If you have allergies, it is important to know if an hedgehog is going to be a good pet or not. For me, it was very important as one of my children had many allergies and reacted to common pets like cats and dogs.
Are hedgehogs hypoallergenic? Hedgehogs are hypoallergenic because they produce very small amounts of little specks of dead skin known as dander. With so little dander the risk of an allergic reaction is very rare amongst people, making hedgehogs a good choice for those who may have allergic reactions to other pets.
Hedgehogs seem to produce very little reaction in allergy for many people who may suffer an immediate or delayed onset of allergies with other pets. This does seem to make the hedgehog a good choice of pet for those with allergies but it’s important to appreciate hedgehogs are a different type of pet, as they are solitary, nocturnal and generally require time to bond with.
In the rest of this article, I will discuss the reasons in detail on what makes hedgehogs hypoallergenic.
1. Hedgehogs produce low amounts of dander
We saw a pretty quick reaction when my daughter was near cats, dogs and even rabbits. She would only have to stroke them and she would begin to get very itchy, starting to scratch, sneezing and her eyes would start watering.
We believed like many it was an allergy to the pet hairs as with rabbits you could see the hairs floating around the room but this wasn’t entirely the case. Yes, pet hairs are one of the culprits for allergy problems but it’s not the actual cause. The real culprit was something called dander and this ends up on the hairs, so any contact with pet hair then causes a reaction.
Dander is sort of like dandruff, but whilst dandruff is small flecks of dead skin from the scalp, dander is small flecks of skin from the body of the animal. Animals, especially with fur, hair and feathers, produce dander. Dander can be microscopic and easily spread through the air and build up across surfaces and end up in carpets and bedding.
Hedgehogs produce very little dander and this is the reason why many people find them to be hypoallergenic, as we do. Dander is believed to be the main culprit of many allergies people experience with pets.
So this reasoning of very low dander levels leads to potentially very little chance of an allergic reaction which is why hedgehogs are considered good pets for those with less serious allergies.
A word of caution though, it is still advisable to make sure even with this very low amount of dander doesn’t cause an allergic reaction.
Check hedgehogs are hypoallergenic before buying
Initially taking simple steps to ensure a hedgehog is the right pet is vitally important. As ending up buying a hedgehog only to find there is an allergic reaction, can end up being a costly and painful experience.
We were a bit worried the information we had heard and had read across the internet about the hypoallergenic nature of hedgehogs may not actually be the case.
We had to be sure we didn’t end up buying a pet who caused an allergic reaction with my daughter later on, by which time she would have probably built a bond with the pet, making it doubly difficult to prise the pet away.
We decided the best course of action was to try introducing my daughter to a hedgehog without actually buying one first. This was the most of important step we took by visiting the hedgehog breeder and getting my daughter to handle a hedgehog.
The hedgehog was the mother hedgehog who had just given birth to four hogs. I still remember being told to be careful with her and not to stress her out as sometimes the stress can cause hedgehogs to eat their babies.
That was quite shocking to hear but my daughter was extremely gentle with the mother hedgehog, carefully picking her up and handling her.
My daughter’s past experience with other pets had produced a reaction quickly especially with rabbit and cats, dogs took a few hours longer but all in all, all these pets produced a reaction. However, this was not the case immediately with the mother hedgehog.
We decided to carry on monitoring our daughter for any reactions in the proceeding days to see if there was any reaction and thankfully there was absolutely nothing. This is when we were sure that the hedgehog was the right pet for our daughter and she would not react to them.
This experience was the basis for us coming to believe the hedgehog is hypoallergenic, as we believe there is a very low amount of dander with hedgehogs compared to other pets because my daughter showed absolutely no reaction with the hedgehog compared to other types of pets.
Whilst the very low amounts of dander mean the hedgehog can be classed as hypoallergenic this may not be enough to categorically assume an allergic reaction is not going to happen. There may be other causes contributing to an allergic reaction in some people.
2. Quill (spine) reactions are rare
I actually react to our hedgehog’s quills (spines) when I handle our hedgehog and inadvertently touch his spines, I get a reaction which lasts for about an hour or so. I tend to have to use a light steroid to make the irritation go away however my daughter doesn’t get any such reactions.
Some people are known to get a hive-like reaction when handling hedgehogs again this is probably due to the quills. It’s important to appreciate the temptation may be to use gloves to handle your hedgehog.
Which is what we did initially but this makes the hedgehog more grumpy towards you and limits the opportunities to bond with them, as they find it difficult to smell you out as a friend and automatically assume you to be a foe.
It’s important to note just because hedgehogs have quills (spines) this isn’t the main reason why they produce less dander. Hedgehogs do still have fur, underneath the quills and mostly on their underside, so the potential for dander is still there, as fur is the main carrier of dander.
Fortunately, the hedgehogs don’t produce that much dander in comparisons to a pet like a dog or a cat and it’s, for this reason, there is less chance of a reaction.
3. Bedding reactions are rare
We haven’t had any reaction to the bedding we use for our hedgehog but some people can react to the material being used. It’s best to try different bedding if you do find yourself reacting to the bedding and to make sure the bedding isn’t dangerous to your hedgehog.
We use two types of bedding, the first is fabric-based and quite light and we also use a more bouncy type of fabric bedding.
Some material used for bedding can have loose threads which can cause the hedgehog’s legs to get caught, restricting circulation and possibly leading to amputation.
4. Reactions to hedgehog faeces and urine is rare
Cleaning the hedgehog’s cage can put you into contact with their poop (faeces) and pee which could cause a reaction in some people. Poop can be quite stubborn to remove after it’s dried, especially when it’s stuck to the bedding and running wheel, so it sometimes needs to be handled to be removed.
Thankfully none of us has had such a reaction as we have occasionally handled the dried poop stuck to the bedding, running wheel when trying to remove it.
Investing in a pair of gloves to wear when cleaning the cage is a good idea if there is a reaction to cleaning the cage, but do make sure you wash your hands after you take off the latex gloves as the residual smell of the latex and any residues (latex, talcum powder) might not agree with your hedgehog.
5. Reactions to hedgehog saliva is rare
Hedgehogs can also lick your skin and rub their wet nose against your skin, so if you are holding them and get a reaction, maybe further investigation into contact with these bodily fluids needs to be investigated.
Hedgehogs also like to self-anoint themselves by spreading saliva across their body. It is not known why they do this and generally tend to do this after they encounter a new smell or food.
The anointing starts by the hedgehog contorting their body and foaming saliva at the mouth, they then lick the foam into their quills and potentially this saliva foam could be another source of allergic reaction when touching their spines.
False allergic reactions
Not all allergic reactions can be hedgehog related and this is so true when it comes to spring and the high pollen count. This is the time of year when my daughter starts her course of anti-histamines and she can forget to start taking these until she starts to show symptoms.
We know any allergic reaction at this time when she’s handling the hedgehog are most probably going to be a reaction to pollen due to not taking anti-histamines.
Cleaning your Hedgehog
It’s important to have a regular bathing schedule for your hedgehog as this can reduce the amount of dander and help in getting rid of other allergens such as those associated with dried up poop and pee.
It is very important to not bathe hedgehogs too often. As sometimes the hedgehog’s skin can become dry and flaky as the water reduces the skin of its natural oils causing it to dry out. This, in turn, can increase the likelihood of producing more dander and worse still for the hedgehog, cause their skin to crack and lead to sores.
This is why we stick to a regime of bathing our hedgehog every two weeks. The following tips can help keep your hedgehog clean and limit drying their skin.
Tips for Bathing Your Hedgehog
(i) Use an oats based wash can be beneficial as a moisturiser for your hedgehog, helping to reduce the chances of the skin drying out too much. You can use a commercial product like Aveeno or as we do, we simply put some oats (oatmeal) into an old sock and leave this to soak in the bathwater.
Be careful to use just oats as some prepared oats can sometimes also include milk powder which if combined with the bathwater and drunk by the hedgehog could exasperate their lactose intolerance.
(ii) Do a foot wash first, by putting in enough water cover the hedgehog’s feet (about a centimetre/a third of an inch) so their feet get a soak. This allows any poop dried on their feet to soften and therefore make it easier to remove.
(iii) Do a complete body wash after you’ve done a foot wash. Keep the water level at just below their chin level so they can move without having to be stressed by trying to stay afloat. This also makes it easier to soak the fur underneath them as they glide across the water, allowing any dried up poop to become dislodged as it softens in the water.
(iv) Dry your hedgehog properly by using a good quality towel, as this will absorb any microscopic dander pieces and also help reduce the chances of the hedgehog becoming cold later on.
Tips to Minimize Problems with Dander in the Home
If you’re interested in the hedgehog as your next family pet, there are ways to reduce the effects of the hedgehog dander in your home. Being proactive in the care of your hedgehog can help contain the spread of allergens that may affect sensitive members of your family.
Here are some tips that can help keep the dander levels in your home down.
(i) Make Bedrooms Off-Limits
To start off with, try to make bedrooms off-limits to your pet hedgehog especially if your child or someone in your household has allergies.
We didn’t have a problem taking our hedgehog into our bedrooms as sometimes with other pets, this can cause the dander to build up in the bedroom and affect the quality of sleep a person with allergies experiences.
In fact, sometimes my daughter has let the hedgehog run across her bed to my disdain as the possibility of him pooping on the bed is always there. However, there’s been no resultant itching or unpleasant feeling afterwards with my daughter, so again proving to us the hypoallergenic qualities of hedgehogs.
When we have visitors around for a meal we tend to shift our hedgehog to one of the bedrooms and recently whilst we were having the downstairs of house painted, we left the hedgehog in our daughter’s room for nearly a week and there were no allergic-type reactions. Fortunately, my daughter is a deep sleeper so the hedgehog eating and running on his wheel at night didn’t wake her up.
(ii) Keep hedgehogs off your furniture
Again if someone has an allergy in your household, then keeping your hedgehog off your couch or other furniture may be a good idea. You may have carpet and letting the hedgehog crawl through this may not be a good idea, as dander could easily end up in the carpet fibres and when people walk on the carpet, this dander could inadvertently be recirculated. Instead, restrict the hedgehog to a fabric sheet which you can easily clean after the hedgehog has been on it.
For me, as my daughter showed no allergic reaction to our hedgehog at the start, we didn’t have to worry about our hedgehog scurrying along our couch or in the carpeted areas of our house. We did have to make sure he didn’t poop or pee on the couch and the easiest away to avoid this is to allow them sometime when they wake up to do their business in their cage.
(iii) Wash your hands
It’s important to wash hands after handling hedgehogs as not only is it hygienic but any resultant dander, no matter how tiny is washed off. By adopting this practice, dander doesn’t build up to allergic levels.
Washing hands is also essential in reducing the risk from salmonella, as there have been a few cases where owners have caught salmonella poisoning from poor hygiene habits.
(iv) Invest in a Powerful Vacuum with a HEPA filter
It’s wise to invest in one of those vacuum cleaners with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter as the dander can be like dust with microscopic parts that mix in with house dust and spread around the house. Vacuum cleaners with sealed bodies and HEPA filters will reduce the amount of dust and the dander in the air and resulting in limiting it from recirculating around the house.
Air purifiers could also be used to try to remove any microscopic dander in the air. In my daughter’s case, there was no need for us to go to these lengths as she showed very little, in effect no allergic reactions to the hedgehog.
(v) Consult Your Doctor
If you have allergies but really want an hedgehog, please consult your doctor to see your options. There may be medicines or other medical assistance available to make your dreams of owning an hedgehog a reality.
Hedgehogs don’t produce much dander and it’s because of this minimal dander as to why hedgehogs can be a good pet for people who have less serious allergies.
We found out that the hedgehog is an ideal pet suitable for my daughter. We’d heard a lot about them being hypoallergenic, and additionally, we found out about other things which can also make an hedgehog better suited to people like my daughter who have allergies.
Can you be allergic to hedgehogs? Yes not only to dander (microscopic skin flakes from the body) but you can also be allergic to the hedgehogs poop, pee, their bedding or even get a reaction by just touching their quills (spines).
Can you be Allergic to hedgehog urine? Yes, some people may find their allergic reaction is to the hedgehog’s urine. As the hedgehog can end up with urine-soaked into their fur, so it’s best to test whether you’re allergic by handling them after you’ve bathed them to try to rule out whether you are allergic to their urine.