Finding The Right Veterinarian For Your Pet Hedgehog

Finding the right veterinarian is an essential task for all hedgehog owners. It is a good idea to have a veterinarian lined up before you bring your hedgie home so that your veterinarian has a baseline, to know what is normal for your little buddy. Hedgies are generally very robust and may seldom have health concerns, but they are good at masking when they don't feel well. This means that by the time you realize that your hedgehog is having an issue, you need that veterinarian right away. So, how do you find the right veterinarian? Here are some considerations and questions to ask: 

 1) Is the veterinarian experienced with hedgehogs? Not all veterinarians have extensive experience or training with exotic pets like hedgehogs. If the veterinarian does not have extensive experience, are they willing to consult and learn? A veterinarian who is not extensively experienced but is willing to learn can be a good resource for your basic care, as longas they have a resource they can consult with or refer you to if a problem comes up that is beyond their expertise. 

 2) What services does the veterinarian offer for hedgehogs? Hedgehogs have a lot of similarities to dogs and cats, but they also have unique needs. Ask the veterinarian what services they offer, and what they can do to help you find more resources if your hedgehog should have need for a service that they don't offer. 

 3) How does the veterinarian handle hedgehogs during examinations? Hegehogs respond best when handled in a calm, confident, respectful manner. Is the veterinarian patient and gentle? Ask about what they do if the hedgie is not cooperative. You should feel comfortable that the veterinarian will handle your hedgie in a manner that will provide comfort and not unnecessary stress. 

 4) Does the veterinarian provide science based nutritional guidance for hedgehogs? Proper nutrition is crucial for the overall health and wellbeing of your pet hedgehog. It makes the difference between a 1 to 2 year lifespan, and 4+ years. Don't assume that your favorite Internet hedgehog group is right and the veterinarian is wrong, or vice versa. Is the veterinarian able to provide you with research based nutritional guidance? If yes, please listen to the vet! If no, keep looking. 

 5) How does the veterinarian handle emergencies and after-hours care? Problems can go wrong any day of the week or time of the day, so you will need to know how to contact your veterinarian, or an after-hours/crisis care veterinarian that they endorse. Having emergency services contact information before you need it will bring you peace of mind. 

 6) What is the cost of hedgehog veterinary care? The cost of veterinary care can vary widely. Factors that impact cost can include location, specialization, and regional differences. You will want to know the cost of a checkup and of emergency service access before you need it, so that there are no shocked surprises. Be sure to ask questions about payment options, such as if they require payment in full or set up payment plans. If you have pet health insurance, you will want to make sure that the veterinarian you plan to use accepts that healthcare plan, and what is and is not covered. 

 In conclusion, finding a veterinarian who you are comfortable with, who is experienced and has resources appropriate for hedgehog care, who provides routine and emergency coverage, and is affordable, is essential to your peace of mind and your hedgehog's wellbeing.

In Celebration of the Hedgehog

In twilight's embrace, where secrets unfold. A creature awakes, both timid and bold. With quills of enchantment, a spiky disguise. The hedgehog emerges, a wonder in disguise.
In moonlit meadows, it dances with grace. A ballad of quivers, it dances with grace. A solitary poet, in shadows it roams. Whispering tales of ancient woodlands and homes.
Oh hedgehog, thou messenger of the night. With quivering spines, a celestial light. You teach us the lessons of patience and care. In your humble presence, we find solace rare.
As stars twinkle above, your presence brings cheer. A gentle reminder, dispelling all fear. In your tiny form, a warrior you stand. Resilience embodied, in this enchanted land.
So let us celebrate this magical sprite. The hedgehog's charm, a beacon of light. With every gentle rustle and tender sound. A symphony of nature where beauty is found.
poem created by Antigone Means with assists from askAI, photos generated by Bing AI.

Why It's Important to Participate in Hedgehog Shows


Lovely contestant at the Budapest 2023 show.

Hedgehog shows are events where hedgehog owners can showcase their pets, meet other hedgehog enthusiasts, participate in community and educational events, and compete for prizes. There are many benefits to participating in them, for both pet owners and hedgehog breeders. 

1. Socialization: Hedgehogs may be solitary creatures, but we, the people who love them, are not. Hedgehog shows are an opportunity to build community, share information, make new friendships, and catch up with old friends. It is also a chance to talk with newcomers to the hobby and curious folks who wander in. Having a strong community around our hobby helps ensure that it will continue.

A young enthusiast meets a hedgie,

2. Education: Hedgehog shows often include educational seminars and workshops for owners. These sessions cover a variety of topics, such as proper care and handling, health concerns, color identification, and breeding. By attending these events, owners can gain valuable knowledge and skills to take better care of their hedgehogs.

Petting a hedgehog for the very first time.

3. Community: Participating in hedgehog shows can help owners feel like they are part of a larger community. Hedgehog ownership can be a niche interest and it can be hard to find others who share the same passion. By attending shows, owners can connect with like-minded people and build relationships with others who share their love for hedgehogs. Shows are the place for those of us who love to talk hedgehog all day long.

Some of the award ribbons from the Tulsa 2022 show.

4. Recognition: Winning a prize at a hedgehog show can be source of pride for owners. The NAQA show system is based on points ranking and not relative ranking, so all hedgehogs will receive recognition for their points. This allows for recognition of the hard work and dedication that goes into caring for a hedgehog. Winning a competition can be a great way to showcase a hedgehog's special qualities and unique personality.

A proud prize winner.

5. Exposure: Hedgehog shows provide breeders an opportunity to showcase their breeding program and the quality of their animals. It gives hedgehog related business owners a chance to introduce their products to potentially interested customers. This exposure can lead to increased interest in their hedgehogs/business and potentially more sales. It can help establish a breeder's reputation within the hedgehog community by building personal connections, by allowing people to see your hedgehogs in person., and by demonstrating the quality of your hedgehogs on the show table.

Photo of part of a vendor table at the Budapest 2023 show

6. Networking: Hedgehog shows allow breeders and business owners to meet other breeders and enthusiasts. This networking can lead to valuable connections within the hedgehog community. Breeders can also share their own knowledge and experiences. For someone considering beginning a breeding program, shows are a great way to network and connect with a potential mentor.

Katee from Urban Hedgehogs evaluates a participant.

7. Feedback: Hedgehog shows provide an opportunity for hedgehog owners and breeders to receive feedback on their hedgehogs from judges and other breeders. This feedback can help breeders to improve their breeding program and to produce higher quality hedgehogs.

A breeder talks with participants about their hedgehogs.

8. Competition: Hedgehog shows include competition for various categories such as color/pattern, gender, and age. Points are awarded for conformation and personality. NAQA shows include separate categories for pet and pedigreed hedgehogs. Winning these competitions can be a source of pride for breeders and pet owners. For breeders, it also helps to establish and demonstrate the quality of their hedgehogs. 

In conclusion, participating in hedgehog shows provides numerous benefits for hedgehog pet owners and hedgehog breeders. From exposure and networking to feedback and education, there are many reasons to consider attending hedgehog shows. If you're wild about hedgehogs, why not give it a try? 

Avoiding Being Gotten By An Animal Scammer

     Very sadly, animal scammers have been popping up all over the Internet, trying to pose as legitimate businesses, ripping people off for ridiculous amounts of money. As a person who has been raising animals for decades, it has been really frustrating to see my pictures ripped off and used as bait for scams on Instagram, Facebook, and goodness knows where else. The social media companies are very unresponsive to requests to take down these scammers, so I wanted to offer some tips to help increase the chance that you are giving your business to legitimate businesses and not getting fleeced by scammers. So, here we go:

1) If the pictures being used to advertise the animals for sale lack continuity. They feature clearly different people, different backgrounds, different styles. This isn't a sure sign, but a flag to do more checking. Most breeders have some kind of similarity in the kind of pictures they use to show off their hedgies for sale. They may use the same background, or a limited range of backgrounds, that you will see used repeatedly over time. For example, I use a particular place in my garden, my photo box, or a blanket background, depending on the time of year, The way that I label my hedgehogs (birthdate and gender on the top left corner, baby name in the top right corner, and parents' names underneath) is always the same format, If pictures don't seem to match, you can reverse search images to see if they show up on other people's pages. If you find something like a Facebook page offering hedgehogs for sale from 20 different Instagram accounts, it's clearly a scam.

2) If they insist on payment sight unseen using a platform that has no buyer protection. Paypal business (not friends and family) or using your credit/debit card with a square invoice allows you to challenge the charge and get your money back if you can show you have been scammed. Paypal friends and family, zelle, cashapp, and a variety of other services offer no recourse if you are scammed. It's worth paying a surcharge to cover the user fees if the business charges that for using something like Paypal business instead of friends and family, in order to ensure you have buyer protection. Do your due diligence and shop with business that want you to feel comfortable and be protected. Legitimate businesses do ask for payment up front. If they are putting an animal on hold or scheduling transportation, they don't want to be scammed on their efforts, either. 

3) Other people in the same animal community confirm you're dealing with a legitimate business, on a platform that is who it says it is. Don't be afraid to ask. Sometimes scammers will make accounts that sounds similar to the real one (example: "XYZ Animals Transport" instead of "XYZ Animal Transport") and will steal the logo to trick people into thinking they are the real thing. If you smell a scam, ask a question you think will expose them and see if it does. If they claim to be an animal transporter, send a picture of a pride of lions and ask if they can transport them next week. If they say sure thing, send me your $ and I'm on it, run! If they claim to raise a variety of exotic animals, ask how much for a pangolin and if they tell you anything other than that isn't possible, run! If nobody has ever heard of them, don't send money until you've seen the goods.

4) The page is extremely new. This is an especially good way to identify a scam, if they are spoofing an established, legitimate business, but the date the account was created was only 3 weeks ago, then it clearly isn't the real one. If the business is super new, you'll want to see what you are getting or make sure you have buyer protection on any funds you send. 

5) They have no reviews, or their reviews are all 5 star and posted in a very short period of time. Most customers don't leave reviews, so it's very normal for reviews to trickle in over time and very unusual to have a whole bunch of people are glowingly happy and leaving reviews in a tiny time period. This is especially true if the page is fairly new.

6) Communication is stilted, doesn't flow, or doesn't make sense. Many scammers operate from overseas so if they are communicating as though it isn't their first language or they don't seem to know much about what they are selling, these are flags to do more checking. If they are telling you a bunch of weird excuses that don't add up at all, be suspicious. They may have other jobs or family obligations that interfere with things going perfectly smoothly, but it should at least make sense and be concerned about making sure that your needs are being taken care of.

7) The deal sounds too good to be true and/or requires you to act urgently. You need time to be able to think through your decision and if it sounds too good to be true, it might be.

I'm sure there are other things to watch out for but checking these seven things should help you avoid a lot of the scammers out there. Please use the comments to add your suggestions!

Long Eared Hedgehogs

In recent years, the adorably bat eared "long eared hedgehog" (LEH) has begun to appear in the North American pet trade. This species is often referred to as the "Egyptian Hedgehog" but they range considerably beyond that and can be found as far east as Afghanistan, India, Mongolia, and Russia. They tend to live in arid areas, such as deserts and steppes. They are generally active between dusk and dawn, and during the day can be found burrowed under rocks or bushes. They have strong, wide front feet and can dig their own burrows, though they often take advantage of burrows left by other animals.

The scientific name for LEH is hemiechinus auritus. It can be confusing because you may see them advertised as Egyptian or Russian. These are the same species, but breeders have noticed regional differences between those lines that were originally sourced from Egypt and lines originally sourced from Russia. The ones from Egyptian lines tend to have a pointier nose and the ones from Russian lines tend to have fluffier, softer fur. 

Care of LEH is similar but not the same as care for the more common African Pygmy Hedgehog (APH). Some of the care considerations for LEH are as follows:

Feeding: LEH require good quality protein: insects, raw meat, small whole prey (chicks, pinky mice), or cooked egg. They can eat a little bit of cooked vegetable or chopped fruit, up to about 1/2 tsp per day. We give ours high quality kibble that is always available, then their treats in the evening. They love those treats and are generally up and waiting for them!

Housing: LEH are very active and need as much space as possible. 10 to 12 square feet or more is preferred. We have been told that they can get stressed and ill tempered if they don't have plenty of room to roam. They need a cage with solid flooring (I like the Krolik XL rabbit cage or the Zen Habitats cages) and fully enclosed, as they can figure out how to climb out. It's fun to provide them with a sand pit or cypress mulch pile (bake in the oven for an hour or two at 325F to sterilize, then cool before using) to play in. 

Temperature: We keep our LEH at room temperature, which is 72 to 76 degrees and they seem to do well at those temperatures. Their range in the wild spans a wide range of temperatures, so it's best to ask the breeder you purchase from what temperature theirs are used to and replicate that with yours.

Enrichment: LEH are very curious and can be very interactive. Most will chase a cat toy on a string, and mine try to hunt my cats' tails. They enjoy tunnels, like ferret tubes and fabric tunnels. Most enjoy a wheel, though if your LEH is on the larger side, be sure that the wheel is big enough that they can run without having to bend their back. A 15" chinchilla wheel is generally sufficient. They enjoy play time outside of the cage and are very curious explorers.

LEH personalities are quite different than APH. Some, but not all, explore with their mouths, so may be seen as nippy. If they feel threatened, their first instinct is often not to ball up, but to head butt or bite. This kind of bite can draw blood. They are generally not aggressive, but you do need to be aware of where their mouth is when handling so as to avoid giving an opportunity to nip. I seldom get nipped and have not had a hard bite yet, but I am always aware and alert that it could happen. Because of this, they are not recommended for young children or nervous owners. Consistent handling does seem to help them develop trust and to be calmer when handled.

LEH are generally bigger than APH, though some smaller LEH may not be as large as bigger APH. My biggest LEH is double the size of the smallest. They do generally need attention to grooming their nails as they grow quickly. This is generally a two person job. LEH tend to live longer than APH, with an average captive lifespan of 7 years.  

LEH are currently more expensive than APH because they are only recently brought to the US, having been imported from breeders in Europe, which is a very monetarily consuming endeavor. They generally only have one litter per year, with February and March being the most typical times, and have 1 to 4 babies per litter.

LEH make wonderful pets if you are prepared for their needs and their special personality. 

Cold Weather Tips

With a polar vortex predicted to drop temperatures to extreme levels in the next week, it seemed timely to talk about how to keep  hedgies safe during periods of unusually cold weather.  Cage locations that may normally be fine can cause temperature drops if they are near a window or other draft, or set on the floor.

Insulation between the floor and cage (carpet, a blanket or towel, etc...) can help prevent the cold flooring surface from chilling the cage. Covering the window or the side of the cage nearest to the window with a blanket can help insulate, just make sure that hedgie has ventilation.

Ceramic heat elements and heat lamps can be a fire risk, so check that all equipment is in good working order and plugged in to a surge protector.

It is helpful to stock up on hand warmers that do not require electricity to activate (like hot hands) in case of power outages. Providing extra bedding such as snuggle sacks and paper towels can help hedgies hold in their body heat when they are hunkered down.

Be sure to check your hedgies extra carefully for signs of hibernation when winter weather is more extreme. If you notice that your hedgie seems chilled, your body heat is a great way quickly warm a hedgie.

Stay safe and warm, and keep snuggling those hedgies!

Where Can I Find Science-based Information About Hedgehogs?

 One absolute truth about the Internet is that it is full of information. The unfortunate truth is that not all of that information is of equal quality. When it comes to our little quilly friends, we want to make sure that the information we use to make decisions about what they need is based on good quality information.

If you read websites or join hedgehog interest groups, you are going to find a lot of information. Some of it seems to make a lot of sense, some of it seems kind of nonsense, and people will argue about what is true until you just want to put your quills up and go snooze in a nice, cozy tunnel.

My favorite source of science-based information is Google Scholar. Google Scholar is a google based search engine of scholarly journals/articles. This is where you can easily search for articles that are published in peer-reviewed journals. To be published in a peer-reviewed journal an article has to meet a higher standard than things that just anybody can publish on the Internet. 

Searching Google Scholar can be a bit daunting at first. If you put in the search term "hedgehog" you will get a whole bunch of articles about the hedgehog signaling pathway, which has to do with neurology, not hedgehoggery. I have found that using the scientific name of our quilly buddies, atelerix albiventris, gets a much better selection of articles. 

One important article I would like to point out is Fiber Digestion in the African White Bellied Hedgehog. If you click the .pdf icon on the article's abstract page, it will take you to the full article, which contains very important information about hedgehog's need for chitin/dietary fiber. Curious about the content of insects that hedgehogs eat? Try this article. 

For the most current research on Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome, a search of "atelerix albiventris WHS 2020" brought up this very informative article. If your hedgehog is sick for any reason, this would be a good article to take to your vet as it includes normal blood values for hedgehogs. 

Happy researching!

Finding The Right Veterinarian For Your Pet Hedgehog

Finding the right veterinarian is an essential task for all hedgehog owners. It is a good idea to have a veterinarian lined up before you ...