Printer Friendly

The African Pygmy Hedgehog Case

Months after a pet hedgehog’s signs of illness clear up, it returns to the veterinarian with the same problem.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: January 11, 2012, 4 a.m. EST

hedgehog on operating table
© Courtesy of Jerry Murray, DVM
This hedgehog showed signs of illness this past spring that returned this winter. 
necropsy on a hedgehog
© Courtesy of Jerry Murray, DVM
A necropsy revealed that the hedgehog had a malignant cancer in her reproductive tract.

There are two commonly seen hedgehog species: the African and the European hedgehog. Pet hedgehogs are the African species and are commonly called African pygmy hedgehogs. In 1991, it became illegal to import hedgehogs from Africa due to fear of importing a cattle disease (foot and mouth disease) into the United States. Since then, pet hedgehogs have been bred in captivity. In the wild, hedgehogs hunt for food at night and eat mostly insects, worms, centipedes and snails. As hedgehogs forage, they often make a piglike grunt, which is why they are called hedgehogs.

African pygmy hedgehogs are small, have a spiny coat similar to a porcupine and make a good pet. In the spring of 2011, one of my clients brought her 3-year-old, female hedgehog in for an exam. The owner had noticed blood in the hedgehog’s urine. When handled, hedgehogs typically curl up into a tight ball, and their several thousand spines cover their entire body. This makes it hard to examine a hedgehog while they are awake. With a little gas anesthesia, a hedgehog usually uncurls.

The abdomen and bladder area felt normal in this hedgehog, so it was hoped that it was simply a bladder infection causing the bloody urine. The hedgehog was started on an antibiotic. The urine cleared up, and she appeared to be back to normal. Unfortunately the owner noticed blood in her urine again this winter. The hedgehog was started back on an antibiotic, and her urine did improve some. Yet she was getting thinner, was not eating as much as normal and was becoming lethargic.

Cancer is very common in hedgehogs more than 3 years of age. Cancer of the mammary glands (mammary adenocarcinoma), oral cavity (squamous cell carcinoma) and lymphoma are especially common. Cancer of the reproductive tract is also common in intact female hedgehogs and was suspected in this case. The owner made the tough decision to put her down and have a necropsy (animal autopsy) done. In the hedgehog’s uterus a very large malignant tumor was found (uterine adenocarcinoma).

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>

Posted: January 11, 2012, 4 a.m. EST

 Give us your opinion on
The African Pygmy Hedgehog Case

Submit a Comment   Join Club
Earn 1,000 points! What's this?
Reader Comments
??? ?????
?? ??? hedgehog ?? ?? ?? ??? ??? ??? ?? ??? ?? ?????? ????? ???? ?????
???? ??? ?? ??? ???,
frog2frog, International
Posted: 10/15/2013 5:20:39 AM
Sorry for the question marks those are supposed to be sad faces
Alex, Denham Springs, LA
Posted: 1/16/2012 6:04:18 PM
??Wow, That's so sad!!!!??
Alex, Denham Springs, LA
Posted: 1/16/2012 5:59:59 PM
View Current Comments
Rabbits USA
Rabbits USA
Top Products

Hi my name's Smuckers

Visit the Photo Gallery to
cast your vote!