The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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Buying a new pet hedgehog can be one of the most exciting additions to the family, but many people don’t realize how sensitive these little guys can be to temperature changes!
Unless hedgehogs are kept at a specific temperature, you may start to see some wobbling!
Hedgehogs do wobble when they are cold. A hedgehog may wobble when attempting hibernation because their body temperature has dropped lower than the average of 95F – 98F. Another cause of a hedgehog wobbling could be Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome, a neurodegenerative disorder.
A wobbling hedgehog is never a good sign, and it’s important to know what to do if you notice your hedgehog wobbling.
Read on to learn crucial information about why your hedgehog may be wobbling, how to help, and all about Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome!
Do Hedgehogs Wobble When Cold?
Hedgehogs do wobble when they are cold. Wobbling is a sign that your hedgehogs’ body temperature has dropped below its average body temperature of 95F to 98F, and because of this, a hedgehog may be attempting hibernation.
A hibernation attempt can be fatal for a hedgehog living in captivity. If your pet hedgehog isn’t warm enough before going into hibernation, it could suffer from serious health complication or even die!
Keeping the environment at a stable temperature using an artificial room heater controlled by a thermostat, is essential to prevent a hibernation attempt.
However, a hedgehog can also wobble because of a disorder called Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome. This is a neurological disease that will cause a hedgehog to lose muscle control and can appear to be wobbling when attempting to stand still.
When a hedgehogs body temperature drops below the average, they become cold and may attempt hibernation. Hibernation would be a completely natural thing to do in the wild, but in captivity, hedgehogs do not build up enough fat reserves, and hibernation could be deadly.
A hedgehog’s body temperature may drop due to their enclosure not being warm enough. It is vital that hedgehog owners keep the room in which a hedgehog is kept at a stable and ideal temperature.
The minimum temperature that the room should be kept at is 70F to 75F. This temperature will help prevent your hedgehog’s body temperature from dropping and leading to hibernation.
Sadly, many new hedgehog owners aren’t aware of the temperature requirements and can often be shocked by their hedgehog suddenly looking unwell. It’s, therefore, crucial to know the signs to look for in a hedgehog attempting hibernation.
Below are a few signs that your hedgehog is attempting hibernation:
- Wobbling when trying to walk and generally unstable
- Lethargic and unresponsive
- No appetite which can lead to dehydration
- Heavy breathing
- Cold stomach due to the lowered body temperature
If any of the above is identified in your hedgehog, he could be going into hibernation, and it is crucial to step in and stop this process.
Stopping a Hibernation Attempt
After noticing that your hedgehog is going into hibernation, it should be your priority to warm it up. This warming up process will help wake your hedgehog up and out of the hibernation attempt.
This process needs to be done slowly because applying sudden heat to a cold hedgehog could send it into shock. A slow rising of your hedgehog’s temperature will wake it up gradually, which is healthier.
You must NEVER warm up a hedgehog by placing it in a warm bath or on a hot heating pad. Both these methods will increase the hedgehog’s temperature too quickly and will lead to shock.
The best method for warming up a hedgehog is using skin-to-skin contact to gradually raise their temperature. You can pick up your cold hedgehog and place it under your shirt or against your tummy – it is vital that the hedgehog is touching skin because it needs to regulate using your body temperature.
After the hedgehog is against your tummy, you can pick up a blanket or jersey and gently place it around it for maximum insulation, and your body heat won’t escape. The ideal length of time to do this is around 30 minutes, and then your hedgehog should be up and moving about.
Once your hedgehog is awake, I would advise keeping it warm for at least an hour so that you ensure its body temperature is mostly back to normal. It’s also advisable to adjust the temperature in the room to a bit warmer than usual when initially putting the hedgehog back – this can be adjusted later.
If your hedgehog has not woken up after an hour, then they may be quite deep into their hibernation and will require veterinary assistance.
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome
Another potential cause of your hedgehog wobbling is a disease called Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome.
Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a progressive neurological disease and most commonly appears when hedgehogs are between 2 or 3 years– although this disorder can occur at any age. The cause of this disease has not been determined yet.
This disease is given its name because of the noticeable wobble that these hedgehogs have when they attempt to stand still.
- Issues with swallowing
- A curve in a hedgehog’s spine
- A usually aggressive hedgehog
- Weak muscles
- Struggling to walk
Hedgehogs who have this disease will present with the above symptoms, which are not associated with hibernation attempts. It should therefore be relatively easy to tell the difference between the two.
A hedgehog, unfortunately, can usually only live for around 18 to 24 months with this disease as there is no known cure yet.
Measures can be taken to make sure a hedgehog is comfortable during its final days. Although, some vets may recommend euthanasia to prevent the hedgehog from experiencing any further pain and suffering.
In conclusion, hedgehogs may wobble because their temperature has dropped below average, and they are attempting to hibernate. This is very dangerous and could be fatal for pet hedgehogs, so stopping this immediately is vital!
Furthermore, a hedgehog could be wobbling due to Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome, a neurological disease with no known cure.