So, you have decided you want to buy a hedgehog, so you rush to the pet store and buy everything your new ouch mouse is going to need. After getting your hedgehog, you realize you never really thought about how your dogs will get along with their new family member.
So you wonder, do hedgehogs and dogs get along?
Hedgehogs like the African Pygmy hedgehogs are generally ok with dogs. Because hedgehogs are solitary animals, they need to be socialized from an early age to get used to other animals like dogs. Hedgies are well equipped to take care of themselves, and dogs get a healthy respect for them after the first quill prick.
So now you have to take into account your dog’s personality. Different personalities will have different outcomes. It might be hard to navigate socialization between your dog and hedgehog, so I thought I would share what I found out during my research when I first got my hedgehog.
Do Hedgehogs and Dogs Get Along?
It is not as simple as they do or they don’t; there are a lot of factors that will be unique to you and your situation that you need to consider. Here are some factors to consider before answering the question ‘do hedgehogs get along with dogs.’
Because hedgehogs are solitary animals, you will get some that are scared, some that are grumpy, some that don’t care, and even some that are friendly. Depending on how well they were socialized and their personality.
Females tend to be more social than males, but you will need to introduce them to your dogs gradually, starting with holding the hedgehog in your hands and letting your dog take a look and gauging its reaction and the hedgehog’s reaction.
If your dog has a social personality, you will see that it can get along fine with your hedgehog, but you still need to introduce your hedgehog to your dog slowly.
If your dog is laid-back and doesn’t really care then, it can also get along fine with your hedgehog. You know your dog and its behavior, so if you see it gets a little agitated, scared, or fearful, you should take your hedgehog away.
Some dogs develop a healthy respect for your hedgehog when they get curious, as most dogs do sniff too close for your hedgehog’s comfort and come face to face with a vibrating ball of sharp quills. They might get a poke and will leave them alone after that.
Hedgehogs are solitary animals that usually live alone in the wild and captivity, so they are only social to a point. They can get irritated quickly by strong smells, loud noises, and overhandling.
Most breeders understand this and socialize the hoglets from an early age. Choosing the right hedgehog breeder is crucial to ensure your hedgehog is appropriately socialized from the start.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so if you decide to introduce your hedgehog to your dog, it is imperative to do it at night when your hedgehog is up and awake.
Remember to keep an eye out for stress when you are letting your dog and hedgehog play; if you see these signs, it’s time to take your hedgehog out of that situation and try again another time. Here are some signs of stress your hedgehog will display:
- It will straighten its quills and lean forward, keeping its head down.
- It will hiss at the offending object, hoping to scare it away.
- Vibrate and hiss keeping its face hidden, and this is the stage before rolling into a ball.
- Rolling into a ball with quills shaking: Now, it’s is not always a bad sign; keep in mind hedgehogs have poor vision and a sharp sense of smell. This, combined with getting hedgehogs getting easily startled, is common.
So if you see your hedgehog do this, give it a few seconds, and when it feels comfortable, it will unroll and sniff around.
However, if your hedgie doesn’t unroll and keeps shaking its quills, it really doesn’t want to get away from the situation.
- Urinating or defecating on itself: This is a clear sign your hedgehog is scared and wants to get away from the situation.
Your dog’s personality will also play a significant role in whether they get along with your hedgehog. Before getting a hedgehog, you need to look at what type of personality your dog has.
For example, you might have a laid-back dog, a very active dog that loves to play, a dog that loves to bark at smaller animals, or a dog with a keen hunting instinct. These different personalities will all behave differently towards a hedgehog.
Dogs are curious critters by nature and will want to investigate the new family member immediately. They will try to sniff your hedgehog, which might prompt the hedgie shaking ball with quills at the ready.
A small prick on the nose is usually where they get a healthy respect for your hedgehog, but some dogs might want to play. It is imperative that you keep a close eye in this case; a hedgehogs’ defense mechanism isn’t always effective against some dogs.
It doesn’t mean that your dog will hurt your hedgehog, but slow and steady introductions (always supervised) will help them get along and teach your dog that a hedgehog is not a new toy.
On the other side is the dog that is deathly terrified of a hedgehog. It might be funny to see, but your dog can get stressed, and this isn’t good for your dog’s health or getting your dog and hedgehog to get along, here are a few signs that its time to get your dog away from your ouch mouse:
- Ears and eyes: If a dog’s ears are pulled back flat to its head, and it has big bulging eyes, it is terrified and needs to be immediately taken away from the hedgehog.
- Urinating and defecating: If your dog urinates or defecates when near your hedgehog, you need to take them away from the hedgie.
Socialization of Dogs and Hedgehogs
You need to keep in mind that if your dog has never had a pet companion, it might not know how to play with another animal. You will need to socialize and get them used to the new hedgie.
It is never a good idea to keep your let your hedgehog have free reign of the house, but if you can, pick a room where you can keep an eye on the dog and the hedgehog at all times. It will help when you need to teach your dog how to socialize with a hedgehog.
With poorly socialized dogs or hedgehogs, you need to be consistent with a few minutes of playtime every day, so they get used to each other. Remember, consistency is vital.
If you have more than one dog or your dog is used to other pets, it will be much easier to get them used to having a spiky ball in the family. Still, more than one pet at a time can get overwhelming for the hedgehog and the dogs.
Because they are solitary animals, try limiting the time your dog spends with your hedgehog. Too much socialization may irritate the prickly critter.
Can a Dog Kill a Hedgehog?
If your dog is either a hunting breed (like most breeds of terriers, German Shepards, Pointers, etc.), then you should introduce them slowly to your hedgehog and never leave them alone in a room. The dogs with these hunting instincts can mistake hedgehogs for prey or a toy.
Even the most minor bite or scratch can do significant harm to the hedgehog and the dog. It can lead to a hedgehog’s death, especially if the injury was on the belly area.
Hedgehogs can defend themselves, but dogs can do serious harm with rough play or when they think they found prey. Some dogs like to catch birds or mice, and they will mistake a hedgehog for a new target.
With rough play, dogs tend to play bite with cats and other dogs or slap with paws; if struck in the wrong way, it can also lead to death in hedgehogs.
The hedgehog can also seriously hurt the dog as its quills can poke out eyes, get into nostrils and sometimes even puncture a dog’s intestines if the quills are swallowed.
It is better not to try and get them to socialize with your hedgehog as they might mistake it for hunting or rough playtime.
Can a Hedgehog Have Dog Food?
Like most animals, hedgehogs have specific nutritional needs that have to be met to keep them healthy. Hedgehogs can eat some types of animal food, and dog food falls under that list. There are, however, some precautions to take into account before breaking out the kibble.
Nutritional Needs of a Hedgehog
Hedgehogs are omnivores and have a very varied diet. In the wild, hedgehogs will seek out food like insects, fruits such as melon, berries, and grassroots, and so on. There needs to be a balance, though.
Giving your hedgehog dog kibble is healthy as long as it is part of a balanced diet. Feeding your hedgehog only kibble will lead to malnourishment and eventually death. So to avoid that, here are some indications as to what the needs of your hedgehog are:
- Protein: Hedgehogs need at least 20%-25% of protein in their overall diet.
- Fat: Overall, a hedgehog needs 5%-15% of healthy fat in their diet.
- Fiber: Fiber is also a must, so make sure the overall intake of fiber is at least 15%. Fiber is especially important if your hedgehog eats moist food like fresh foods such as fruits and meats.
- Vitamins, minerals, and calcium: These vary from hedgehog to hedgehog, depending on their tastes. Some get too used to specific food and struggle to eat anything else; that is why a varied, balanced diet is the best thing for your hedgehog.
Now that you know what nutritional needs your hedgehog has, here are the criteria that the dog food you can give your hedgehog as part of a balanced diet needs to have:
- Quality: Good quality dog food has high protein, fat, and fiber content. It is essential to check on the back of the bag at the percentages in relation to the portion size.
- Contents: If you buy dog food for your hedgehog, there are some food ingredients that you need to avoid at all costs as these are either unhealthy or can harm your hedgehog.
Look out for dog food containing dried fruits and vegetables (hedgehogs battle to digest these types of dried foods; try fresh instead), nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, meat byproducts like bonemeal, poultry byproducts. Look out for generic listings. Instead, get the ones that specify the type of meat and byproduct like chicken and chicken fat, etc.
- Look at the hardness and size of the kibble bits: Kibble is great as part of a balanced diet for a hedgehog, but they need to be able to eat the kibble.
Hedgehogs have small mouths, and no matter how good the quality of the kibble is, if the hedgehog can’t eat it because it’s too big, it can lead to problems.
If you love the dog food you have chosen to feed your hedgehog, try putting in either a blender or a ziplock bag and, using a rolling pin, break it up into smaller pieces, this will help your hedgehog to eat the kibble properly.
- The hardness of the kibble: If the dog food you bought is too hard for your hedgehog to eat, then it might cause severe dental damage.
Kibble that is too hard might break a tooth, and it’s harder for the hedgehog to digest. Try softening the food just a little (not too much, or it will be mushy, and hedgehogs need a slight hardness to keep their teeth strong).
Remember to give your hedgehog some wet dog food in small amounts to help keep their protein and levels balanced.
Hedgehogs might be nocturnal, solitary critters, but they get along with most animals, such as dogs. They need to get used to your dogs, but with patience and proper socialization, your dog and hedgehog should get along nicely.
Remember to limit the amount of time hyperactive, and hunter breeds spend with your hedgehog and always keep a close watch during playtime.