Hedgehog Tumors – Symptoms, Treatment And Cost

Hedgehog Tumors

If you notice a new lump or bump on your hedgehog, your first thought might be cancer and tumors. Unfortunately, hedgehog tumors are quite common in these animals. Although, most hedgehog tumors don’t have good prognosis, it all depends what type it is and the location.

This article will help you establish what type of hedgehog tumor you’re dealing with, what are the treatment options and how much it costs.

How Common Are Hedgehog Tumors?

As already mentioned, tumors are common for hedgehogs. Although, in some cases the tumors are malignant, most times they are cancerous. Normally, cancerous hedgehog tumors will develop around 3 years of age or older.

The most common hedgehog tumours are usually located in the mouth, stomach, mammary gland, reproductive system or intestinal tract. However, all body parts are at risk.

Normally, if your hedgehog develops one type of cancer, they are also prone to developing another. If that’s the case you’re dealing with, the best thing to do is euthanize the animal, so they don’t suffer.

Hedgehog Tumor – Symptoms

If you suspect that your hedgehog might have cancerous tumors, you will need to know what symptoms to look out for, right? There are two main problems with this. One is that hedgehog tumor symptoms often resemble other illnesses and the second is that the symptoms can often be hidden for some time.

However, some of the universal hedgehog tumor symptoms to look out for include weight loss, abnormal mass, loss of appetite, trouble breathing and lethargy.

Another thing to remember is that the symptoms will be different depending on the location of the tumor.

For instance, if the tumor is located in the reproductive system, you should expect to see vaginal bleeding and bloody urine. Actually, many owners would remove the hedgehog’s ovaries to prevent this tumor from developing.

On the other hand, hedgehog tumors in the digestive tract normally present with diarrhea, stool with mucus and red, black, or green color, inability or refusal to eat.

Hedgehog Tumor – Diagnosis

Diagnosing hedgehog tumors only based on the symptoms is almost impossible because most symptom resemble those of other illnesses such as the Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome. Therefore, the only way to get a concrete diagnosis for cancerous hedgehog tumors is by taking your hedgehog for a vet examination, blood tests and a biopsy.

Hedgehog Tumor Treatments

Normally, the treatment options for cancerous hedgehog tumors include:

  • Surgical treatments to remove the cancerous cells. Unfortunately, this method is not recommended as in most cases the cancer quickly spreads to other parts of the hedgehog’s body
  • Radiation and chemotherapy is another treatment method for hedgehog tumors. However, just as with humans, this treatment is most effective in the early stages before it spreads to other organs
  • Piroxicam has been shown, in other animals with cancer, to slow or stop the growth of cancer. However, there is no guarantee that would work. 

Hedgehog Treatment Costs

Although, vet costs vary, you should expect to see roughly the following prices when diagnosing and treating cancerous hedgehog tumors:

  • X-rays – costs anything up to $45. Normally, your vet would be able to tell from the X-ray if it’s tumours or just a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics
  • Blood tests – around $150 -$200
  • Biopsy – $100
  • Surgery for removal – starting at $300 (this depends on location of tumor and how long it takes)
  • Euthanasia starts around $200

Types Of Hedgehog Tumors

Common types of hedgehog tumors can develop in the following areas:

  • Nasal Cavity (mouth, nasal passages, throat)
  • Organs (liver, lungs, skin, uterus)
  • Stomach
  • Mammary Glands

The hedgehog tumors can grow internally or externally and the masses can sometimes double in size overnight!

Mammary Gland

Hedgehog tumors
Hedgehog Mammary Tumor

Mammary gland is one of the more common hedgehog tumors. If your hedgehog is suffering with this type of tumor, you should expect to see the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nose, ear and chin crusts
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Difficulty to ball
  • Repetitively biting the chest area

The average recurrence for mammary tumours is 8 months and death by a year without attempted removal.

Jaw/Mouth

Hedgehog tumors
Hedgehog Mouth Tumor

Mouth or jaw hedgehog tumours are also known as squamous cell carcinoma. This is one of the most common tumors found and it develops in the hedgehogs’ mouth.

Symptoms of hedgehog tumors in the mouth include:

  • Difficulty eating which also results in weight loss
  • Swelling inside or around the mouth such as a bump on the lower lip
  • Drooling

Diagnosing this type of cancer includes an x-ray and a swab of the mouth examined under a microscope.

As the masses in the hedgehog’s mouth would prevent them from eating any solid foods, you would need to feed them only liquids and put them on medication for the rest of their life. This would drastically decrease the quality of the hedgehog’s life. Therefore, the only recommended treatment is surgical removal of the masses.

However, it should be taken into consideration that oral hedgehog tumors don’t have good prognosis. This type of tumor is known to be quite aggressive and can spread to the bone (jaw) before you even realise that your hedgehog is sick.

Normally, attempting surgery on mouth cancer is not recommended because it would involve removing part of the hedgehog’s jaw which is not only painful but it also doesn’t stop the cancer.

Foot

Hedgehog tumors
Hedgehog Foot Tumor

With hedgehog tumors that develop on the foot, you would notice swelling such as a big lump. If your hedgehog is suffering with cancerous tumors on their foot, the best course of treatment is amputation of the leg and doing a biopsy of the mass.

If you’re worried about your hedgehog having only 3 legs, don’t! Most hedgehogs adjust to this very quickly and won’t affect the quality of their life.

However, there is another issue with choosing amputation – many owners report that once they have amputated the leg, another mass will start growing either on the other leg or at the end of the stump. In this case, you should euthanize your pet to prevent further suffering.

How Long Do Hedgehogs Live With A Tumor?

Unfortunately, hedgehogs that have cancer can appear healthy and then suddenly die. In many cases, the hedgehog could have cancer for a long period of time without showing any obvious symptoms but once the symptoms start to appear, it usually means it’s too late.

With that said, hedgehogs can live long with cancerous tumors without you even knowing they have cancer. On average, hedgehogs can live with cancer up to 3 months but some owners report their hedgehogs living up to 9 months and not displaying many symptoms.

It’s good to keep in mind that once the cancer becomes obvious such as mass growth, it usually means that the cancer is too far gone and is quickly spreading. In this case, the quality of the hedgehog’s life will drastically decrease, and the most humane option is to put them down.

You can determine the quality of life by observing your hedgehog and answering the following questions:

  • Are they still active?
  • Still eating?
  • Are they pooping?
  • Any weight loss?
  • Are they in apparent pain?

Below you can find hedgehog food brands that are high quality

How Long Do Hedgehogs Live Post Tumor Removal?

Early removal of the mass with clean margins is your hedgehog’s best chance for having a long life afterwards.

Here are some owners’ first-hand experience:

“I’ve seen people report hedgehogs who have had mammary cancers removed, margins were clear, and the hedgehog lived a good long life afterwards… Others have had it reappear but in a different location. It really just depends on the cancer and the hedgehog, much like it does in humans I suppose. ”

“My Peaches had a malignant mammary tumour removed when she was 18 months old and she died shortly before her 5th birthday. From all I researched at the time, average recurrence for mammary tumours is 8 months and death by a year. There are many hedgehogs that have way surpassed those numbers. The pathology on Peaches tumour was not at all promising. It had spread and not all of the tumour had been removed. Still, she survived a normal life span and died from a completely unrelated cancer.”

Final Thoughts

Cancerous tumors in hedgehogs are quite common. As most hedgehogs that develop cancer will be already genetically predisposed, the only way to prevent it is by buying from a reputable breeder.

However, if you are already in the situation where you suspect that your hedgehog might have cancerous tumors, the only way to have a certain diagnosis is by taking them to the vet for an x-ray and blood tests.

Most hedgehog cancers don’t have a good prognosis and even after removal, the cancer spreads to other organs. On the other hand, some cancers can be treated with medicine, radiation, and removal which can prolong your pet’s life. However, this should never be at the expense of their life quality.

If your pet is very sick, in obvious pain or discomfort, the most humane thing to do would be to put them down.

Related Topics Q&A 

What Are The Symptom Of Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome?

Wobbly hedgehog syndrome is one of the most common health problems in hedgehogs. If you notice the following symptoms, it’s very likely that your hedgehog is suffering with this condition:

  • Seizures
  • Head tilt
  • Circling
  • Self-mutilation
  • Weight loss
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Difficulty walking
  • Falling over when standing or walking

Although, hedgehog shaking is one of the main symptoms of Wobbly hedgehog syndrome, there are other causes for hedgehog shaking. To find out more, click below Why Is My Hedgehog Shaking? When To Worry?

How To Care For A Sick Hedgehog?

If your hedgehog is sick, they might be displaying some of the following symptoms:

  • Not eating
  • Not drinking
  • Less active

The first thing that you need to do is to ensure that their cage is the right temperature 73-80°F. The second thing is to get them eating and drinking again. This can be done by feeding them pureed foods using a syringe. By adding some water to the pureed food, you would also be keeping them hydrated.

When caring for a sick hedgehog, it’s important to establish the cause of their illness, so you can treat them appropriately and make sure they don’t get sick again.


References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3122959/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4668815/

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