Cathy A. Johnson-Delaney, DVM
Clinical Veterinarian
Regional Primate Research Center
University of Washington
Box 357330
Seattle, WA   98195-7330

Atelerix albiventris  (also known as A.pruneri or A.faradjius) has
become a popular pet. Common names include: African hedgehog (AF),
West African hedgehog, African pygmy hedgehog, White-bellied,
Four-toed hedgehog. Color varieties include: White and gray/brown
ticked quills = "salt & pepper" and those with all white quills =
"snowflake". Males have a large percentage of elongated white spines.
The African pygmy hedgehog has absent in narrow tract running cranial
to caudal on head. Other hedgehogs appearing in the literature are the
Erinaceus europaeus the European hedgehog, Pruner's (Cape) hedgehog
which has a darker or masked face; and the Egyptian (Long-eared)
hedgehog which has long ears and  tends to be more aggressive. The
average lifespan is probably about 3 years. European hedgies seem to
live 8-10 years. The adult male AF weights 500-600 g, female 250-400
grams. Rectal temperature: 36.1-37.20 C (97-990F). They have a simple
stomach and no cecum. AF do not hibernate. Adult dentition: 36: with formula Sexual maturity is reached around two
months of age, breeding can be year-round. Males have a mid-ventral
penis. Testicles are abdominal. Gestation length is 34-37 days, with
litter size ranging from 1-7 pups (avg. 3). Cannibalism is common if
female is stressed or disturbed. The male should be removed prior to
parturition. Birth weight depends somewhat on litter/dam size, but
average is 10 g. Spines develop within 24 hours. Eyes are open 13-16
days after birth, with weaning occurring at 4-6 weeks of age. If
hand-raising is necessary, milk replacement formulas for either
puppies or kittens works. 

Behavior: Hedgehogs are nocturnal and are quite active in the
evenings. If allowed to run in the house, they tend to skirt the
walls, furnishings, and hide in corners or under furniture. May dig in
carpets, or in houseplants and dirt if accessible. While young hedgies
may be easy to handle and do not mind being held, many adults resist
handling, and struggle to be let loose. Adult females tend to be more
handleable than adult males. Many hedgehogs seem aloof and to not
interact with humans, no matter how much handling they received when
young. Very few bite - most just puff up like a pin cushion. Adult
males are more likely to hiss. Many hedgehogs will forage for spiders
and insects in the home. Hedgehogs will use exercise wheels, but do
not "play" with toys as do many other small mammals. They are solitary
animals except for mating, and usually must be housed separately even
if raised with a same-sex littermate. While these animals are being
bred domestically, they are essentially non-domesticated, which
influences many of their behaviors particularly interactions with
humans and other animals. When a hedgehog encounters something new - a
new taste, object in the environment, carpet, etc. it may "taste" it,
then begin hypersalivating creating a foam. The hedgie then spits this
foam onto itself. The process is called "anting" or "anointing".
Hedgies will sometimes also do this with food. There is speculation
that this behavior of accumulating saliva, food bits, etc. onto the
spines accumulates toxins which allows the hedgie to inflict more
damage on a predator. Most owners will promptly rinse or bathe the
hedgehog to get rid of the material. Most hedgehogs prefer quiet
environments, and may react with fright at loud noises. They prefer
dimmed lighting to bright sunlight, room lights. 

Housing: Smooth-walled enclosures are best. They should be high enough
to prevent escape. Aquariums (20 gallon or preferably larger) are
acceptable. Wire caging is not recommended as hedgies get their feet
caught easily. Bedding can be newspaper or recycled
pelleted/absorbable material. Avoid cedar shavings. Bedding must be
kept dry and changed frequently. AF must be kept at 75-850 F using an
undertank heater/heating unit, heating pad on low on one section to
provide a heat gradient. Accessories may include a cut-out box,
plastic log, or flower pot to hide under. Toys may include exercise
wheels specially constructed for hedgies (can be constructed out of
wooden 12" popsicle sticks and cross stitch circle; axle is a thin
dowel, spokes are lengths of plywood 1" X 0.5". Hedgies fall through
wire rodent wheels. Cage accessories should be cleaned frequently.
Some hedgies enjoy a pan or shallow tub of warm water for swimming. 

Diet: Commercial complete hedgehog diets are just becoming available.
While these may prove to be good nutrition for the pet hedgehog,
current diets are based on zoo formulations that have been used for
years. Hedgehogs are insectivore/omnivores in the wild. Diets should
be fairly high in protein and low in fat. To minimize obesity, ad-lib
feeding of adults should probably be discouraged. Feed in the evening,
portion size that is mostly consumed by morning. Only a small amount
of food need be present during the day for a snack. Water should be
available at all times. Many hedgehogs will use a water bottle. A low
dish, crock is also utilized. Suggested diet guidelines: For one adult
male hedgehog (550 g). Slightly lesser quantities for adult females.
Younger hedgies may eat the adult quantity, depending on stage of life
and activity.
 1 heaping teaspoon bird of prey diet or insectivore diet
 1.5 heaping teaspoons high quality cat/kitten chow like Science Diet,
 Iams, C/D cat food, ferret chow. (for younger hedgies or
 pregnant/lactating, use kitten or ferret formulations; adult hedgies
 - may use "Lite" adult cat foods) 1 heaping teaspoon fruit/vegetable
 mixture* (see below) 6-10 small mealworms or 1-2 crickets   (larger
 number if pregnant, lactating)
*Fruit/vegetable mix: chop together 1/2 tsp. diced leafy dark greens
(spinach, kale, leaf lettuce), 1/4 tsp. diced carrot, 1/4 tsp. diced
apple, 1/4 tsp. diced banana, 1/4 tsp. diced grape or raisin, 1/4 tsp.
Vionate vitamin/mineral powder or 1/4 Feline Favor tab (SmithKline
Beecham). Note: crush vitamin tablet and mix in or offer completely
separately - some hedgehogs readily eat cat vitamins. 2. Alternate
diet formulation: amount for an adult per day: 3 heaping teaspoons of
high quality cat/kitten chow like Science Diet, Iams, C/D cat food,
ferret chow. (for younger hedgies or pregnant/lactating, use kitten or
ferret formulations; adult hedgies - may use "Lite" adult cat foods);
1 heaping tsp. of above fruit/vegetable mix; 6 small mealworms or 1-2
crickets. 3. Alternate diet formulation: amount for an adult per day:
3-4 teaspoons commercial insectivore diet (Reliable Protein Products,
Pretty Bird Intl); 5-6 mealworms or 1-2 crickets. 4. Woodland Park Zoo
Diet (amount feeds several adults - can be mixed and frozen or
refrigerated): 1 TB Insectivore diet (1); 1 slice cooked carrot; 5
crickets; 30 small mealworms; 1 TB Fruit mix (2); 1 slice cooked yams;
1 pinch chopped romaine or leaf lettuce. (1) Insectivore diet: 1 Cup
chopped non-domestic feline diet (frozen Nebraska brand); 1 Cup
chopped hard-boiled egg; 1 TB what germ flakes; 1 tsp. powdered milk;
1/2 tsp. Vionate vitamin mineral powder; 2 tsp. wheat germ oil. (2)
Fruit mix (dice and mix together):2 medium sized apples (peeled); 1
orange; 1 small tomato; 1/2 melon; 1/2 papaya; 1/2 cup carrots; 1/2
cup yams; 1/2 cup blueberries; 1/2 cup raisins; 1/2 cup sunflower
seeds (shelled, non salted)

Remember: Individuals may be somewhat resistant to new diets, and the
new foods need to be gradually phased in by mixing with the old. It
helps to have all chunks or pieces of new and old diet the same size
and relative consistency. Cat or dog foods alone do not seem to be
adequate as the sole diet.

Restraint and Handling: Examination is best done in subdued light.
Provide a towel on the table and eliminate loud noises. Lightweight
leather gloves may help. A clear acrylic "ferret tunnel" can be used
to do a preliminary visual examination. Everyone develops their
favorite method for uncurling a hedgie: back stroking of rump spines;
gentle but firm rolling of mantle outward, head down suspension,
dorsal positioning. Some will need to be lightly sedated with
isoflurane to facilitate the examination. Some will vocalize with

First Visit/Annual Examination: Review of diet, husbandry, habitat,
behavior, methods for handling, bathing. PE includes visual
inspection, auscultation, oral exam, temperature and weight. Fecal
flotation, direct smear. Optional (depending on history): Salmonella
culture, Skin scraping & fungal culture, CBC, Chemistries. Anesthesia
may be required to do full dental examination, ear examination,
radiographs, toe nail trim, etc. Microchip transponder implantation
recommended for permanent identification.

Blood Collection Sites: Lateral saphenous vein, , cephalic vein,
jugular vein, cranial vena cava. Injection sites: Subcutaneous: back,
flank. Be aware of fat layers - fluids may be slowly absorbed, but
large volumes are possible. Intramuscular: in thigh; Intravenous:
lateral saphenous, jugular vein via catheter. 

Normal Radiographic Appearance: Lateral: pericardial mediastinum
encloses the thymus and heart. Ventrodorsal projection makes
differentiation between individual organs more difficult due to
superimposition of the muscle packets of the orbicular muscles, the
cutis and spines. The skull is broad with pronounced cheek bones.
Secondary dentition is complete with a year. Older animals: teeth are
worn down at a comparatively early age. 

Rule Out Chart for Hedgehogs based on Clinical Signs

Diff: Dental disease, gastrointestinal disease or parasites, fatty
liver, neoplasia, pneumonia, chilling, behavioral (mating distraction,
diet change, husbandry change)

Dx: Physical exam (under sedation), radiographs, CBC/chemistries,
fecal flotation/smear, C&S feces/exudates if present. Ultrasonography
if masses found Rx: Appropriate per etiology

Diff: Gastrointestinal disease or parasites, fatty liver, dietary
change Dx: Physical exam, fecal flotation/smear, C&S; CBC/chemistries
Rx: Supportive care, fluids. Antibiotics/antiparasitics per etiology.
GI protectants as necessary. Stabilize diet. If fatty liver, decrease
fat in diet, supportive with B complex vitamins.

Diff: Chorioptes mange mites, Ixodid ticks, fleas, flea allergic
dermatitis, fungal dermatitis, bacterial dermatitis Dx: Skin scraping
and microscopic exam; fungal/bacterial culture, Rx: Appropriate
therapeutics per etiology. Bathing, complete sanitation of habitat.
For fleas, environmental control in house and on other pets.
Chorioptes mange: Ivermectin at 0.2 mg/kg/PO or SQ for 2-3 treatments,
2-3 weeks apart.

Diff: Anting behavior, response to novel taste or substance, defensive
behavior, dental disease (gingivitis, periodontitis, fractured teeth),
oral neoplasia, nausea (gastrointestinal disease) Dx: Physical
examination, history, oral exam (may need radiographs), biopsy oral
lesions, fecal flotation/smear/C&S if gastrointestinal disease. Rx:
Appropriate per etiology. Dental care as in carnivores.
Gastrointestinal protectants, therapies as indicated.

Diff: Fighting when housed with other hedgehogs; injuries from other
animals, environmental Dx: Physical exam and husbandry review Rx:
Systemic/topical antimicrobials, repair as in other species

Diff: Neoplasia - squamous cell carcinoma, fibromas, fibrosarcomas,
papillomas; abscess, cyst, abdominal - rule out pregnancy Dx: Physical
exam, CBC/Chemistries, Radiographs, Biopsy, Cytology, Histopathology
Rx: Surgical excision if possible. Chemotherapies untried. Abscess:
drain, antimicrobials. Cyst - drain and/or excise. Antimicrobials if
necessary. If pregnancy, discuss delivery, care on infants with other.

Diff: Any debilitating systemic disease, geriatric changes
(spondylosis, arthritis), fractures, luxations, nutritional
deficiencies affecting bone, muscle; chilling, obesity, neoplasia,
overgrown toenails, pododermatitis Dx: Physical exam, husbandry
review, CBC/Chemistries, radiographs Rx: Appropriate per etiology.
Skeletal repair of fractures as in other mammals. Analgesics if
necessary. Trim nails, change husbandry/bedding if necessary.
Antimicrobials if pododermatitis.

Diff: Defensive behavior vocalizations, bacterial/fungal/viral
pneumonia, rhinitis, sinusitis (Bordetella bronchiseptica,
Pasteurella, Cytomegalovirus, etc); foreign body inhalation (dusts,
particulates) Dx: Physical exam, radiographs, tracheal/nasal wash -
C&S, cytology; CBC/Chemistries Rx: Appropriate per etiology.
Nebulization or oxygen therapy if severe congestion. If dyspneic, may
be housed in a pediatric incubator to provide warmth. Bacterial
infections Rx: Trimethoprim sulfa 30 mg/kg BID PO or IM; Enrofloxacin
at 2.5-5.0 mg/kg IM or PO

Diff: Fatty liver, cardiomyopathy, shock (severe trauma, fright),
pneumonia, owner found dead, had not noticed antemortem signs Dx:
History, post mortem exam, necropsy, histopathology Rx: None. Discuss
with owner - particularly if evidence chronic disease

Diff: Neoplasia, anorexia, pain, chronic debilitating systemic
disease, behavioral (competition), diet change and reluctant to eat
novel food or poor diet, environmental changes. Dx: Physical exam,
diet and husbandry history, CBC/chemistries, radiographs. Rule out
systemic diseases Rx: Appropriate per etiology

Diff: Overeating (fat content/quantity), pregnancy, neoplasia, lack of
exercise Dx: Physical exam, history; CBC/Chemistries, radiographs, if
masses found - biopsy, cytology, histopathology Rx: Appropriate per

Common Disease Conditions:
Fatty Liver, Obesity
Dermatitis (parasitic, fungal)
Parasites - Chorioptes, Intestinal nematodes, cestodes, protozoa  (Rx:
Ivermectin at 0.2mg/kg PO or SQ; Cestodes: praziquantel at 7 mg/kg SQ
or PO; protozoa: Metronidazole at 25 mg/kg PO q 12 hrs for 5 days)
Trauma Neoplasia (squarmous cell carcinomas); papillomas. High rate in
animals over 3 yrs old. Respiratory infections: rhinitis, laryngitis,
tracheitis, pneumonia: Bordetella bronchiseptica, Pasteurella spp.,
Cytomegalovirus. Ear Infections Dental problems including
fractured/abscessed teeth: anorexia, weight loss, salivation;
gingivitis., periodontitis

Zoonotic Diseases: Salmonella. Importation bans - can carry Foot &
Mouth Disease, Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Anonymous. African pygmy hedgehog-associated salmonellosis -
Washington, 1994. MMWR 1995 44(24): 462-463. Hoefer, HL: Hedgehogs.
Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Practice. 1994 24(1): 113-120. Isenbugel,
E, Baumgartner, RA. Diseases of the hedgehog. In Fowler, ML (ed), Zoo
and Wild Animal Medicine Current 	Therapy 3, WB Saunders,
Philadelphia, 1993, pp 294-301. Johnson-Delaney, CA: Hedgehogs. In
Exotic Companion Medicine Handbook, Wingers Publishing, Lake Worth,
FL, in 	press. Keymer, IF, Gibson, EA, Reynolds, DJ. Zoonoses and
other findings in hedgehogs (Erinaceaus europaeus): a survey of
	mortality and review of the literature. Vet Record 1991 128(11):
245-249. Smith, AJ: Husbandry and medicine of African Hedgehogs
(Atelerix albiventris). Journal of Small Exotic Anim Med 	1992, 2(1):
21-28. Smith, AJ: Neonatology of the hedgehog, (Atelerix albiventris).
Journal of Small Exotic Anim Med 1995, 3(1): 15-18.

Cathy Johnson-Delaney, DVM                             
University of Washington
Primate Center, Box 357330
Seattle, WA    98195-7330
(206) 543-5178  FAX: (206) 616-1710