It was very important for us to find out if an hedgehog could cause allergic reactions, as my daughter has a number of allergies. A hedgehog would make a good pet for her if she didn’t have any allergic reactions.
Can you be allergic to hedgehogs? Allergic reactions to hedgehogs is rarer in people compared to other pets. Some people can be allergic to a hedgehog’s urine, faeces, their food and their bedding. Overall, hedgehogs are considered to be hypoallergenic because they produce less allergic reactions from the fact they produce very little dander compared to other pets.
Hedgehog owners can take these simple tips to limit the chances of suffering an allergic reaction to their hedgehogs. I’ll discuss these points in detail in the rest of this article.
1. Check before you buy
One of the most important things you can do before buying an hedgehog is to see if you can spend some time with a hedgehog and actually handle them. By doing this, you will quickly be able to determine whether you react to the hedgehog or not.
Any reputable pet shop or breeder should be able to give you an opportunity to handle hedgehogs before you buy them and it only requires a few minutes of exposure to these exotic creatures to lay any foundation to allergic reactions.
By then checking over the next few days to any reactions can give some comfort in trying to establish whether the hedgehog is the right pet for you.
This is exactly what we did, on our first visit to the breeder we asked whether our daughter could handle one of the hedgehogs. My daughter was at ease picking up the hedgehog and holding her in her palms, taking care not to lose her hold and correcting her grip as the hedgehog moved.
By the time we arrived home, was the first opportunity for my daughter to wash her hands and even up to this point there didn’t seem to be any reaction. Over the next few days, we monitored the situation and we were all relieved there no reactions at all.
I would also recommend trying to also get your hands on the bedding, toys and other items associated with the hedgehog to see if you don’t react to these either. This isn’t something we did as it can be difficult to do this with mail-ordered items however, you can still check them when you receive the items.
2. Cage cleaning reactions
Reactions to cleaning a hedgehogs cage could occur from the build up of their fecal matter and urine in the hedgehogs bedding. To test any allergic reactions, any cleaning should be done without gloves first.
Keeping the hedgehog cage clean can also help in reducing exposure to any allergens. We have developed our own routine for cleaning our hedgehog’s cage.
(i) Remove poop daily
Removing poop on a daily basis is a must (use a portable vacuum cleaner). Poop can build up quickly if not cleaned on a daily basis and this results in more poop being soaked onto the hedgehog and providing a source of reaction to anyone allergic to hedgehog poop.
(ii) Do a midweek clean
A midweek clean involves changing the bedding and running wheel to a clean one. Bedding doesn’t just include the fabric-based cage flooring but also the fabric-based tunnel, with both of these put in for a wash. Make sure the detergent used for cleaning clothes isn’t toxic for your hedgehog.
(ii) Do a full weekly clean
We also do a full clean once a week where we remove everything from the cage and clean the cage using soapy water to scrub out the dried poop and the remnants of any pee. Making sure a rinse is done thoroughly to remove any residues of soapy water as part of the final cleaning.
It’s important to not use any chemicals to clean cages as these could be damaging (even fatal) to hedgehogs. Scented products must not also be used when you clean your hedgehog’s cage as any residue can be troubling for hedgehogs. They have an incredible sense of smell and may be distressed by the smell of scents.
3. Airborne reactions
Using a vacuum cleaner with HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter can help in picking up any dander settled around your home, especially airborne particles of dander.
Air purifiers with HEPA filters are also a good idea as they will clean the air circulating around your home, trapping any microscopic elements of dander floating around.
4. Bathing reactions
Bathing a hedgehog can put their owners into contact with the bath water, which can contain fecal matter, urine aswell as moisturizing solutions or oatmeal. These all can contribute to allergic reactions and gloves may need to be worn to avoid any reactions.
Another essential tip is to bathe your hedgehog every two weeks allowing for any poop, pee and dander to be washed away. It’s important you don’t wash hedgehogs too frequently as this can lead to their skin drying out.
To reduce the chances of skin drying out too much, try to use an oats based wash as this can provide moisturizing benefits. We use an old sock filled with oats (oatmeal) which we place in the bath and let soak for a while before we move it around the water to spread the oat moisturizing benefits around.
(i) The first part to the bathing routine is to pour in enough warm water to cover their feet, generally, we put in about a centimetre (a third of an inch). The purpose of this is to try to soak the poop on their feet and lower legs to soften it, making it easier to come off. You may have to rub the poop of their limbs if it doesn’t come off by itself.
(ii) The next part is to take out the dirty water and put in some fresh warm water up to being level with the underside of the hedgehog. Let the hedgehog move around the water, allowing any poop and dander to picked up by the water.
Occasionally pour warm water over their back taking care not to put the water on their heads as this can spook them. This will flush out any debris stuck around their quills.
(iii) The final part of the bathing routine is to ensure your hedgehog is dry and by using a towel, any excess water can quickly be absorbed from their fur and quills. Drying your hedgehog also has the added benefit of soaking up any residues of dander.
5. Indirect reactions
Until you are completely sure there are no reactions directly from hedgehog (you can have some assurance that this is because it’s down to low levels of dander), it is highly advisable to keep your hedgehog out of your bedrooms and off furniture.
By keeping hedgehogs away from bedroom and furniture, any potential spread of dander can be limited so reducing any allergic reactions when owners are asleep or using furniture.
My daughter does allow the hedgehog onto furniture like our couch and her bed but this because she is absolutely sure he does not pose an allergen risk.
6. Handling a hedgehog reaction
It’s important to wash your hands after you have handled your hedgehog as this is not only hygienic (removes salmonella residues) but also can remove potential allergens such as dander. If not washed, these potential allergens can spread around your home.
Consult your Doctor about allergic reactions
You may be able to get allergy medication from your doctor if you are having problems adjusting to your hedgehog.
Make sure reactions are hedgehog related
Sometimes allergies can happen for different reasons such as a pollen allergy, so make sure if you are suffering an allergic reaction, that it’s related to the hedgehog and not to something else.
Non-dander related allergic reactions
Some people might show reactions believed to be caused by dander but this might not necessarily be the case. As there’s a very low amount of dander in comparison to other pets, some people may actually be allergic to other things associated with hedgehogs than the dander itself.
A reaction to hedgehog quills can result in hive-like symptoms causing intense itching and a reddened lined appearance. I have a reaction to the hedgehog quills but without the hive-like appearance, I just tend to really start itching a lot around the affected area and need a cream to soothe the itching.
I have adapted how I hold the hedgehog to minimize being stung by the quills and this has helped immensely in limiting any reactions.
As hedgehog owners have to handle bedding and the hedgehog toys as part of their regular routine, some people can actually show allergic reactions to this.
Bedding such as straw bedding may cause reactions and aren’t generally advised as a good source of bedding for hedgehogs as it can be dangerous for them. Especially if their legs get caught in the straw leading to circulation being impeded in their limbs which in a worst-case scenario can lead to amputation.
Hedgehogs poop and pee a lot around their cages, leading to them walking through their poop and pee which ends up in their fur, quills and on their feet and legs. People who react to the poop and pee do so when they then touch the hedgehog where this has accumulated.
They also can end up touching this during the cleaning of the cage, especially as some poop becomes quite stubborn to remove as it dries up quite quickly.
Using newspapers as bedding isn’t something I would recommend as not only could the inks in the paper be toxic to the hedgehog but the newspaper isn’t a great absorber as other bedding is, leading to more urine being able to be picked up the hedgehogs fur as they move around. Straw bedding is also not a good absorber.
Hedgehogs like all other hedgehogs exhibit strange foaming at the mouth behaviour from time to time where they bend and spread the salivary foam across their quills. Nobody is really sure why they do this, but if you have a reaction to their saliva then touching the hedgehog can cause an allergic reaction.
Hedgehogs also can lick and rub their wet noses on hands when they are handled and these could also be possible causes of any reactions.
1. Hedgehog smell
Some people may find the smell of hedgehogs troubling as most of this is generally from their poop and urine. However by keeping a regular cleaning routine, this can be reduced substantially and we found most people don’t notice any odours, even when we’ve asked them to be honest and frank in their responses.
2. Hedgehog food
We feed our hedgehog predominantly on dry cat biscuits and pour these into his feeding bowl when his supplies are low. Some of the ingredients in these cat biscuits may not be agreeable to some people if these biscuits are handled. We tend to have to pick his dry cat biscuits up regularly as they get dispersed around his cage.
3. Hedgehog bites and scratches
As hedgehogs are wild animals, the risk of being bitten is always there and if you are unfortunate to be bitten, an allergic reaction to the bite could take place. My daughter has been bitten three times by her hedgehog and this was when we first had him and he wasn’t used to her.
On one occasion it was simply down to him smelling food on my daughter’s fingers and biting them assuming they were food. This was an essential lesson learnt of always washing your hands after handling food before handling the hedgehog.
Hedgehogs have nails which need to be clipped as they grow and can get caught in bedding. These nails if left too long can end up scratching people holding hedgehogs causing reactions. We get our hedgehog’s nails clipped every few months.
Make sure your up to date with any inoculations and to be safe see your doctor immediately for any reaction to bites and scratches.
4. Hedgehog Mites
Unfortunately, some hedgehogs get mites and these in themselves are not only troubling for the hedgehog but they may also cause allergic reactions to anyone handling hedgehogs.
Symptoms of mites include scratching, quill loss leading to bald patches. It’s best to take your hedgehog to your vet to try to get the mites removed. Remember to advise the vet on using a safe medicine to remove mites as some medicines used by vets have proved to be fatal both for the mites and the hedgehog.
5. Fungus and Bacterial infections
Sometimes hedgehogs can get fungal and bacterial infections which can have a knock-on effect with some people producing allergic reactions.
We don’t take our hedgehog outside of our house to limit any exposure to any infections and mites. We just want to stay on the safe side and not to put our hedgehog under any risk.
Are Hedgehogs Hypoallergenic?
Hedgehogs are considered to be hypoallergenic because they are very few reported instances of people having allergic reactions to hedgehogs. The reason for this is believed to be them producing very little dander, that is dead flecks of skin compared to other animals.
Our first step was to look at whether the hypoallergenic tag hedgehogs are given was actually worthy and could make these animals the ideal pet for my daughter. Our first port of call was finding out what dander was and how it could be the main reason for pet allergies.
We found around other pets like cat and dogs, we would see an allergic reaction in my daughter in a relatively short space of time. This would normally start by her scratching herself, starting at the arms and then progressing onto her legs.
Sneezing would also start to accompany the scratching with her eyes starting to water. Around cats, this was extremely quick to happen and around dogs, it would take an hour or two before the reactions set in.
Our initial suspicions on what was causing the allergic reactions were the pet hair and maybe just by stroking the animals, the reaction was to the hairs. We later found out it wasn’t necessarily the pet hairs causing the reaction but what was on the hairs. Dander was what was on the hairs and the real cause of the reactions.
What is dander?
Most people know what dandruff is, it’s the scaly deposits found on the scalp but when these scaly deposits are found on the body, they are not known as dandruff but are known as dander. It’s this dander that’s believed to be the main reason for pet allergies and pets with low levels of dander can produce less allergic reactions.
Hedgehogs are considered good pets for people with allergies as they produce very little dander. Any dander which is produced can be minimized further by adopting good cleaning and bathing routines.
Hedgehog owners can take simple steps to limit the chances of suffering an allergic reaction to their hedgehogs.
Are Hedgehogs Hypoallergenic? Hedgehogs are generally considered to be hypoallergenic because they produce relatively very little dander. Dander is considered to be one of the main contributors to allergic reactions from pets.
Can you be Allergic to hedgehog urine? Reactions to hedgehogs urine could be an issue for some people. However, a regular cleaning routine can wash out any urine that can get soaked into the hedgehog’s fur.
Be careful not to use any oats with milk powder in them as hedgehogs do sometimes drink their bath water and any milk digested isn’t too good for these lactose intolerant creatures.