Hedgehogs are one of the most unusual, nocturnal and yet lovely pets. They can live up to 6 -8 years as a pet with proper care. There are also prone to some serious diseases. Wobbly hedgehog syndrome or commonly known as WHS is one of them. It is a progressive, degenerative and neurological disorder. Despite various researches conducted on this disease, the cause of this disease is still unknown. Experts believe that this disease can be genetic. The most common age for the onset of symptoms is 18-24 months; however, it can also develop in younger and older hedgehogs. It is also pertinent to highlight here that there are no known cures of this disease and all you can do is to ensure its prevention. In the unfortunate case of this disease developing in your pet, you can provide enhanced care and diet to your hedgehog, so that he can live his rest of life in comfort and peace.
In this article, we will not only highlight the prevention methods of this disease but also tell you some methods by which you can take care of your pet suffering from WHS. Before prevention and care methods, we will also point out the symptoms of this disease.
Symptoms of WHS
Following are the symptoms of WHS:
Weight loss – If a hedgehog is suffering from WHS, one of the most common and earliest symptoms is weight loss. This is characterized due to their inability to get to their food bowls. The weight loss in most of the cases is slow and progressive.
Instability – Hedgehogs suffering from WHS will have problems while standing up and moving inside the cage, they will sway here and there while walking.
Weak Muscles – You will notice that the muscles of your hedgehog start to get weak and they lose interest in their exercise and activities.
Seizures – They can undergo seizures.
Paralysis – It is often a later stage symptom. They can have a full or partial body paralysis. Limbs paralysis is most common in this regard.
Prevention of WHS
There is no method to prevent this disease in your hedgehog. We are sorry to say this, but once your hedgehog starts to suffer from this disease, all you can do is to provide extended care to your pet. Make his remaining life comfortable and easy by giving more comfort and proper diet.
Caring for Hedgehogs with WHS
You can take care of your hedgehogs by acting upon the following steps
Visit a vet – The first and the most important thing to do is a vet. You need to find a vet that has experience of dealing with WHS or at least who is apt in taking care of exotic animals. You can find such a vet online in your region. Often pet stores and rescue groups have knowledge of pets that are helpful in such conditions.
Visiting a vet is important because sometimes, the symptoms might not actually lead to WHS and they can be dealt with by improving or changing the diet of your pet. In the unfortunate event of your pet having a terminal disease, you can also discuss a care plan with your vet.
Changes in diet – You need to increase the vitamin E intake of your hedgehog. Vitamin E has known to reduce the severity of the symptoms and reduce the pain of your pet. This, however, is a temporary measure. Vitamin E rich foods such as pine nuts, mangoes, and sunflower seeds work well in this case. You can also add vitamin E supplement. The exact increase in the vitamin E supplement will be recommended by your vet. Rest of the diet in the shape of insects, fresh fruits and vegetables, baked skinless chicken breast, and cat foods is fine. Remember to keep the food and water bowl within the reach of your pet. You can also use syringe feeding when he becomes unable to feed himself.
Massages – You can relax your pet by giving him a dose of daily massage. As already mentioned in the symptoms, muscles get weak and pain a lot. After getting a soft massage from you, hedgehog’s pain will lessen and he will be thankful to you.
Comfortable bedding – During the course of WHS, your hedgehog will need extreme comfort. Make sure that you provide him with the most comfortable bedding available in the market. If it is not available in the market, you can use a soft cushion in a small basket and keep your hedgehog in it. Make sure that the edges of the basket are sheeted with a soft cloth.
Keep him warm – Hedgehogs, generally like to stay in the warm environment. Make sure that the temperature of the cage is warm and the temperature remains between 75 to 80 °F. In the later stages of WHS, when the mobility of your pet dies down, you can also cover him with a tiny blanket or with a wrapped-up sheet of warm cloth.
Frequent washing up – Hedgehogs suffering from WHS will get a lot dirtier as compared to healthy hedgehogs. It is up to you to keep them neat and clean. Washing them daily is recommended in such cases. You can clean them in the washroom sick filled slightly with mild water, use a toothbrush to clean their quills and then rinse properly with the help of soft towels.
Precautions – This disease is not transmissible to humans in any case. However, it is always recommended to wash your hands after dealing with your hedgehog either healthy or ill.
A hedgehog suffering from this fatal disease will leave you one day. It is up to you to decide and make the hard call that until when you are going to be there for him. What is your limit of giving him time and spending extra on him? If you cannot take proper care for him in the last stages of his life, then it is better to tell the vet to euthanize peacefully, instead of seeing such a beautiful creature in pain.