Can Hedgehogs Overheat and Die from Heat? (Shocking Facts)


Recently I learned that small pets are susceptible to overheating, especially hedgehogs. I have been wondering about the temperature thresholds of keeping the hedgehog’s cage to ensure that the pet is happy. So, I conducted extensive research to find out more on this aspect.

So, can hedgehogs overheat and die from heat? Hedgehogs can die of heatstroke when the temperature exceeds the optimum temperature. Heat stroke commonly happens when temperatures are 82F (28C)  or above. High humidity of over 70% can increase the likelihood of heatstroke. Other risk factors that can lead to heatstroke include inadequate ventilation and shade, overcrowding including other forms of stress.

A hedgehog cage should be maintained between 80F (26.5C) and 72F (22C). Most hedgehogs enjoy an optimal temperature between 74F (23C) and 76F (24C), it is important to note that an individual pet may prefer a little cooler or warmer than that. Temperatures that get lower than 70F (21C) are considered colder and can result in a hibernation attempt which can be fatal.

If the temperatures get above 80F (26.5C), the hedgehog will show signs of being hot, such as “splatting” with their belly to the floor and the legs splayed out. During the summer months a floor tile or a ceramic pot within the pet environment will give it a proper way to cool down. Hedgehogs can cope up with  temperatures of up to 80F but this not comfortable for them and should be avoided if possible.

Hedgehog investigating their environment

Even if your thermostat indicates that your room temperature is within the correct range, a thermometer should be kept in the hedgehog’s cage to keep track of the temperature. Cages that are kept close to the ground are normally 5 to 6 degrees cooler than the air higher up in the room.

What Happens if Hedgehogs Get Too Hot?

Aestivation occurs when the temperatures get too hot resulting in hedgehogs becoming lifeless as they don’t have the energy to move, keep their spines erect or even curl up into a ball. Prolonged aestivation could result in serious health problems for hedgehogs.

These pets do not cope well with sudden changes in temperatures. These pets should be kept in a controlled environment to prevent aestivation. When this occurs, it is not healthy and safe for your pet.

In captivity hedgehogs have lost the ability to recover from aestivation. As a result, aestivation attempts by pet hedgehogs have become very dangerous and can get fatal. If the pet is not given immediate attention it can die. Hedgehogs that live in captivity should be kept in a controlled environment to make sure that the temperatures do not exceed the optimal limit.

When your pet starts to aestivate, it will be very warm to touch.  When it gets too hot for the hedgehog it may appear to be in deep sleep called torpor. It begins to become lethargic at this point and cannot ball up or curl up at all.

The pet will become shaky and unsteady on its feet as if it is drunk when it is able to uncurl. The above symptom should not be confused with the wobbly hedgehog syndrome. When it gets too hot, the wobbliness occurs suddenly and is often completely reversible.

Loss of appetite or complete cessation of eating are some of the main symptoms. An increase in ambient temperature can cause the hedgehog to become hot. The shortening of the cold hours of the day may force the hedgehog to go into aestivation.

Barometric pressure changes or sudden increase in outdoor temperatures can also cause your hedgehog to start aestivation.  Once your hedgehog starts aestivation, it is prone to future attempts.

Regardless of the cause of aestivation, it’s important to cool down your pet immediately, but very slowly. You can place your hedgehog on a towel soaked in cold water. You will know that your hedgehog has recovered when it starts moving around.

Once the hedgehog begins to cool down, take it to the vet in order to determine whether the symptoms were truly due to hot weather and not some other life threatening sickness. Delay of care in such a situation can result in death.

For long term care, you are required to take extra precautions that your hedgehog does not attempt to activate again. If possible, monitor the room temperature and keep a close look for fluctuations during the hot summer days. Make sure that the cage is sufficiently ventilated, and a cold draft is flowing through it to maintain the cage at an optimal temperature.

Avoid using any human grade cooling equipment after a certain period. The best way to keep a close eye on the daily high temperatures is to keep a digital low/ high thermometer. Natural light cycle is essential to prevent repeat aestivation attempts. Reduce the amount of light penetrating into the cage if there is too much light entering the room.

Opening up the cage for free air circulation is advised. Choose less fluffy bedding that will not conserve any body heat. Layers of vellux and fleece are greatly discouraged. Instead use heat dissipating tiles.

How Hot is Too Hot for a Hedgehog?

A hedgehog cage is deemed hot when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When your hedgehog begins to show signs like “splatting” with their stomach on the floor and the legs splayed out, then your pet is hot. When the temperature exceeds 90 degrees your hedgehog can collapse due to heatstroke. This can lead to heart failure and ultimately death.

When you realize that your pet is breathing deeply and heavily, lying with its belly down and is clearly too hot, panting and while the tongue is sticking out coupled with sluggish movements is a clear indication that the temperatures are too high. You need to initiate the cooling process immediately as outlined above.

You should be careful not to cool it down too much because you can drive it into hibernation. To properly regulate the temperature you can use frozen water bottles and place it over the animal’s cage. Always ensure that it does not drastically lower the temperature of the pet.

When the hedgehog feels that the temperatures go high, they start initiating the process of aestivation. Domestic hedgehogs attempt to initiate the process, but in reality, they cannot do this. And this attempted aestivation is very fatal for them because their bodies are not adapted to such extreme changes compared to their wild counterparts

Wild hedgehogs are good at doing this. Because they have developed adaptations to deal with such extreme temperatures. Most pet hedgehogs are smaller and have not adapted into dealing with such extreme temperature changes. That is why any attempt to aestivate a domestic hedgehog is not nothing natural for them.

When the metabolic rate goes up, their heart beat goes up in an attempt to cool it down. This can lead to fatigue of heart muscles and may lead to death. In some cases, the immune system can be affected making them more likely to get sick. Never let the temperatures exceed above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

In conclusion, preserving the perfect temperature for your pet hedgehog is vital. The ideal temperature for hedgehogs is 72F (22C) to 80F (26.5). Maintaining the temperatures within the above bracket during the summer may include using ceramic objects in the cage for your hedgehogs to cool down. Aestivation is a life threatening emergency.

This happens when the temperature goes above the ideal limit. It is essential to seek immediate medical attention to help treat the condition. If possible, use a wet material to cool down your pet. Always make sure that your pet is not sluggish and maintains an active life during summer months.

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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