Hedgehog Diet (Milk, cheese, cream and dairy checked out)

As a first-time hedgehog owner, I knew settling for the proper diet for my pet was one of the common challenges I would face while trying to balance its meal. If you already own a hedgehog, you may have tried several options, including dairy products, and knowing whether these options are suitable for your pet is necessary.

So, can hedgehogs drink milk? Hedgehogs must not be given cow’s milk because they are lactose intolerant. Drinking cow’s milk can cause fatal diarrhea in a hedgehog as they do not have the digestive enzymes to digest the lactose in the milk.

As milk is so problematic for hedgehogs, with my own pet I spend a lot of time checking the ingredients for food like cat biscuits to make sure it’s milk and dairy free. Especially as some of the dry cat biscuits can be designed for kittens who do need to have milk in their diet to aid their growth.

Whilst milk is a staple nutritious requirement for many other types of pets, I found for hedgehogs it’s quite the opposite. As hedgehog’s don’t have the enzymes in their guts to digest the lactose in the milk, they end up suffering, with potentially fatal consequences. Also, the nutrition from milk is lower than that derived from solid food, hence an unnecessary addition.

When cooking food like chicken, it’s vitally important to make sure you don’t use any butter to cook with, as this will undoubtedly contain milk as it’s made from milk. Instead, lean meats like chicken should be allowed to cook in their own juices without the addition of milk or oils.

Leaving a bowl full of milk out for wild hedgehogs is something I wouldn’t do either, as they’ll end up drinking the milk but pay a heavy price. As they will suffer severe digestive pain potentially leading to them dying. Leaving a bowl of water makes more sense along with any food that’s dairy free.

There is some consensus that hedgehogs will drink certain types of milk depending on their age and situation. For instance, if you have a juvenile orphaned hedgehog, then it may be ok to feed it with cat’s or goat’s milk. However, I would urge caution here and definitely speak with veterinarian who specializes in exotic animals like hedgehogs before deciding to do this.

I’m not a breeder and I also bought my hedgehog when he was about three to four months old, so I have not idea what younger hedgehogs would need to drink and eat. I’m pretty sure the breeder we used didn’t give any cow’s milk to our hedgehog, so the only milk type liquid he would have had would have been from his mother.

If you want to know whether hedgehogs consume milk and its related products, this is the guide for you. We will help you understand whether these creatures can eat cheese and cream. Read through the rest of the sections to find out all the answers you need.

Can Hedgehogs Eat Cheese?

Generally, you should provide your hedgehog with a diet mimicking that found in the wild to promote growth and good health. However, since you live with your pet, you can add treats to its diet that does not comprise its natural diet. While doing this, you should consult with your vet to ensure you give your pet only hedgehog-friendly treats and avoid those that could potentially harm its health.

Cheese is a rich source of protein, which your hedgehog will eat if you provide it. However, being a dairy product, you should not give this treat to your pet, given that hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. Giving cheese will result in digestive complications, stomach upsets, and painful gas. If you want to keep your hedgehog’s digestive system happy, then you should avoid cheese at all costs.

If you want a healthy hedgehog in captivity, you should stick to a diet rich in protein and low in fats. This is because such a diet mimics the hedgehog diet in the wild. In the wild, hedgehogs eat a variety of insects, and, at times, may snack on worms, frogs, and slugs. These food options are high in protein and low in fats. Failure to meet these two requirements will compromise your pet’s health.

While a hedgehog can meet its dietary needs by maintaining its natural food sources in captivity, this does not mean that you should deny its treats. Therefore, including a few treats in your pet’s diet will make your pet enjoy its feeding time and keep it happy. While doing this, you should be cautious about the options you give since not all nutritious foods such as cheese are healthy for your hedgehog.

Despite its high protein levels, cheese is an unhealthy snack for your hedgehog. This is due to its high-fat content. Giving your pet this treat will cause not only lactose intolerance but also obesity. In captivity, hedgehogs do not exercise as much as in the wild and giving them foods high in fats will compromise their health in the long run.

Despite the potential side effects of cheese, this does not mean that you should completely withhold this delicacy from your pet. If given in small amounts and on rare occasions, cheese is safe for hedgehogs. The type of cheese and its ingredients also determine the side effects your pet may exhibit after consumption.

Some preservatives in the variety of cheese may also contribute to these side effects, further worsening the complications, which is why you should stick to the regular hedgehog diet and feed it cheese as a treat rather than an everyday meal.

If you want to treat or boost your hedgehog’s calcium levels through cheese, there are those who believe cottage cheese is the most ideal to use. This is because most hedgehogs like this cheese and tolerate it well. This tolerance attributes to its low protein and lactose levels. Whilst this holds, you should not increase the amount of cheese you give your pet since a larger piece may trigger lactose intolerance. I would definitely check this out with a veterinarian first to make sure it’s not going to cause any health issues.

So, if you’re veterinarian says it’s okay for your pet hedgehog to eat cottage cheese, I would make sure after your pet eats the piece of cottage cheese, monitor it closely for any side effects. You should check its poop for any changes in consistency and color, which are the major indicators of lactose intolerance. Also, check whether your pet exhibits any signs of distress which may indicate a digestive issue.

If your pet’s poop is normal and there is no sign of fatigue, pain, or any other discomfort, it is safe to conclude at this stage that it can tolerate lactose in small amounts. This can give you the go-ahead on treating your pet with small amounts of lactose-containing foods. However, do this with moderation and on an occasional basis to avoid harming your pet’s health. You can also add more alternatives to the treats to ensure a healthy pet.

On the other hand, if your pet displays signs of lactose intolerance after giving it cheese, provide it with plenty of water and avoid giving it cheese or any other dairy product. If the side effects persist, contact your vet immediately for assistance. While experimenting with your pet, you should avoid cheese high in lactose, as they will likely cause digestive problems and other health concerns, even in small amounts.

Can Hedgehogs Eat Cream?

Despite being mammals and lactating their young ones, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, and feeding them on dairy products will cause more harm than good. For this reason, you should avoid including dairy products in your pet’s diet if you want it to grow healthily and happy.

Cream is a dairy product and feeding your pet this treat will yield similar side effects as that of cheese. This is because of the lactose content of cheese. Hedgehogs will exhibit similar symptoms as human beings who are lactose intolerant, and the effects can be severe given their slower metabolism and body size. Therefore, feeding your pet in this treat will cause digestive upsets coupled with fatal diarrhea.

A hedgehog diet comprises insects, some fruits, and vegetables while in the wild, depending on the breed. These foods are high in proteins, but low in fats since these creatures are prone to obesity. Mimicking this diet in captivity is possible by providing gut-loaded insects and a few treats. However, moderation is vital since these pets are greedy eaters. With a simple diet in captivity, you will save your pet from lactose intolerance which can be fatal.

Lactose intolerance implies that the hedgehog’s digestive system cannot break down the milk sugar, lactose. Thus, lactose sits in their digestive system, attracting bacteria that cause abnormal bloating, stomach pains, and diarrhea. Your pet may also have difficulties metabolizing the nutrients as a result. Thus, giving your pet lactose in high doses will make them suffer a great deal. 

If you are looking for a substitute for cream, some people will consider goat’s milk instead. I would check this out with a veterinarian first. You can get this for your hedgehog in your local pet store and can refrigerate it for up to two weeks. Besides your hedgehog being tolerant to goat milk, this milk is beneficial to its gut, skin, and bone health. It is a good treat if you want to supplement your pet’s diet or give it a dose of probiotics, especially if they have poor appetite or growth.

Besides the issue of lactose intolerance, feeding your hedgehog on cream will promote weight gain due to the high-fat content. Cream also lacks other essential nutrients that your pet will get from eating its natural foods. 

Can Hedgehogs Eat Ice cream?

Whether raw or processed, cream is an unhealthy treat for your hedgehog and its disadvantages outweigh the benefits. Therefore, does this apply to ice cream too?

Giving your hedgehog ice cream is wrong since it is junk food. Junk foods are harmful to human beings and worse for hedgehogs for several reasons. First, ice cream contains lactose as one of the top ingredients, and your lactose intolerant hedgie will have stomach upsets after consumption. Second, ice cream is high in sugars and calories, which are unsuitable additions to your hedgehog’s diet. These sugars are mostly artificial sweeteners that are a health hazard to your pet besides their sugar content. These sugars are usually in their simplest state; hence, they will be absorbed faster into your pet’s system.

Given that hedgehogs in captivity do not exercise as much, consuming high sugar ice cream will result in obesity and diabetes, especially if fed regularly. Ice cream also contains fortified vitamins, which could cause vitamin toxicity in your pet. Hedgehogs will naturally get their vitamin requirements from their natural food sources and do not require fortification. Finally, ice cream does not have any beneficial nutrients, and giving it as a treat will not benefit your pet’s health.

Despite the above disadvantages of cream, owners still insist on feeding their hedgehogs this dairy treat to meet their calcium needs. Calcium is an essential nutrient for a healthy hedgehog in captivity. This is because, in captivity, your pet is limited in terms of the variety of foods it can access. Also, trying to balance the nutritional needs of your pet may be a hassle. This explains why most owners realize the deficiencies in their pets when it is too late. 

To stay safe on the calcium requirements, you should provide variety, with a bias in calcium-rich foods. This means that your pet’s diet should comprise a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1. This way, your pet will have enough to metabolize and remain healthy. A hedgehog lacking this calcium-phosphorus balance is at a higher risk of metabolic bone disease.

Given their solitary and independent nature, it is difficult to tell your pet has MBD until it is too late, as they will hide their illness. This makes MBD a fatal disease as there is little you may do to save your pet upon diagnosis. The symptoms of MBD your pet will display in later stages include weak bones, joint abnormalities, paralysis, seizures, and disruption of calcium metabolism, among others.

To attain the calcium-phosphorus balance in your hedgehog’s diet without compromising its health, consider giving cat food with suitable protein to fat ratios. However, this does not mean that you deny your pet fats as it needs at least 12 to 15% of the fats for cell development. With these levels, you will easily manage its weight and prevent health issues such as diabetes and liver problems associated with obesity.

Like dairy products, insects should comprise the treats in your pet’s diet. You can give them as live, canned, or freeze-dried. Insects supply chitin from their exoskeletons to the hedgehogs. You can pick out the high calories insect from your pet’s diet to prevent weight gain. To spice up your hedgehog’s diet, add a variety of fruits and vegetables in their salad. These include berries, kiwi, watermelon, papaya, and bananas.

However, you should be cautious on the high sugar fruits such as bananas and give them as rare treats to prevent diabetes and weight gain. Carrots, leafy greens, and broccoli are ideal vegetables for hedgehogs, but you can soften the carrots through mild steaming to make it easy for your pet to chew.

You should avoid starchy vegetables such as potatoes, and when feeding them to your pet, dice them into small pieces for good processing. Also, avoid too much corn and peas as these unbalance the calcium-phosphorus levels, affecting their metabolism.

Other treats you can give in place of dairy include cooked chicken or turkey meat, liver, and kidney. These options comprise a lean protein source and will not trigger obesity. You should dice the meat into small pieces to prevent choking. Also, avoid giving your hedgehog raw meat as this may trigger digestive problems.

Wrap Up

Hedgehogs are mammals; hence, lactate their young ones. However, these pets are lactose intolerant to cow milk, and you should avoid giving them as a treat. Instead, stick to water if you need to hydrate your pet. If you adopt a juvenile hedgehog, you can give it goat or cat milk until it grows old enough to eat solid food.

In addition to milk, you should avoid giving your pet dairy products such as cheese and cream due to the lactose in these products. Feeding your pet these treats will cause stomach upsets and diarrhea, which could be fatal. These products are also high in fats and will compromise your pet’s health.

The sugars in ice cream will cause obesity; hence, an unhealthy treat. Thus, while you may want to treat your hedgehog, consider mimicking its wild food and top it with fruits, vegetables, and lean meat for a healthy pet.

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