Is It Normal for A Hedgehog to Lose Quills? (Detailed)


A hedgehog is a small animal that many people keep as pets in their homes. Their body is usually covered in quills that are also known as spines. During its lifetime, a hedgehog will lose most of its quills because of age, stress, skin disease, among other reasons.

So, is it normal for a hedgehog to lose quills? It is normal for a hedgehog to lose its quills. A hedgehog will lose most of its quills during its lifetime in a process known as quilling. The quills on the hedgehog’s back will fall off and be replaced by new stronger quills during quilling. Quilling usually starts during adolescence and will continue during the hedgehog’s adulthood.

A hedgehog, just like many other animals, loses its outer coats during its lifetime. A hedgehog will lose its quills starting from adolescence, and the old quills will be replaced with new quills. The average hedgehog as approximately more than 5000 quills. Out of the 5000, it will replace as much as 90% of them during its lifespan. With that in mind, it is safe to conclude that it is normal for a hedgehog to lose it’s quills

Whilst losing quills is normal, you should always be keen to ascertain why your hedgehog is losing them. Any loss of quills other than loss caused by ageing should actually concern you.

Read on to find out more about hedgehogs losing their quills, if stress influences quilling, how to calm a quilling hedgehog, and how many quills a hedgehog should lose in a day.

Quilling in Hedgehogs

Quilling is a natural process where a hedgehog loses its quills. There are times when your hedgehog will start to lose large amounts of quills within a short time. Quilling starts during adolescence and will happen a few times during the hedgehog’s adulthood.

A hedgehog will start to lose its quills at around six months to eight weeks. The quills are usually thinner, smaller, and delicate. During the first quilling, you will notice the loss of small fine quills and the growth of thicker quills. The new quills grow through the holes left behind by the old quills.

Quilling can be a painful process for the hedgehog. The holes left behind by the old quills are small, and the new quills, which are thicker, have to grow through the small holes. If the new quills have a coarse surface, then the hedgehog will experience pain during the quilling process.

If the quill cannot pass through the hole, it will start to curve inside the skin, causing a situation that’s similar to ingrown hair in human beings. You should inspect the back of the hedgehog once it starts to lose its quill to check if the quill is stuck. You can pull the quill slowly and disinfect the area.

During quilling, the behavior of your hedgehog might change. Some hedgehogs will not show any signs, but others will become grouchy whenever you touch them. Some will have increased temperaments and will not allow you to touch them. If you want to inspect their back, hold them by their belly. Avoid petting a quilling hedgehog until their grouchiness decreases. If the hedgehog continues to be grouchy for a long time, you should consult a veterinarian.

It is not the best idea to stop handling your hedgehog entirely because it is quilling. It can be a considerate thing to do, but the lack of touch might lead to the loss of the bond between you and your hedgehog. If you fear hurting them, let them initiate contact by cuddling you or walking on your lap.

Other factors will cause your hedgehog to lose its quills. If the hedgehog receives insufficient diets, it will begin to lose some of its quills and might have difficulties replacing them. Stress can also cause the hedgehog to lose its quills.

Another factor that can cause quill loss in hedgehogs is hormonal imbalances. If you believe that your hedgehog is losing more quills than normal, take your hedgehog to the vet to check the real cause of quill loss.

Hedgehog quills are quite hard and sharp and can be dangerous and hurt you when the hedgehog has them erect in their normal defensive position. When hedgehogs are relaxed or ill they may relax their quills, making it easier to hold them by putting your hands around their quills instead of having to grip them lower on their body around their belly area.

It is not advised to cut or trim the hedgehogs quills, as this could upset and distress the hedgehog. Plus it’s not something naturally owners would do and therefore it’s not recommended.

Don’t worry too much about the hedgehogs quills as they are not poisonous and the hedgehog can’t shoot the quills out. These are just some urban myths.

Do Hedgehogs Lose Quills When Stressed?

Stress can have physical effects on many living things. In human beings, we lose hair or weight when stressed; hedgehogs will lose their quills. There are several issues that will cause a hedgehog to have stress.

So, do hedgehogs lose quills when stressed? Hedgehogs lose their quills when stressed. Therefore, try to look out for stress factors for your hedgehog to prevent it from losing its quills. One of the things that will cause stress in hedgehogs is housing. Keep the hedgehog in a secure place. If you have many hedgehogs, do not keep them together in the same house. Each hedgehog should have its place away from the others.

Another cause of stress is other pets in the household. If the hedgehog interacts with other pets such as cats or dogs, they might feel threatened. If the interaction continues for a long time, the hedgehog will get stressed, leading to quill loss. You can keep other pets in the home but ensure that the pets do not interact with the hedgehog.

Ensure the hedgehog’s housing is peaceful and quiet. Hedgehogs do not like noisy homes; hence you will have to keep the noise at a minimum. Noisy homes will cause stress to your hedgehog and might lead to quill loss in the future.

How Do You Calm a Quilling Hedgehog?

Quilling can be an uncomfortable experience for your hedgehog. When the smaller quills fall off, thicker quills start to grow, and they have to pass through the small holes. Your hedgehog will need some calming to reduce the pain.

So, how do you calm a quilling hedgehog? The most common method of calming a quilling hedgehog is giving it an oatmeal bath. You can use an oatmeal soak or oatmeal-based soaps to clean your hedgehog. Dip a sponge in the oatmeal soak and gently wipe the back of the hedgehog back to front. You can also use oils to soften the skin of the hedgehog. Apply small drops of oil directly on the skin; the oil will help soften the skin making it less painful when the new quills start to grow. Do not apply too much oil to the hedgehog’s skin because it might lead to other skin problems.

During the bath, you may use a brush when cleaning the hedgehog. Brushing the quills will help remove the loose quills and increase access to the oatmeal bath to the skin. However, do not brush regularly as it may cause the hedgehog some discomfort. You should also ensure that the hedgehog’s housing is peaceful and quiet during the quilling process.

How Many Quills Should a Hedgehog Lose a Day?

Quills cover the upper part of the hedgehog, and if they lose many quills at a time the skin on the back will be exposed. It is important to know the normal amount of quills a hedgehog should lose a day. If your hedgehog passes that number, then you have to visit a veterinarian.

So how many quills should a hedgehog lose a day? A hedgehog should lose fifteen to twenty quills a day during quilling. As the hedgehog grows older, the number of quills lost in a day will begin to decrease. The number of quills lost in a day could also depend on the hedgehog’s color, age, quill coverage, and diet. When your hedgehog reaches the quilling age, keep a watch on it to monitor how many quills it loses.

If the number is high, there could be other factors that are influencing the quill loss. If the hedgehog gets infested with mites, stress, insufficient diet, or hormonal imbalances, then the quills lost in a day could be higher. You should consult a veterinarian if you suspect your hedgehog is losing many quills in a day.

Note that the hedgehog quilling process usually varies depending on a number of factors. Factors such as the age of a hedgehog, genetic components and even health are all good examples of factors that usually affect how long the quilling process lasts. Strangely though, there really isn’t a definite answer on how long the hedgehog quilling process should last.

Some hedgehogs could be done with the process in just a couple of weeks while other take as much as a month. Be sure to check the back of your hedgehog gently to see if it looks like the hedgie still has a lot more quills to go.  More often than not, you may see new spins poking through the skin.

Even though a hedgehog can lose 15 to 20 quills a day, this figure may be high at first and then it should take a nosedive at some point after the hedgie has lost the majority of its baby quills. Either way, be on the lookout for anything abnormal. For instance, as said earlier mite infestation may worsen the quilling process and force your hedgie to lose as much as 30 quills a day.

Is Quilling Painful and Uncomfortable for Hedgehogs?

The quilling process is certainly uncomfortable if not painful. To put this into perspective, picture what it’d feel like to push large quills through small openings on your skin. Some hedgehogs endure more pain than others depending on rigidity and size of their spins.

Unfortunately, the whole process is situational and can’t in any way be predicted or even have anything used to make a quilling hedgie go through the process. Think of it as how humans lose their milk teeth with the only difference here being that the quilling process, unlike the tooth loss process, is painful.

Your hedgehog will be feeling sensitive all over. This means you’ll have no choice but to adjust the way you play with him during the quilling process. The same kind of cuddles and snuggles you did before he started quilling may not work anymore. The trick here is to be gentle.

Sometimes, a quill may fail to come out neatly and cause even more pain. Eventually though, it’ll come out and sort itself over time. Still in some cases, a new spine might fail to grow well for quite some time. This can easily lead to long term pain and discomfort or even bleeding. Such cases, though rare, call for timely intervention.

If you’ve had a hedgehog before, you may have noticed that they liked moving around a lot. They’re simply active and playful. While this is a good thing, it comes along with a few downsides especially when a hedgie is quilling. In other words, even the smoothest hedgehog quilling can still cause great pain and discomfort. The hedgie may bump its quills into stationary objects while playing, a move that will most likely cause pain.

Be particularly careful when handling a quilling hedgie. You probably don’t know this yet, but a lot of hedgehog bites occur when they’re quilling. It is easy to understand why. During quilling, a hedgehog’s skin becomes tender and sensitive. That explains why they usually resist being handled when they’re quilling. Handle it the wrong way and it’ll most likely bite in a bid to steer you off its skin.

Quills vs Spines

Quilling when used in reference to hedgehogs is a somewhat deceptive term. That’s because technically speaking, hedgehogs don’t have quills. Instead, they have spines. But like you may have already noticed, many people talk of quills when what they actually mean to say is spines. Either way, use of ‘quills’ will suffice mostly because many hedgehog lovers and even specialized pets immediately know what one means when they talk of quills.

As stated earlier, quilling refers to the process hedgehogs go through when they lose their old spines for new ones. For newbie hedgehog lovers, the process may stand out as scary. It shouldn’t alarm you because quilling is part of the hedgehog growing process.

Stress can take a toll on a hedgehog and ultimately affect the quilling process. Once stressed the quilling process may take longer than usual or delay if it hasn’t started yet. Healing may then take more time once a hedgie bleeds as is quills. There isn’t much you can do here on your own to help out the quilling hedgie. Your best bet is to have a vet examine and diagnose it.

Hedgehogs go through the quilling process at least twice in their lifetime. The first time they experience quilling will most likely be when they’re between 4 and 6 weeks old. Note that this is when lots of change, discomfort and even pain will happen.

This has everything to do with the fact that the hedgehog at this time, will be replacing very small quills with larger and stronger ones. You should actually be able to check the back of your hedgehog to see adult quills beginning to grow through.

The second quilling episode will happen when a hedgehog is about 16 weeks old. This isn’t usually as bad as the first one. However, it can still get slightly uncomfortable, so be on the lookout just to ensure your hedgie goes through the process with ease.

Note that it is possible for a hedgehog to go through other smaller quilling instances later on in its life. Such instances are, however, less defined. The first two quilling processes are what you should be on the lookout for.

Wrap Up

Quilling is a natural process that every hedgehog has to go through during its lifetime. Quilling starts during adolescence when the hedgehog losses its small fine quills, and new thicker quills start to grow. During adulthood, the hedgehog will start to lose fewer quills. It will be a painful process for the hedgehog, and you will have to comfort your hedgehog. 

Other factors can influence your hedgehog to lose its quills. They include stress, mites, hormonal imbalances, and insufficient diet. Always check the number of quills lost in a day to determine whether the hedgehog is losing the correct number of quills. Take your hedgehog to the veterinarian if you believe there is something wrong with its quilling.

As hedgehog quilling is a natural process, you don’t have to worry about it unless the process takes longer than usual, or your hedgehog excessively bleeds. As already mentioned, the process is more or less like losing a tooth for humans. The best you can do during the quilling process is to keep the quilling hedgie as comfortable as possible.

It is also worth noting that quilling, your hedgie may not feed as much as it did before. This is especially the case during the first few days. With time though, the hedgie will feed as usual. Then by all means remember to get rid of all quills once they fall off the hedgie.

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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