Hedgehog Mites Or Dry Skin? What’s Bothering Your Hedgie?

Hedgehog Mites Or Dry Skin

Your hedgehog itching and scratching from time to time is perfectly normal. However, when the scratching is constant and accompanied by other symptoms it can be a sign of hedgehog mites or dry skin.

It can be quite difficult to tell if your hedgehog is suffering from hedgehog mites or dry skin. This is because both conditions present with similar symptoms. Therefore, we have put together this detailed guide that will help you diagnose your hedgehog and then treat accordingly.

Hedgehog Scratching – Is It Normal?

The first thing we need to take a look at is if hedgehog scratching is normal in the first place?

While hedgehogs do scratch from time to time, excessive scratching is not normal and it can be a sign of hedgehog mites or dry skin. The only way to establish if the scratching is a sign of a health concern is by observing your hedgehog’s behavior and keeping an eye on any other symptoms.

Hedgehog Mites Or Dry Skin?

The only way to tell if it’s hedgehog mites or dry skin that you’re dealing with is by looking at the symptoms.

For instance, if your hedgehog is suffering from dry skin only, upon examining the hedgehog’s body, you should notice dry, red, irritated, and flaky skin. In addition, there can also be dandruff and the loss of the odd spine.

In comparison, hedgehog mites will present with all the symptoms of dry skin aswell as the following symptoms:

  • Extreme quill loss from a concentrated area
  • Biting
  • Licking
  • Chewing
  • Weight loss
  • Low energy
  • Live mites can be sometimes visible on the hedgehog’s body; in their cage; on their bedding;

Hedgehog Mites

Let’s first take a look at what exactly are mites. They are small red or black arachnid, like spiders and ticks. They will bite and feed off their host, in this case your hedgehog. Their bites will cause irritation to your hedgehog’s skin and spines which will make them scratch and itch.

Can you see the mites? In some cases, you’d be able to see the mites on the hedgehog’s body, crawling around their cage or on their bedding. However, if you can’t see any mites, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a mite infestation. Always, go off by the symptoms instead of being able to see the actual mites.

If you wonder what’s worse hedgehog mites or dry skin, mites are the one to be more concerned about. Furthermore, if left untreated mites can develop into a secondary bacterial infection which can be life threating.

As mites can easily spread from one pet to another, any other pets or hedgehogs that were housed together should be placed in quarantine.

Causes

Some of the main causes for mites in hedgehogs include:

  • New hedgehogs
  • Incorrect bedding
  • Through the food
  • Through contact with birds and rodents in the pet shop

Unfortunately, items such as food and bedding often contain small mites that later infect the hedgehog’s cage and result in an infestation.

Symptoms

The best way to tell if it’s hedgehog mites or dry skin that your pet is suffering from, is by looking at the symptoms. If it’s hedgehog mites, then the following symptoms should be present:

  • Areas of concentrated spine loss or hair loss
  • Biting
  • Licking
  • Chewing
  • Excessive scratching
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Dandruff and very flaky skin

Diagnosing

Although, the symptoms are a good indicator if your hedgehog has mites, the only way to know for sure is to take your hedgehog to the vet. There are two tests – one is a skin scrape which is not 100% accurate and the other is examining your hedgehog’s hair and skin under a microscope.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there isn’t a mite drug that is specifically designed to treat hedgehogs. However, two good options that have proven to be effective in eradicating hedgehog mites are:

  • Revolution, also known as Selamectin. This drug would kill the mites withing 24 hours and the quills should regrow withing two weeks. In some cases, a second treatment might be needed. A single topical treatment of Revolution (Selamectin) will last a full 30 days and will outlast the life cycle of any mite. Because of its chemical properties, this medicine can result in side effects such as skin irritation and even quill loss
  • Topical yeast infections can be treated with Ketochlot Shampoo which can be prescribed by your vet

On the other hand, medicine to avoid when treating parasite infestations in hedgehogs is Ivermectin/Stromectol. This is because hedgehogs can have a toxic reaction to the medication, and it can even result in death.

Homemade Remedy

There are some natural remedies which can be used to relieve your hedgehog’s itchiness and inflamed skin.

One of these homemade remedies is the apple cider oatmeal oil rinse. This method has proven to relieve your hedgehog’s symptoms regardless if they are suffering from hedgehog mites or dry skin.

If your hedgehog has mites, adding oil to this homemade remedy will suffocate the mites. However, oil has its downside as it can lead to blocking your hedgehog’s pores. That is why we only recommend using fractionated coconut oil which is much better option and doesn’t require more than one application.

Follow these steps for the apple cider oatmeal oil rinse:

  • Each time you do the rinse – fill up the bath tub with an inch of water that covers them up to their shoulders.
  • Day 1 to 3 – mix the following in a sock: 1tbsp fractionated coconut oil, 2 drops of vitamin E oil, 1tbsp apple cider vinegar and 1 tbsp oatmeal. Dip the sock into the bath until it’s fully mixed with the water. Take some of the mix with a cup and pour it over your hedgehog by gently rubbing it into their feet, all exposed skin including ears, face and head. Leave it in and do not rinse
  • Day 4 – Repeat the same as above. However, this time only mix 1 tbsp of oatmeal and 1 tsp fractionated coconut oil and 2 drops of vitamin E in a sock and then dip it in the bathtub water. Once you’ve rubbed it into the hedgehog’s skin, rinse them with water.

This method should relieve your hedgehog’s itchiness and it’s a temporary solution. However, it’s important to remember that this is not a cure and the most important thing is to always establish the cause first.

Treating The Environment

Regardless if you’re dealing with hedgehog mites or dry skin, it’s always important to ensure that their environment is suitable and it’s not the cause of your hedgehog’s health problem.

If your hedgehog is suffering with mites, you should follow these steps to treat their environment:

  • Use warm water and vinegar for the cleaning purposes
  • Clean the cage alongside the wheel, any water bottles and food bowls
  • Their bedding, hides, accessories and leftover foods need to be discarded
  • Any remaining bedding and kibble food needs to be frozen for 24 hours in order to kill any mites or eggs

All of this is necessary as these items can be harbouring mites or their eggs. As mites can be very stubborn and resist many treatments, it’s important to deep clean your hedgehog cage daily to prevent any mite eggs from hatching.

Hedgehog Dry Skin

Normally, your hedgehog scratching and itching means they are suffering with either hedgehog mites or dry skin. Unfortunately, dry skin in hedgehogs is much harder to diagnose than mites. This is because most of the symptoms for dry skin also apply when your hedgehog has mites.

Diagnosis

When dealing with hedgehog dry skin, you should inspect their skin and bedding for fine dust such as particles.

The best way to diagnose hedgehog dry skin is by first eliminating the possibility for parasites, fungus, bacteria, molting period and a young hedgehog changing their quills. If none of the mentioned are the culprit for your hedgehog endless scratching, then you’re dealing with dry skin.

Causes

Hedgehogs are naturally prone to dry skin that can be triggered by any of the following:

  • Excessive bathing
  • Washing chemicals
  • Poor nutrition
  • Allergies
  • Bedding absorbing the moisture
  • Low humidity

To effectively treat your hedgehog’s dry skin, the first step should always be identifying the cause and then removing it from their environment.

Excessive Bathing

Although, bathing your hedgehog is good for them, if it’s too often it can result in dry skin. Excessive bathing refers to washing your whole hedgehog and not just foot baths. On the contrary, frequent foot baths are beneficial for your hedgehog as it keeps their feet clean. If your hedgehog’s scratching has resulted in sores on their feet, foot baths will ensure the sores don’t get infected.

Washing Chemicals

Another cause for hedgehog dry skin is the use of certain shampoos when washing them. The only thing that you should be using when giving your hedgehog baths is Aveeno Baby Wash, Baby Shampoo, or a mild unscented liquid hand soap. 

Poor Nutrition

Nutrition is important for every living creature and hedgehogs are no exception. Therefore, if your hedgehog’s nutrition is poor, it can result in your hedgehog developing dry skin.

For instance, if there isn’t enough moisture in your hedgehog’s food, it can lead to dry skin.

To prevent this from happening, ensure you’re feeding your hedgehog a well-balanced and nutritious diet and including feeder insects.

To learn more about what foods you should be feeding your hedgehog, click here African Pygmy Hedgehog Diet – Fruits Hedgehogs Can Eat

Allergies

Similar to people, hedgehogs suffer with allergies and one of the symptoms is dry skin.

The most common type of allergies that hedgehogs suffer with is contact allergies. Normally, this is caused by laundry products used to wash their bedding or cleaning chemicals used to clean their cage. Another allergy trigger is using the wrong bedding such as wood shavings, paper shreds and pellets.

To prevent any allergy triggers, it’s recommended to clean your hedgehog’s cage and wash their bedding with vinegar and water only. In terms of bedding, the safest options include:

  • Shredded paper
  • Newspaper
  • Recycled pelleted/absorbable material
  • Wood shavings (such as aspen or pine)

Bedding Absorbing The Moisture

Another possible cause for your hedgehog’s dry skin can be the bedding absorbing the moisture from their skin. One type of bedding that can absorb the natural oils from your hedgehog’s skin is fleece.

To prevent this from happening, you should use safe bedding options. As we already mentioned above, these include:

  • Shredded paper
  • Newspaper
  • Recycled pelleted/absorbable material
  • Wood shavings (such as aspen or pine)

Low Humidity

An environment factor that can cause hedgehog dry skin is low humidity. If your hedgehog’s environment is too dry, it can result in dry skin condition.

How does that happen? Normally, the air in the room becomes too dry when there is heating and/or air conditioning systems.

The best way to keep an eye on the humidity levels of your hedgehog’s environment is by using a hygrometer. This will help you determine when the air is too dry. For instance, if the reading is anything below 30%, it means that the air is too dry and you need to take action.

How To Fix It?

The best way to prevent the air becoming too dry for your hedgehog is by using portable humidifier. The humidifier increases the moisture levels in the air and will prevent your hedgehog developing dry skin because of low humidity.

However, there are a few things to remember when using a humidifier in your hedgehog’s room:

  • Only use distilled water in the humidifier. This is because regular water contains minerals that can cause respiratory issues in your hedgehog
  • Make sure that you clean the humidifier regularly as any stagnate water will grow mold and mildew, which can result in health issues

Final Thoughts

Trying to diagnose if your hedgehog is suffering from hedgehog mites or dry skin is always difficult. The best way to diagnose this is by first eliminating the possibility of mites.

The symptoms to look out for when checking for mites include:

  • Extreme quill loss from a concentrated area
  • Biting
  • Licking
  • Chewing
  • Weight loss
  • Low energy
  • Live mites can be sometimes visible on the hedgehog’s body; in their cage; on their bedding;

Mites are normally treated with medicine that is prescribed by your vet.

If you’ve eliminated the possibility of mites, then it’s very likely that your hedgehog is suffering with dry skin. Dry skin is common in hedgehogs and can be triggered by various factors such as bedding material, dry air conditions, cleaning chemicals.

Dry skin is treated by identifying the cause and removing it from your hedgehog’s environment.

It’s important to remember that excessive itching is not normal and it’s your responsibility as an owner to treat your hedgehog before there are any complications.

To learn more about why your hedgehog might be itchy, keep reading here How To Treat Hedgehog Itching And Dry Skin? Possible Causes

Related Topics Q&A

What Are Common Hedgehog Diseases?

Common hedgehog disease include:

  • External and internal parasites
  • Ringworm
  • Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Pneumonia

What Parasites Do Hedgehogs Get?

Hedgehogs can get internal or external parasites.

Intestinal parasites such as “worms” and protozoa can present with diarrhea. Normally, these types of parasite are diagnosed through a fecal examination.

On the other hand, external parasites include fleas, ticks, and mites. These are diagnosed through a skin scrape or examination of hair sample under a microscope.


References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2546756/

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