unusual smells?
  • Did you notice any swelling or any weight loss?
  • Was your hedgehog bony or overweight?

Possible Explanations For Unexpected Deaths

  • Dehydration may be caused from a plugged or empty water bottle.
  • Minor infection (such as an infected toenail) can spread throughout the body.
  • Heart attacks may occur when your hedgehog is overly frightened.
  • Heart issues can sometimes go unnoticed at first, then when the hedgehog get to a certain point in life the hedgehog is affected.
  • Accidents from playing can happen just like human kids on a playground or riding a bike.   Sometimes accidents can happen during play and a problem is not immediately noticed.
  • A common illness, such as a urinary tract infection, may progress to more complicated problem that became deadly.
  • Choking on bedding, food, treats, etc. is sometimes not noticeable until a necropsy is preformed.
  • Intestinal blockage can occur when inanimate objects crate a blockage. One known cause is over feeding of freeze-dried insects and subsequent exoskeleton impaction.
  • False hibernation occurs when the temperature drops just a few degrees may be low enough to induce a false hibernation.  Temperatures can drop due to seasonal changes, windows left open or drafts.  Cage temperature can be significantly cooler than what a wall thermometer may read.

Necropsy Report & Veterinary Information

  • Name and phone number of attending Veterinarian?
  • Do you as the owner; give us the breeder, permission to speak with your veterinarian about your hedgehog’s illness, diagnosis, and treatment?
  • True Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome can only be diagnosed with a necropsy report.
  • Were you given a positive diagnostic necropsy report, and if so may we use it for informational purposes?
  • Were any other life-threatening illnesses discovered upon necropsy?   

Primary Author:  Gail Dick, Millermeade Farms’ “Critter Connection”
Contributing Author: Stasi Kruse-Kanyuck, Terrapin Hedgehogs; Tina Casey Clay, Bloomin Hedgehogs; Onikah Dawn Harmon, OH Hedgehogs and Exotics; Jennifer Crespo from Crespo’s Crazy Critters; Gracce McKenzie, Heartfelt Hedgehogs; Amber Silvus, Amber’s Exotic Hedgehogs, Jamie Hand

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