Do Hedgehogs Die Easily? (Shocking Facts)


Ill hedgehog lying on top of a blanket

It is essential for anyone keeping or intending to keep a hedgehog as a pet to gather enough information about these adorable animals to ensure they know how to help them live a healthy and long life. For instance, it is crucial to understand what constitutes a proper diet and the diseases that affect these animals.

So, do hedgehogs die easily? Hedgehogs can die easily, with death from poor diets and diseases being the major factors that affect the lifespan of hedgehogs. Moreover, since hedgehogs hide their illnesses, many people cannot tell when these creatures are sick or almost dying until it is too late.

A hedgehog is a unique animal, and with its unique nature comes the need for special care. Therefore, read on for factors that affect a hedgehog’s lifespan, signs of a dying hedgehog, and how you can help an ill hedgehog.

Two Main Factors That Affect the Lifespan of Hedgehogs

In the wild, hedgehogs mainly die after they fall prey to predators. Because of predators, hedgehogs live for around 2-3 years in the wild.

For pet hedgehogs, life expectancy differs significantly from one hedgehog to the other. The average life expectancy of pet hedgehogs is five years. Some hedgehogs live for more than five years, while others die before the five-year mark. The variance in life expectancy among these animals arises due to various factors.

Two of the factors that influence hedgehogs’ longevity are:

1. Diet

Regardless of the type of pet, diet is one of the most important things that people need to focus on to ensure pets live for a considerable amount of time. Choosing the right diet can help hedgehogs live long healthy lives, whereas one wrong choice could have devastating effects.

Following breeders’ recommendations is of utmost importance. After acquiring a hedgehog from any breeder, hedgehog owners should follow the recommendations for no less than a month. After that, the transition can happen slowly and only if it is in the hedgehog’s best interest. 

Hedgehogs have unique needs. It is best to provide them with a varied diet. A hedgehog should not be attached to only one type of food. If they become attached and at some point, that food runs out, problems could arise.

Different experts recommend different foods for hedgehogs—the debate about what is best for these creatures is never-ending. Despite the debates, there are some general recommendations that hedgehog owners can consider.

Hedgehogs appreciate diets filled with meaty protein foods. Insects are perfect for hedgehogs since they are insectivores. However, avoiding any insects that are not balanced in phosphorous and calcium is crucial.

The proper balance of calcium and phosphorous is crucial because it prevents diseases such as metabolic bone disease. MBD can lead to death if not quickly treated.

Being careful not to give acidic food to hedgehogs is also essential because acidic food can cause ulcers. Avocados, raisins, and grapes are not suitable for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are also lactose intolerant, so feeding them milk is risky.

2. Diseases

Many pet hedgehogs die due to cancer and tumors. Three-year-old hedgehogs are more prone to cancer. Tumors affect almost all their body parts, and any hedgehog suffering from a tumor is likely to die. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to tell when a hedgehog has a tumor. 

Another disease that affects hedgehogs is obesity, and, unfortunately, many pet hedgehogs are overweight. Rationing the food hedgehogs eat is vital to avoid obesity. Maintaining a balanced diet is also a way of protecting hedgehogs from obesity. Exercise is also vital for hedgehogs to prevent obesity.

Wild hedgehogs usually run several miles at night, and that is why they are rarely obese. To ensure pet hedgehogs exercise enough, providing them with a large enclosure that can accommodate an exercise wheel is essential. Allowing them out of their cages to exercise and socially interact can also help prevent obesity.

It is vital to note that few diseases can cause the sudden death of a healthy hedgehog. Cancer, obesity, and tumors kill hedgehogs gradually. However, heart diseases can cause healthy hedgehogs to die suddenly. The disease is common among old hedgehogs. Obese hedgehogs are also prone to heart disease. Read more about hedgehog diseases : 8 common hedgehog diseases.

With well-balanced diets, close monitoring of diseases, and enough exercise, hedgehogs can live up to seven years. Others can live for a much more extended period, so there is no exact number that you can attach to these tough creatures’ lifespan.

How do you know when your hedgehog is dying?

There may be visible signs your hedgehog is dying like lumps appearing on their face and body, which are most likely tumors. Changes in habits, like drinking water more than normal, could indicate cancers in organs like their liver. Weight loss to changes in their bowel habits, their overall motility where they become lethargic or have trouble standing, curling into a ball or end up moving erratically could also indicate illness and disease.

Not diagnosing tumors and cancers early in hedgehogs almost automatically leads to death. Veterinarians are the only ones that can accurately diagnose illnesses in hedgehogs, regardless of the cause of illness.

Hedgehog with face tumor (right side)

As noted earlier in this article, it is not easy to identify when a hedgehog is ill or almost dying because these creatures hide illnesses. Nonetheless, an alert individual can notice some worrying signs that could indicate a hedgehog is ill and probably dying. Some of the signs of an ill or dying hedgehog include;

  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Slow breaths
  • Regular coughs or sneezes

Therefore, be on the lookout for the above symptoms. However, to be on the safe side, you can always take your hedgehog for frequent checkups by a professional vet.

How to help a dying hedgehog?

With terminal illnesses where the chances of the hedgehog surviving are minimal, medication can help give the dying hedgehog pain relief. A veterinarian will be able to prescribe pain killers and these can help hedgehogs deal with the pain from tumors and cancers.

It is not advisable for anyone to have to deal with a severe hedgehog condition on their own, it can be tough, especially emotionally when your pet is seriously ill.

Keep an eye on whether the hedgehog is eating, as it may become difficult for the hedgehog to eat. Especially if they have problems standing or keeping their head up, in such cases their head may need to be held up.

Make sure their food is easily digestible, as they may not have the strength the break the food down by chewing it. Dry cat biscuits require them to break the hard biscuits with their teeth. Breaking dry cat biscuits into very small pieces and adding some water, to make it mushier, could make it easier for a dying hedgehog to eat.

Keep an eye on their water intake and if the water in the water bowl or water dispenser isn’t being drunk, giving them water using a syringe will keep them hydrated.

Pet hedgehog drinking medicine from a syringe
Syringe to give a hedgehog extra water

Make sure they are kept warm, as ill hedgehogs may become confused and end up sleeping in all areas of the cage including their house. Some areas of the cage will be colder than others, so it’s essential to ensure they sleep in the warm areas like their house, especially if there’s a heat mat pad underneath.

Differentiating between dead and hibernating hedgehogs

Identifying a dead hedgehog may not be as straightforward as one may assume. It is not uncommon for hedgehog owners to confuse hibernating hedgehogs for dead hedgehogs.

Regardless of a hedgehog’s lifespan, finding a dead hedgehog is never an easy thing to handle. Unfortunately, sometimes people confuse hibernating hedgehogs with dead ones. When a hedgehog does not appear to be breathing it does not necessarily mean it is dead.

To differentiate between a dead and a hibernating hedgehog, keep in mind the following.

Hedgehog curled up in a ball

Usually, when a hedgehog is curled up in a tight ball, the chances are that the creature is hibernating. A curled-up hedgehog is not necessarily dead. To confirm whether a hedgehog is alive, gently touch its spine. Hibernating hedgehogs usually shudder and even let out snoring noises when gently touched.

Also, checking the belly for coldness is a way of figuring out whether the creature is dead or hibernating. A cold belly is likely an indication of attempted hibernation and not death.

Ensuring a hibernating hedgehog receives enough heat is of utmost importance. Placing a heating pad over a hibernating hedgehog can help with the warming up. 

Hedgehog lying flat

If a hedgehog is lying flat, the chances are that it is most likely dead, but not definitely. When aestivating, hedgehogs lie flat so that their stomachs are in contact with the cool surface. Aestivation is almost similar to African Pygmy hedgehogs as they have evolved in warmer climates and are not used to colder climates. Resulting in the possibility of falling into hibernation, but unlike hibernation, aestivation occurs during the hot season.

Differentiating between dead and hibernating hedgehogs is crucial to ensure proper handling.

Conclusion

There are several factors that dictate a hedgehogs lifespan. It is impossible to give a yes or a no answer to the question, “do hedgehogs die easily?” However, it is a fact that several factors influence these creatures’ longevity.

The two main factors that affect their longevity are diseases and diet. As hedgehog illnesses are not easily visible, remaining alert is of utmost importance. Identifying signs and symptoms of illnesses can save the life of a hedgehog.

Additionally, exercise is vital for these creatures to avoid obesity. When it comes to diet, avoiding foods that react negatively with hedgehogs and embracing balanced diets is vital. If you provide a healthy diet for your hedgehog, allow them to exercise, and regularly visit a vet, you do not need to worry about your hedgehog dying easily.

Bal Kang

Hi I'm Bal together with my daughter Jinnee, we've created this website about African Pygmy Hedgehogs. We've learnt a lot looking after our hedgehog Hynee and share our knowledge, tips and tricks.

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