Hedgehog Dying Signs – How To Recognise Them

Hedgehogs get sick as any other pet. However, it’s important you can recognise the hedgehog dying signs, so you can act quickly and get help.

In this article we would look into not only hedgehog dying signs but also

  • What you can do to prolong your hedgie’s life
  • Ways to make your hedgehog comfortable during its last days.

All pet owners can relate to the horrible feeling of not knowing what’s wrong with your pet and not knowing what to do. Furthremore, recognising the hedgehog dying signs can be essential for your hedgehog’s quality of life and lifespan.

Keep reading to learn more about recognising the difference between healthy, sick and terminally ill hedgehog and how to provide them with the required care.

Signs Of A Healthy Hedgehog

hedgehog dying signs

Being able to recognise hedgehog dying signs is as important as knowing what a healthy hedgehog looks like.

By knowing what’s normal behaviour for your hedgehog, you will be able to tell when something is wrong and if a trip to the vet is required.

A healthy hedgehog will present with the following characteristics:

  • Eyes should be open and bright
  • Behaviour should be alert and responsive – Hedgehogs are normally bright and alert. In addition to that, hedgehogs are not very social and normally they stiffen up and hiss when touched. 
  • Belly lifted off the ground when walking – Your hedgehog should be walking without struggle and without wobbling side to side.
  • Plenty of urine and feces in the cage left from overnight – This is a sign of a healthy diet and digestion.
  • Feces should be brown and soft – You can tell if a hedgehog is healthy by the appearance of its poop. The poop should be brown, soft and well-formed.
  • Good appetite – Healthy hedgehog’s eat frequently
  • Able to ball up completely
  • Skin shouldn’t be flaky, crusty, red or itchy – Having good skin most of its quills is a sign of health.
  • Asleep during the day and active during the night – The normal behaviour for hedgehogs is being asleep during the day and very active during the night.
  • Constantly sniffing when exploring their surroundings – When they are awake during the night, they should be constantly sniffing around, exploring and running on their wheel if they have one.

Hedgehog Signs Of Sickness

hedgehog dying signs

Hedgehogs are prone to certain diseases and illnesses but the good news is that it’s not always terminal. It’s imperative that you know what hedgehog dying sign look like, but it’s also as important to know when your hedgehog’s sickness can be cured.

There are many hedgehog signs of sickness but there a few behaviours you should look out for, so you can act quickly and help your hedgie.

Hedgehog Not Being Active

It’s imperative you know your hedgehog’s normal behaviour, so you are able to tell when they are acting differently. All healthy hedgehogs should be very active during the night as that is when they wake up from their day sleeping.

Furthermore, it’s very important to keep an eye on your hedgehog’s activities every day. For instance, if it normally use its exercise wheel when awake and don’t do that anymore, it’s something to worry about. Especially, when this is combined with other symptoms such as not eating or not drinking.

Lethargy and Weakness

Lethargy and weakness in hedgehogs can sometimes be down to reasons that you shouldn’t worry about such as:

  • Old age
  • Being tired
  • Personality

On the other hand, it shouldn’t be ignored if this behaviour is out of character. Furthermore, if your hedgehog is so tired that it can’t walk around, exercise or keeps on sleeping through both day and night, it’s something to be worried about.

Loss Of Appetite and Weight Loss

Hedgehogs losing their appetite and subsequently losing weight, is a strong indicator that there is something wrong. After sleeping all day, when your hedgehog wakes up in the evening should be eating and drinking normally.

Therefore, if your hedgie is skipping food and water, you must investigate further why is that happening.

If your hedgehog’s appetite has decreased, keep an eye if it gets any better in the next few days. Especially, if they are not eating anything or leaving more than half of their food in the bowl, you should take your hedgehog to the vet.

Decreased appetite in hedgehogs can lead to weight loss. Therefore, this should be taken seriously as it can potentially be a serious health issue and one of the hedgehog dying signs.

Faeces and Urine

Another thing you should be checking on daily, is their litter tray. There should be plenty poop and pee in the morning. As this is a sign of health, the lack of it means there is a health problem that needs looking into.

It’s possible this is something temporary, as hedgehogs’ diet can change and can result in them producing different amounts of waste. That’s why you should keep an eye on your hedgehog over the next few days to see if there is an improvement. If there is still no change, you should take your hedgehog to the vet to investigate the cause of this behaviour.

In addition to the frequency and consistency of their poop, you should always pay attention to the appearance aswell. If your hedgehog’s stool is appearing as green, black, tarry, loose or with mucous, then you need to take your hedgehog to a vet.

When it comes to urinating, less of it can mean they might be holding on to water in their body to fight off an illness. As hedgehogs are really good at hiding illnesses and sickness, you must pay close attention to their habits and behaviour.

Bloody Urine

One of the most obvious hedgehog dying signs would be if you find blood in your hedgehog’s urine. Furthermore, in this case, you should take your hedgehog immediately to the vet.

Difficulty Breathing And Panting

Another serious health problem is when your hedgehog is gasping for breath. This can sometimes seem like they are yawning but that is actually them trying to catch their breath.

If you’re noticing your hedgehog continuously panting without exercise being the cause of it, it can possibly be a respiratory infection or disease.

As this is a serious health concern and one of the possible hedgehog dying signs, you should take your hedgehog to the vet immediately.

Eyes or Nose Discharge 

Another worrying symptom of illness can appear as discharge from the nose or eyes. This can be a sign of eyes or nasal infection or in some cases even tumours. Therefore, a trip to the vet is necessary to investigate the cause.

Hedgehog Dying Signs

The symptoms mentioned above, don’t necessarily mean your hedgehog is dying. When your hedgehog is unwell, it will exhibit signs of sickness such as not eating, change in toilet habits or weakness but it’s not always terminal.

Most times hedgehog dying signs would appear combined and not as a single symptom. For instance, if your hedgehog is not eating or drinking, displaying weakness and sleeping through the night, it’s very likely your hedgehog is terminally ill and dying slowly as its organs are shutting down.

It’s always better to act and do something instead of waiting it out as it will not only become too late to help it but you would be causing your beloved hedgehog unnecessary suffering. That’s why it’s important to always look for the cause of the symptoms by taking your hedgehog to the vet for tests and a physical examination.

To summarise watch out for the following hedgehog dying signs appearing together or in any combination:

  • Weight loss
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Stool appearing green, black, tarry, lose or with mucous
  • Panting or difficulty breathing
  • Unable to roll-up, just laying on one side
  • Not being active anymore or sleeping the whole time
  • Appearing confused, walking in circles aimlessly
  • Wobbling when walking, unable to walk in straight line
  • Unable to ball up
  • Lumps or growths on their body or head which can be cancerous

Tumours In Hedgehogs

Unfortunately, hedgehogs are very prone to cancerous tumours. In some cases, these tumours can be physically visible such as lumps on their head, mouth or body. On the other hand, sometimes you won’t be able to see them but there will be symptoms that point in that direction.

The most important thing when it comes to tumours is detecting them early and taking your hedgehog to the vet as soon as possible. If you notice symptoms that can’t be explained or a lump, you must act quickly and take your spiky pet to the vet for an exam.

In most cases, tumours mean your hedgehog is nearing the end of its life. Even if the tumour is removed successfully, it can still result in your hedgehog dying as they are small animals and are not that resilient.

If your hedgehog gets cancerous tumour, there isn’t much that can be done and euthanasia is recommended.

Read more about diseases in hedgehogs by clicking here Hedgehog Diseases – Sick Hedgehog Signs

If your hedgehog passes away suddenly, you can always request a necropsy, so they can determine the cause of death. Most times, the reason for a hedgehog dying suddenly, is cancerous tumour.

What To Do If My Hedgehog Is Dying

Overall, as a pet owner, knowing your hedgie is dying, you have two options:

  • Provide them with comfort in their last days and try to prolong their life
  • Euthanise them before the tumour ruptures. By putting them down, you would be preventing any further suffering.

How To Comfort Dying Hedgehog

If you find out your hedgie is dying and you don’t want to go down the euthanasia path, there are a few things you can do to comfort your hedgehog during its last days. The following are things that can be done to comfort your dying hedgehog and maybe prolong its life a little bit more:

  • You can use antibiotics and TLC to ease the pain and suffering. As a result, your hedgehog might be unaware of what’s going on until the last moment
  • One recommendation is to purchase Pedialyte to keep your hedgehog hydrated. In addition to that you can get Nutrical that can be administered by a syringe mixed with water. Subsequently, this should help your hedgehog gain some strength.
  • Put a warm water bottle next to your hedgehog especially when sleeping to keep them warm. Furthermore, the warmth might improve their lethargy and weakness
  • Stay away – if your hedgehog is not feeling well, it might help to put it in a darkened, quiet room away from everyone, so it doesn’t experience unnecessary stress
  • Feed your hedgehog by the use of syringe. Furthermore, you can add pureed baby food such as pumpkin which would be easy to digest. Similar to that, you can give your hedgehog water through the use of syringe.

The suggestions above should all be used in combination to take care of your dying hedgehog. If by doing all of the above, your hedgehog is still not regaining any strength or improving, you should rethink putting down, so it doesn’t suffer long and painful death.

Final Thoughts

As small mammals hedgehogs are prone to illnesses and cancerous tumours that often result in death. It’s essential to know what are the hedgehog dying signs, so you can act quickly and effectively.

Furthermore, if your hedgehog starts exhibiting a combination of two or more of the following symptoms, they might be reaching the end of their life.

  • Weight loss
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Stool appearing green, black, tarry, lose or with mucous
  • Panting or difficulty breathing
  • Unable to roll-up, just laying on one side
  • Not being active anymore or sleeping the whole time
  • Appearing confused, walking in circles aimlessly
  • Wobbling when walking, unable to walk in straight line
  • Unable to ball up
  • Lumps or growths on their body or head which can be cancerous

As the lifespan of a hedgehog is 2-5 years, the main reasons for death are either old age, cancerous tumours or wobbly hedgehog syndrome.

If your hedgehog starts showing any of the mentioned symptoms, please act quickly by taking your hedgie to a vet for a diagnosis. Once diagnosed as terminally ill, you’ll have the following options:

  • Comfort your dying hedgehog during its last days
  • Put it down to avoid any further and unnecessary suffering

Although, losing your hedgehog can be very difficult, don’t let their great life end in slow and painful death.

Finally, always pay attention to your hedgehog’s behaviours and never be passive if something is wrong. A trip or a call to the vet can be lifesaving for your spiky pet.


My name is Iliyana and I'm a passionate animal lover and pet owner. As there is significantly less information online about unusual and exotic pets, I decided to found this website and recruit expert writers to help pet owners.

You may also like...