Hedgehog Coughing? 5 Possible Causes And Treatments
Hedgehogs are vocal animals and you’ll hear them making all types of noises. Some of these noises are harmless and some need your intervention. If you hear you hedgehog coughing, it can be because of a dusty environment or something more serious such as lung worm.
Normally, hedgehog coughing means they are in discomfort and it’s your responsibility as their owner to get to the bottom of the problem.
This guide will help you establish the cause for your hedgehog coughing. You’ll also find recommended treatments and how to improve your hedgehog’s care routine to prevent future coughing.
Hedgehog Coughing – Causes
If you hear your hedgehog coughing, it’s important to consider all of the possible causes such as:
- Something is stuck in their throat
- Dusty or dirty environment
- Dry atmosphere
- Incorrect bedding
- Upper respiratory infection
Dry, rasping cough is usually an indicator of a dirty nest, dry air or something stuck in their throat. On the other hand, a prolonged, chesty and wet cough is more likely to be the result of an upper respiratory infection such as lungworm or pneumonia.
Something Is Stuck In Their Throat
Often hedgehog coughing is caused by something that’s stuck in their throat or in the roof of their mouth. This is also known as impaction.
It’s important to know what to do in this type of situations. In many cases, acting quickly is the only thing that can save your hedgehog’s life.
If your hedgehog has something stuck in their throat or mouth, there will be other symptoms such as:
- Appearance of reverse mohawk drawn forward into a V multiple times in a row (not the same look as when they ball up in defence mode)
- Hunching up
- Pawing at their mouth
Most of the time, if your hedgehog has something stuck in their mouth, they can get it out themselves by drooling. The drool helps dislodge the food. Other times, they would gag until the piece of food loosens and vomit.
How To Fix It
In the event of your hedgehog coughing because they are chocking on something, it’s essential to act quickly as it can save their life. Follow these steps to help a hedgehog chocking:
- Don’t panic! Keeping cool and calm is important in these situations
- Observe them. If they are able to get air in, wait and see if the food stuck will come out on its own. However, if they continue to choke and look distressed, you’ll need to help them
- Gently put your thumbs at the sides of their mouth and open their mouth
- Have a look inside. You can use a flashlight if needed
- If you can see the food item that’s stuck, use the tip of a syringe or a q tip (remove the cotton) and try to dislodge the food
- Be very careful to not push it further into their throat. Always sweep away from their throat
If the food is at the back of their throat, don’t attempt to dislodge it. It’s too risky to as it can go into their lungs. In this case, follow this method:
- Hedgie heimlich manoeuvre. This is done by supporting your hedgehog’s stomach and back firmly. This is to prevent the hedgehog from shooting off when you swing your arms when holding them
- Extend your arms in front of you and swing them in one motion downwards toward your feet
- Don’t swing your hedgehog back up. Instead lift them slowly and with normal motion to check on them
- If the object hasn’t dislodged, repeat the steps
Watch how to perform the hedgie hemlich manoeuvre here
Dusty Or Dirty Environment
As hedgehogs have a sensitive respiratory system, living in a dusty environment can cause irritation and result in your hedgehog coughing. In addition, dirty enclosure can also cause your hedgehog to cough.
If your hedgehog coughing is the result of a dirty or dusty environment, the cough will be dry and sharp.
How To Fix It?
Providing your hedgehog with a clean environment is essential for their health and well-being.
As urine and feces can result in ammonia build-up, which subsequently can cause respiratory issues and coughing, regular cleaning is important part of your hedgehog care.
The cleaning of your hedgehog’s environment should consist of daily spot cleaning and a monthly deep clean.
The daily spot clean your hedgehog’s cage should include :
- Changing wet bedding
- Removing feces
- Removing old food
- Changing stale water with fresh water
- If your hedgehog is potty trained, you should change their litter
On the other hand, for the monthly deep cleaning you should follow these steps:
- You need a washcloth, hot water, antibacterial soap or vinegar, fresh bedding
- Remove the hedgehog out from the cage and place them somewhere safe
- Remove all the contents
- As the bedding is usually the main source of bad smells and bacteria, place it in a waste bag
- Use hot water and soap to wipe all the surfaces, wires, with hideaways, wheel, food bowls, toys, etc
- Once done wiping, ensure there is no soap or vinegar left over by rinsing everything thoroughly
- The last step is to dry all the parts thoroughly. It’s essential for everything to be fully dry as it can otherwise be the perfect breeding spot for bacteria
Your hedgehog coughing can be the result of incorrect bedding. For instance, if the bedding is too dusty or fine, it can irritate your hedgehog’s respiratory trac and cause coughing.
How To Fix It?
It’s essential to provide your hedgehog with the correct bedding. Not only the wrong bedding can cause hedgehog coughing but it can also contain toxic materials or be a source of bacteria.
You should avoid beddings made of wood shavings such as cedar shavings. These can be very dusty and cause a cough, skin and eye irritation. In addition, you should also avoid corncobs as bedding.
On the other hand, the best substrates for your hedgehog include:
- Shredded paper
- Recycled pelleted/absorbable material
- Wood shavings (such as aspen or pine)
If the air in your hedgehog’s environment is too dry, it can result in your hedgehog coughing. Furthermore, if not resolved quickly that cough can develop into even more serious health problems.
But what causes dry air? For instance, if the room where you keep your hedgehog is artificially heated, the indoor air can strip out your hedgehog’s body moisture. This will result in dehydration and possible cough.
How To Fix It?
To resolve issues with hedgehog coughing, dehydration and dry skin from dry air, you can apply any of the following fixes:
- A humidifier
- Applying a moistening drop or two of Olive oil perhaps. This is most beneficial especially after bathing
- Providing fresh water at all times
Upper Respiratory Infection
In the worst case scenario, your hedgehog coughing is a sign of an upper respiratory infection such as lung worm.
Some of the symptoms of URI in hedgehogs to keep an eye out for include:
- Continuous, wet, and chesty cough
- Sneezing – to learn more about hedgehog sneezing, click here Why Is My Hedgehog Sneezing And How To Treat It
- Nasal discharge
- Increased respiratory effort
- Weight loss
- Reduced appetite
How To Fix It?
The moment you start suspecting an upper respiratory infection, you should take your hedgehog to the vet for further examination and proper treatment.
Normally, the vet will prescribe antibiotics to treat the respiratory infection in combination with supportive-care measures such as syringe feeding, fluids and nebulization.
How To Prevent Hedgehog Coughing
Although, your hedgehog coughing can be nothing to worry about, you want to ensure that there isn’t anything missing from their care routine that’s causing the cough.
To prevent hedgehog coughing as a symptom of something more serious, you must ensure their care is up to a high standard.
For a healthy and happy hedgehog, you need to provide following:
- Correct diet and hydration
- Correct cage set up
- The right bedding
- High standard hygiene and cleaning schedule
- Adequate temperature and lighting
- Safe handling
Diet And Hydration
To provide your hedgehog with nutritious and well balanced diet, follow the split below:
- High quality cat or hedgehog kibble food – 70%
- Insects such as mealworms and waxworms – 10%
- Fruit and vegetables – 10%
- Cooked meat and eggs – 10%
Learn more about what hedgehogs eat here African Pygmy Hedgehog Diet – Fruits Hedgehogs Can Eat
Correct Cage Setup
The hedgehog cage should have enough floor space for them to move around comfortably. Ideally, the enclosure’s floor space should be a minimum of 2 x 3 feet (61 x 91cm).
Besides the size of the enclosure, the contents are also as important. Your hedgehog would benefit the most of having a wheel and a hide spot.
The hedgehog’s enclosure should be places somewhere quiet away from any noises such as TV, loud music, kids, etc.
Read the full guide on hedgehog cage setup here Hedgehog Cage Setup – What To Put In A Hedgehog Cage
The Right Bedding
Choosing the right bedding is also essential for their health. The perfect substrate for your hedgehog is shredded paper, recycled pelleted/absorbable material or wood shavings such as aspen or pine. However, you should avoid fine and dusty beddings such as corncobs, dusty shavings or cedar shavings as they can be irritating.
High Standard Hygiene And Cleaning Schedule
Having the correct cage setup and perfect bedding is not enough to ensure that your hedgehog stay healthy. The cage, its contents and the bedding must be kept clean!
If your hedgehog is not potty trained, it means the bedding will be often soaked in urine and feces which is the ultimate breeding ground for bacteria.
Your hedgehog’s environment should be spot cleaned daily and deep cleaned monthly.
Adequate Temperature And Lighting
The ideal temperature for your hedgehog is between 74° and 76°F. Another thing that can contribute to the temperature is the placement of their enclosure. Ensure their cage is placed away from any drafts that can lower the temperature.
Knowing how to safely handle your hedgehog is essential as the wrong handling can cause them stress and even injury.
To handle your hedgehog safely, cradle them in your hand or forearm. Then, place the other hand gently over their back for security.
The safest way to interact with your hedgehog is to place them on your lap, have pillows around you and be near the floor in case they fell.
If your hedgehog feels safe, they will unroll and begin exploring. To help earn their trust, you can use treats during these interactions.
Hedgehog coughing should never be ignored as it can be a sign of a serious health problem such as an upper respiratory infection or lungworm. If that’s the case, your hedgehog will need to be seen by a vet and prescribed antibiotics to treat it.
On the other hand, hedgehog coughing can be a sign that something isn’t right in their care such as dusty or dirty environment, incorrect bedding or the air in the room being too dry.
Providing your hedgehog with high standard care can help preventing many health problems. If your hedgehog is displaying worrying symptoms, you should check the if the following is set up correctly:
- Cage setup
- Temperature and lighting
- Diet and hydration
Relevant Topics Q&A
What Are The Signs Of A Healthy Hedgehog?
By knowing what a healthy hedgehog looks like, you’d also know when something is wrong.
With that said, if your hedgehog is healthy, you should look for the following signs:
- 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
What Are Hedgehog Dying Signs?
As any other animal, hedgehogs suffer with health problems. Unfortunately, some illnesses can result in death.
In some cases, if you act quick enough, you might be able to save your pet! To be able to do that, you need to know the following hedgehog dying signs:
- 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
To learn more about hedgehog dyihng signs, read the full guide here Hedgehog Dying Signs – How To Recognise Them