• Skin, Quills, and Ears

    My hedgehog is losing quills. What is wrong?-
    If your hedgehog is young, it may be going through a process called "quilling". Quilling is the shedding of baby quills to make room for the growing in of adult quills. This occurs several times between birth and weaning, and then a final major stage occurrs usually between 8-12 weeks old. Some hedgehogs appear to go through a lighter stage at around 6 months of age as well, but this is not super common. Quilling will be seen as a dropping of typically small thin quills, accompanied by the appearance of new growth poking through the skin. Quilling will NOT cause bald patches, and will go away on its' own.
    If your hedgehog is not in one of these typical stages of quilling, or has bald or thinning areas, then you are most likely dealing with a medical issue. The most common is an outbreak of mites, a small parasite that can live on the skin of the hedgehog and cause flaking skin, itching, and quill loss. This usually causes symptoms on the entire body. You can check your hedgehog at home for mites by holding your hedgehog over a piece of black paper and ruffle the quills. When you get some skin flakes dropping off onto the paper, turn on a bright light and get a magnifying glass. If any of the flakes are small moving bugs, your hedgehog has mites and needs to see a vet. Mites should NOT be treated with over the counter treatments. Some of these can make your hedgehog very ill.
    Other causes that can cause quill loss in hedgehogs can include fungal or bacterial infections of the skin. Usually (but not always) these will appear in smaller patchy areas on the hedgehog, and the affected areas may be red, irritated, or even have painful rashes or open sores. If you suspect one of these conditions, you need to get your hedgehog to a vet IMMEDIATELY.

    What is causing my hedgehogs' skin to be dry and flaky?-
    Dry and flaky skin is often seen in cases of mites. See above answer. If you have had your hedgehog to a vet and have ruled out mite infestations, there is a good chance that your hedgehog has plain old dry skin. Increasing humidity around the cage, changing to a less-drying bedding, reducing frequency of bathing, and adding such things as essential fatty acids or some food grade oils to the diet (please talk to your vet to make sure that your choice is safe) can help solve the problems of dry skin.

    My hedgehog appears to have an ingrown quill, what do I do?-
    Hedgehogs occasionally have an ingrown quill develop. These often appear as an angry looking pimple or boil. If the quill is easily visible, then you can try to remove it yourself very gently. Do NOT squeeze, lance, or otherwise disturb an ingrown quill by yourself. It is important to let your vet take care of this, because disturbing an infected ingrown quill yourself can force toxins from the infection into the hedgehogs' system, causing illnesses.

    Why does my hedgehog have a bald mohawk on it's head?-

    This is perfectly normal, and seen in all hedgehogs to at least some extent. This bald area allows the quills of the forehead to cross effectively when the hedgehog rolls into a ball.

    Why does my hedgehog's skin look yellowish?-
    Yellow skin, especially noticeable in the armpits and buttock areas of hedgehogs, is often a sign of liver damage. If you notice your hedgehog showing yellowing of the skin, it is important to take your hedgehog to the vet as rapidly as possible. One exception to this is if you feed a lot of yellow fruits and vegetables to your hedgehogs. Too many carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, etc. can cause the skin to look slightly yellowish. If this is the case, reduce the amount of yellow veggies that you offer. The body will eventually process out the substances that cause it to look yellow.

    Why are my hedgehogs' ears ragged?-
    There are three typical causes of ragged or ruffly ears in hedgehogs. First is injury- ears seem to be a prime target for scuffles between hedgehogs. These are usually located on a single ear, and are an actual wound or split in the ear. Second is dry skin- this can cause a ruffly, rough texture to the edges and surface of the ears. This can usually be treated and rapidly cured with the use of a small amount of moisturizer applied to the edges of the ears. It is important to use as natural of a moisturizer as possible, to reduce the possibility of allergic reaction. If your hedgehog has cage-mates, do NOT put the hedgehog back in the cage after putting moisturizers on the ears, or you may be dealing with the first cause as well. Third is fungal infection- this usually causes exaggerated ruffling along the ears, often appearing as "fingers" protruding from the edges of the ears. This should be checked by a vet, and will most likely be treated with an antifungal cream applied to the ears.

    What is the nasty goo draining from my hedgehogs' ears?-

    Similar to humans, hedgehog ears normally produce a small amount of waxy fluid that helps keep the ears clean. This can occasionally be seen at the opening of the ear canals. However, in some instances the ears can overproduce this product, which leads to draining from the ear canals. Causes for this can be bacterial or fungal infections in the ear canals, ear mites, or some tumors. All of these problems should be evaluated and treated by a vet.