Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome: What Is It?

21 September, 2020
There are more and more families choosing to keep exotic animals as pets. Many of these animals suffer from illnesses that are unique to their kind. Today, we'll take a look at one disease that's especially lethal: Wobbly hedgehog syndrome. 

In the past, it was rare for people to have any sort of pet besides dogs, cats, or an occasional bird. Today, those times are a distant memory, as the market for animal companions has become amazingly diverse. And, to keep up with the times, veterinarians must be prepared to provide proper care to a wide range of creatures. With that in mind, we want to take a close look at wobbly hedgehog syndrome.

Of course, it’s impossible for veterinarians to know about every single animal. However, it’s still our responsibility to provide medical care to every animal that needs our help. And, sometimes, that means treating hedgehogs.

Wobbly hedgehog syndrome

Wobbly hedgehog syndrome (WHS) is a degenerative illness of the nervous system that affects hedgehogs. At the time of writing, the origin of the disease is unknown.

This pathology is similar to multiple sclerosis in human beings, and many researchers compare the two. However, in the case of the four-toed hedgehog, experts believe it has to do with the indiscriminate genetic intermixing that the species has undergone.

It’s important to point out that there’s a considerable legal void when it comes to the breeding of four-toed hedgehogs. In many states, it’s illegal to have these animals as pets because of their potential to become invasive species if introduced into the wild. Therefore, in these states, professional institutions don’t have a license to breed them.

Wobbly hedgehog syndrome could be the result of crossbreeding among close relatives by unlicensed individuals without proper knowledge.

Is it legal to breed hedgehogs?

The development of the disease

Wobbly hedgehog syndrome affects domestic four-toed hedgehogs around the age of three. In other ages, both younger and older, it may also occur, but it’s less likely.

The development of this syndrome is progressive and usually begins with the animal’s hind legs. Later, as the disease progresses, it’ll go on to affect the front legs as well. In some cases, it can start on the animal’s left side and then later advance to the right side, or vice versa.

This syndrome produces loss of muscle control in the hedgehog’s body (ataxia). As a result, the animal wobbles as it walks–thus the name of the syndrome.

At this point, it’s important to clarify that wobbly hedgehog syndrome is easy to confuse with vestibular syndrome. Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind the possible differential diagnoses.

When symptomology and wobbling ensues, this will make it hard for the animal to carry out its daily life. What’s more, weight loss occurs during the initial stages of illness given the difficulties animals have in accessing their food bowl.

Normally, animals die anytime from one month to one year after symptoms begin. Having said this, survival depends greatly on the palliative care that the hedgehog receives.

Treatment and care

While specific treatment doesn’t exist, providing basic care to hedgehogs will improve and prolong their quality of life noticeably.

Diet

Hedgehogs with WHS need a good quality diet with insects or cooked skinless chicken/turkey breast. What’s more, you should complete their diets with a menu of small pieces of baked or boiled fruits or vegetables.

It’s best to give them Omega 3 and 6 fatty acid vitamin supplements as well. At the same time, experts recommend giving them a vitamin complex.

In more advanced stages of the illness, hedgehogs may require assistance in order to eat. That’s because the illness makes it difficult for them to eat independently. At the same time, they’ll need to drink out of a water dispenser with a nozzle in order to stay hydrated.

To help your hedgehog eat, it’s best to prepare homemade pureed food and administer it with a syringe. The puree should include the same components and rations your pet always eats, along with pertinent supplements.

It’s very important to pay attention to hydration in the advanced stages of wobbly hedgehog syndrome. Therefore, you need to always keep a syringe ready and offer your pet water on a frequent basis.

Physiotherapy

Keeping your pet’s muscles in the best condition possible is important in slowing down the progression of this disease. You can do so by massaging the animal’s extremities in order to maintain muscle tone.

How to care for sick hedgehogs.

Today’s article dealt with a difficult subject, as it’s never easy to talk about illnesses that have no cure or treatment. However, we hope that the advice here will help you care for your pet in the unfortunate event that it develops this syndrome. That way, you can provide your hedgehog with the best quality of life possible, for as long as possible.