Why Is My Hedgehog Sneezing And How To Treat It

Sneezing Hedgehog

As most animals, hedgehogs are really good at hiding health problems. So, if you notice your hedgehog sneezing, it can be very worrying. In most cases, hedgehog sneezing is nothing to worry about but sometimes it can be a symptom of lungworm or pneumonia.

This guide will help you establish the cause for your hedgehog sneezing and provide advice for the best course of treatment. To do this, we are looking at the following topics:

  • Identifying the noise – Is your hedgehog really sneezing?
  • Causes and treatments for hedgehog sneezing
  • Preventing hedgehog sneezing

Identifying The Noise

Before panicking, it’s important to be sure that your hedgehog is actually sneezing. Often the normal snuffling sound that hedgehogs make is confused with sneezing. You’d be able to tell the difference if you keep observing and listening to your hedgehog.

Check out the two videos below for reference what’s snuffling vs hedgehog sneezing.

Causes For Hedgehog Sneezing

Now you know the difference between hedgehog sneezing and hedgehog snuffling. If you are still convinced that your hedgehog is sneezing, you need to know about what can cause this  in the first place.

Hedgehog sneezing can be caused by any of the following:

  • As part of normal behavior
  • Lungworm
  • Pneumonia
  • Incorrect bedding
  • New environment

Normal Behavior

Occasionally, hedgehogs will sneeze. As long as it’s not excessive or combined with other symptoms, there is nothing to worry about.

When To Worry?

Occasionally, hedgehogs would lick their nose. This is also normal behavior. Some do it more than others.

However, hedgehog sneezing and licking nose can mean they have a runny nose. This must be taken seriously as it can turn into a respiratory infection.

Lungworm

Hedgehog sneezing can be a symptom of a lungworm. Lungworm is a common health problems in hedgehogs. This disease presents with infestation of parasitic worms in the lungs of the hedgehog.

Lungworm develops in the lungs and it can progress to a secondary bacterial infection if not treated immediately.

Cause

Lungworm is the common name used to describe infestation of the lungs with parasitic worms. The two types of parasitic worm, Crenosoma striatum and Eucoleus aerophilus (formerly Capillaria aerophila), are known to cause lungworm, especially in Western European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus).

Symptoms

Common lungworm symptoms to look out for include:

  • Sneezing
  • Wheezes
  • Nasal discharge
  • Laboured and open mouth breathing
  • Cough almost as if he is suffering from a chest infection
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Reduced activity
  • Mucus oozing out of the nose

Symptoms of lungworm vary depending on the severity and stage of the disease.

Diagnosis

The only way to have a concrete diagnosis of a lungworm disease is for a vet to examine the hedgehog’s faeces. They will be looking for Crenosoma larvae or Eucoleus eggs.

Treatment

If your hedgehog sneezing is a because of a lungworm, they will have a very small window of opportunity to get it treated. That’s why acting quickly is so important!

Once you take your hedgehog to the vet, they normally prescribe antibiotics such as Advocate – 0.3ml/kg. The course of treatment usually lasts around a week.

As lungworm is always associated with a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotic is the only safe and successful way to treat it.

This is fatal disease and in many cases the hedgehog doesn’t survive.

Prevention

Dogs and cats can be treated for parasites as a prevention method. However, that’s not the case for hedgehogs.

The main preventive method is to ensure that your hedgehog is stress free. Hedgehogs can fight off parasites on their own. However, if they are stressed, their immune system won’t work properly and that’s when the problems being.

To learn more about stress in hedgehogs, read the full guide here Hedgehog Stress Symptoms – How To Prevent Hedgehog Stress

Pneumonia

Hedgehog sneezing can be a sign of pneumonia. The same as us humans, hedgehogs can develop pneumonia. However, unlike humans, hedgehogs need our help to get better.

Cause

As mentioned earlier, lungworm usually results in a secondary bacterial infection such as pneumonia.

Other causes for pneumonia include:

  • Pine bedding. This type of bedding can cause breathing issues which can result in pneumonia
  • Chemical irritations such as fabric softener that’s used to wash their blanket or chemicals used to clean the cage. When cleaning their cage, ensure everything is thoroughly rinsed

Symptoms

Symptoms of pneumonia to look out for include:

  • Hedgehog sneezing and liking nose
  • Loss of appetite and green poop
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Watery, puffy eyes
  • White discharge from eyes and nose

If your hedgehog sneezing is accompanied by symptoms such as licking their nose and any congested sounds when breathing, you should take them to the vet. The more time goes by, the harder it is to treat this health problem.

Treatment

To stop your hedgehog sneezing, you need to treat the pneumonia.

Usually, the treatment for pneumonia is antibiotics prescribed by a vet and it takes roughly 3 to 4 days. In addition to the antibiotics, the vet might prescribe syringe feeding, fluids, nebulization.

Unfortunately, pneumonia is hard to treat and not all hedgehogs make full recovery. Pneumonia can even cause short or long term lung scarring and some hedgehogs become more susceptible to future infections.

Any upper respiratory infections in hedgehogs should be treated as it will not go away on its own and it can be fatal.

Incorrect Bedding

A common cause for hedgehogs sneezing is their bedding. Some types of bedding can even cause allergies as well as sneezing and runny nose. Loose or dusty beddings or cedar shavings should be avoided.

Furthermore, cedar shavings are toxic to your hedgehog as they cause respiratory and allergic problems as well as potential liver changes.

Treatment

If your hedgehog sneezing is down to incorrect bedding, the solution is removing the irritant and replacing with better bedding option such as:

  • Fabric bedding
  • Shredded paper
  • Old newspapers
  • Certain litter pellets
  • The Kaytee Soft Granule Bedding Blend
  • Carefresh natural soft pet bedding
  • The Kaytee Clean and Cozy white small hedgehog bedding

New Environment

Sometimes, hedgehogs that are getting used to a new environment will sneeze. If that’s the cause for your hedgehog sneezing, it should go away in a day or two.

However, if the sneezing continues and/or is accompanied by other symptoms, you should consider other causes.

Treating Sneezing Hedgehog At Home

sneezing hedgehog

Although, antibiotics are a must when treating hedgehog sneezing caused by pneumonia or lung worm, there are still things you can do to help you relive your hedgehog’s symptoms at home.

Follow those steps to relive your hedgehog sneezing symptoms at home:

  • Put the hedgehog on a temporary cloth liners such as a pillow case, soft t shirt, cut out polar fleece
  • Ensure there are no loose threads, taw edges or buttons that your hedgehog can hurt themselves on
  • Once you picked the liner, wash it and double rinse with a bit of vinegar in the rinse water to cut the laundry soap residue
  • Dry it with a dryer or hang inside to dry. Do not hang outside as allergens and pollens can attach to the liners
  • After fitting the liner in their cage, wait for 24 hours and if the sneezing stops, it means it was caused by an allergy or irritation from the bedding. If the sneezing persists, a visit to the vet is needed
  • Keep your hedgehog warm. Whenever there is a chance of your hedgehog being ill, it’s important to keep them warm by increasing the temperature by a few degrees
  • Ensure they are eating and drinking well. Keep track of how much your hedgehog’s eating and if the water is being drank
  • Monitor their poop. For instance, if the poop is green or slimey, it means increasing infection

Sneezing that is frequent, combined with nose licking that doesn’t go away with the change of the cage liner, must be checked out by a vet.

Hedgehog Sneezing – Prevention

Although, it’s important to know how to identify and treat the causes for hedgehog sneezing, it’s equally as important to know how to prevent the issue in the first place.

To prevent hedgehog sneezing, follow these steps:

  • Pick a safe bedding that won’t cause allergies or irritation
  • Maintain warm temperatures in the cage. Cold temperatures can also lead to constipation. Read more about this here Constipated Hedgehog – Causes And Treatment
  • Avoid any stress that can lower their immune system
  • Keep your hedgehog’s cage clean and make sure they are not exposed to any drafts

In terms of preventive deworming medicines, they shouldn’t be used on hedgehogs. In most cases, hedgehogs will be able to recover from parasites as long as the hedgehog is not stressed or ill.

Final Thoughts

Hedgehog sneezing can be very worrying for any owner. Before panicking, it’s important to examine the situation and take into consideration any other symptoms.

If your hedgehog is sneezing with no other symptoms, it can be nothing to worry about. Hedgehogs sneeze from time to time to clear their nostrils. However, we still recommend to check if their bedding is causing them to sneeze.

On the other hand, if your hedgehog sneezing is accompanied by other symptoms such as increased respiratory rate and effort, labored breathing, lethargy, and weakness, it can be a symptom of a lung worm or pneumonia. Both of these are treated with antibiotics prescribed by a vet.

When treating any upper respiratory infections, it’s important to act quickly as it can be fatal for your hedgehog.

Related Topics Q&A

What Sounds Hedgehogs Make?

This is the list of normal hedgehog noises that are perfectly normal and nothing to worry about:

  • Grunting and snuffling, similar to a pig – this means your hedgehog is out looking for food
  • Chuffing like a steam train – this means your hedgehog is in their mating season
  • Chirping like baby birds – this means hungry hoglets
  • Screaming Hedgehog – this means your hedgehog is in pain or distress
  • Hissing Hedgehog – your hedgehog is telling you to back off
  • Clicking and “popping” – your hedgehog wants to fight. Usually, other males during mating season

What Does A Healthy Hedgehog Look Like?

A healthy hedgehog is bright, alert and responsive. The skin should look healthy and not be flaky, crusty, red or itchy.

When touched, even a healthy hedgehog will respond with a hiss or stiffen up.


References

https://www.wildlives.org.uk/2005updates/hoghelpsheet/sick-and-inj.htm

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