Why Is My Hedgehog Shaking? When To Worry?
As many other animals, hedgehogs are very good at hiding illnesses. So, when you see your hedgehog shaking and they can’t hide it, it’s something that needs to be taken seriously.
In the worst case – hedgehog shaking can be a symptom of wobbly hedgehog syndrome or it can just mean they are cold or afraid.
This guide will help you establish the cause for your hedgehog shaking. You’ll also find recommendations on ways to treat and prevent hedgehog shaking when it is a symptom of an illness.
Causes For Hedgehog Shaking
If you notice your hedgehog shaking, it’s important to not panic and thoroughly examine the situation by taking into consideration any other symptoms and if their care routine is adequate.
With that said, there are a few possible causes for hedgehog shaking. The less known causes include:
- Seizure caused by a lesion or tumor in the brain – if a tumor has caused the shaking, there would also be other neurological symptoms such as loss of balance or inability to walk in a straight line
- Unsteadiness caused by severe nutritional deficits – in this case, other symptoms include loss of weight, lethargy, unhealthy quills or skin
On the other hand, the most common causes for shaking hedgehog include:
- Wobbly hedgehog syndrome
- Inadequate lighting and heating
The two most common and worrying causes for shaking hedgehog are hibernation and neurological condition known as Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS).
Both of these causes can be fatal if not addressed quickly.
It’s important to never ignore any signs of sickness as with some illnesses acting quickly is the only way to save your hedgehog’s life.
If your hedgehog is not getting the right nutrients from their diet, they will start losing weight and can be very dangerous for their health. A common symptom of extreme malnutrition is hedgehog shaking.
This is similar to people experiencing fatigue and even fainting from not eating well enough.
How To Fix It?
Malnutrition is fixed by adjusting your hedgehog’s diet. Every animal has different dietary requirements that must be met in order for them to be healthy and happy.
The ideal hedgehog diet consists of:
- High quality cat or hedgehog kibble food – 70%
- Insects such as mealworms and waxworms – 10%
- Fruit and vegetables – 10%
- Cooked meat and eggs – 10%
You can learn more about the ideal hedgehog’s diet here African Pygmy Hedgehog Diet – Fruits Hedgehogs Can Eat
Hedgehogs are very delicate animals that get scared often! One of the reactions to fear can be hedgehog shaking.
As already mentioned, hedgehogs get scared often. Therefore, there are many factors that can scare and stress hedgehogs such as:
- New home. If your hedgehog is getting used to a new environment and you’re their new owner, they will be nervous and afraid at first. This is totally normal and you should give them space and allow for up to 2 weeks to get used to the new environment
- Both loud noises and sudden movements can startle your hedgehog and result in shaking out of fear
- They are scared of you. If your hedgehog hasn’t been socialised properly in the first place, they might be afraid of you. If that’s the case, every time you approach them or the enclosure, it can cause them fear and stress
Other symptoms of fear is when your hedgehog is making a squeaking sound. To learn more on why hedgehog squeak, read the guide here Why Is My Hedgehog Squeaking? When To Worry?
How To Fix It?
To ensure your hedgehog is not experiencing any fear, you should ensure the following:
- Socialise them properly
- Learn how to hold them safely and in a way that’s enjoyable for them
- Provide them with a proper cage set up and an environment that’s enriched with hide spots and entertainment such as a wheel
- Ensure their cage is not near any loud noises or exposed to drafts
- Provide adequate temperature and lighting
- Provide nutritious diet
Hedgehog cage, hides and toys easily be purchased from amazon at a reasonable price:
Some owners report noticing their hedgehog shaking right after waking up. After observing their hedgehog’s behavior, these owners also describe this type of shaking as stretching.
However, it’s still important to continue observing your hedgehog to ensure that their shaking is not worsening and there aren’t any other symptoms.
Inadequate Lighting And Heating
Incorrect heating and lighting setup can be causing your hedgehog shaking. If your hedgehog is too cold, they might be having little shivers, just like humans.
How To Fix It?
Providing your hedgehog with the correct temperature is essential to their health. You should maintain a temperature of 69.8 °F to 77 °F in their enclosure. In terms of light, you should ensure that your hedgehog is exposed to 12 hours of light and darkness for the other 12 hours.
To achieve all of this, you should get a thermostat that’s controlled by a CHE setup and a light that’s on a timer.
Hibernation in Hedgehogs
Often hedgehog shaking is a sign that they are preparing to go into hibernation. In this case shaking is more like shivering as their body temperature is too low.
In the wild, hibernation is a process that hedgehogs go through during the winter periods for survival purposes. However, when kept as pets, hedgehogs don’t need to hibernate to survive as long as you’re providing them with warm enough temperature.
Therefore, if your hedgehog is preparing to hibernate, it can mean that something is wrong in their care.
Other signs of attempting hibernation include:
- Increased calorie intake. They do this to ensure they have enough body fat to get through the winter or hibernation period
- Sluggish or lethargic
During hibernation, the hedgehog is not asleep but more in a still state where their activities such as moving around, eating, drinking are decreased to a minimum. This also includes their metabolic rate.
How To Fix It?
If you your hedgehog shaking is because they are preparing to go into hibernation, you need to try and prevent it as hibernation is very dangerous for pet hedgehogs.
The food your hedgehog eats in captivity is not enough to sustain them through hibernation. That’s why hibernation is often fatal for pet hedgehogs as they would starve.
Once you notice shaking, the first thing that you need to do in order to prevent hibernation is – raise their body temperature as quickly as possible. However, you want to avoid a sudden change in the temperature as that can result in shock. Therefore, you should avoid using any of the following to raise the temperature:
- Heating pads
- Hair dryer
- Heating gun
- Warm water
As hedgehogs can’t regulate their body temperature, you should only increase their temperature slowly and gradually. This can be done by setting up an ambient heating system through touching their skin with your skin.
Once the hedgehog begins to be more responsive, wrap it in a fleece type material. Keep observing your hedgehog and if their responsiveness improves over time.
If they remain relatively unresponsive after 30 min, you can use a heater at the lowest setting and place it near their enclosure for 15-30 min. Keep observing their reactions.
How To Prevent Hibernation?
Even if your hedgehog recovers, it’s still very important to know how to prevent hibernation as it can easily happen again.
To prevent this from happening, you should ensure your hedgehog has an adequate heating and that the temperature is always maintained between 72 °F and 82 °F degrees Fahrenheit.
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome
In some unfortunate cases, hedgehog shaking is the result of wobbly hedgehog syndrome, also known as WHS. This is a neurotically condition that affects European and African hedgehogs. As it’s progressively degenerate, the hedgehog’s symptoms will worsen over time.
The main areas that wobbly hedgehog syndrome affects are the brain and the neurological functions, hence the shaking.
This disease is similar to Multiple Sclerosis, also known as MS in humans.
Wobbly hedgehog syndrome is described as a genetic condition that is the result of poor breeding practices. However, there is still a lot of unknown surrounding this disease.
Usually, this neurological disorder develops in hedgehogs around the age of 2 to 3 years old. However, there also have been cases in younger or older hedgehogs.
If your hedgehog’s enclosure is kept at the correct temperature, your hedgehog shaking can be caused by WHS.
However, the diagnosis of WHS can be done only two ways:
- Through elimination process. A specialised vet will rule out other diseases such as brain and spinal cord diseases, inner ear problems, strokes, malnutrition, toxins, tumors. This would be done through the use of tests and examination. However, all of this can be very expensive.
- Post-mortem examination of the spinal cord and brain tissue. Unfortunately, the technology for hedgehogs is not as advanced. Therefore, this exam can only be done after the hedgehog’s passed away
Often, WHS is confused with unsteadiness in your hedgehog. To be fully sure that your hedgehog is suffering from WHS, you must observe them.
The first symptom will be hedgehog shaking combined with weakness in their hind legs. This would result in unsteadiness and the hedgehog will appear wobbly. Normally, this wobble will be observed even when the hedgehog is standing still.
Later on, the symptom will progress to seizures, all four limbs being paralized, muscle atrophy, etc. Normally, the symptoms will go from mild to severe from 18 to 24 months. However, in some cases, it can be much quicker.
Unfortunately, wobbly hedgehog syndrome has no cure and there is nothing that can be done to even prevent it. Once diagnosed, the only thing you can do is make your hedgehog as comfortable as possible until their symptoms reach a stage when it’s time to put them down.
Although, hedgehog shaking is not always something to worry such as stretching or fear from loud noise, it’s essential to explore all the possible causes. Furthermore, you should also take into consideration any other symptoms that are present and if their care routine is up to standard.
In more unfortunate cases, hedgehog shaking can be the result of inadequate lighting and heating, attempt to go into hibernation or the wobbly hedgehog syndrome which is fatal.
Many of the these causes can be treated by applying some changes to the hedgehog’s care. However, if your hedgehog is suffering from the the wobbly hedgehog syndrome, this condition is untreatable and fatal.
Hedgehog shaking is never something that should be ignored and you should always take your hedgehog to the vet for further examination and tests.
Acting quickly is key in these type of situations and will increase chances of your hedgehog getting better.
Related Topics Q&A
How To Hold A Hedgehog Safely?
It’s important to know how to handle your pet hedgehog in a way that doesn’t cause them distress.
You should hold your hedgehog by cradling them on one hand and supporting their back with the other hand or forearm.
Is My Hedgehog Happy?
The signs of a happy hedgehog include:
- Chirps and whiffles when you pick them up or feed them
- When relaxing, the hedgehog’s quills should be flat
- Snuffling or grunting noises when exploring
Hedgehog Stress Signs?
Understanding when your hedgehog is stressed is essential for their long term health. Some of the signs of a stressed hedgehog include:
- Hiding and not coming out
- Trying to wriggle their way out of being handled
- Pacing or yawning
- Not moving when you come closer
- Decreased activity and exercise
- Loss of appetite
- Overgrooming or not grooming at all
Learn more about stress in hedgehogs here Hedgehog Stress Symptoms – How To Prevent Hedgehog Stress