posted at 3/29/2011 12:51 PM EDT
I am looking for advice from anyone that has had or has raised a hedgehog. My daughter is interested in buying one and has done her homework and research on them. She has saved her money and I have the final decision to make. I am looking for first hand accounts on how good/bad they are as a pet. The overall expense of them will be a big deciding factor as well. Are these a pet that needs vet checkups?
posted at 3/30/2011 7:21 AM EDT
Answer by Dr. Jennifer Graham of Angell Animal Medical Center's Avian and Exotic Medicine Service:
Congratulations - great job on doing your homework and researching this information before considering owning an exotic pet. Far too often we see people make uninformed/impulse decisions about pet purchases that can result in negative consequences.
First and foremost I recommend working with a reputable breeder if you decide to add a hedgehog to your family – this will take some research on your part but is well worth the effort. It is important to work with a breeder who takes time to properly socialize their hedgehogs. An important question is whether or not the breeder has had any of their hedgehogs affected by ‘wobbly hedgehog syndrome’ (this is a progressive debilitating and untreatable neurologic disorder in hedgehogs). While we are still unsure as to the cause of this disease, it is best to work with breeders who are knowledgeable about this condition. An informed breeder should also discuss appropriate hedgehog diet with you - obesity is quite common in hedgehogs and is an avoidable problem.
As to suitability as a pet – this can be debatable. When well socialized, hedgehogs can be very friendly and beloved family members. But it takes time to find a socialized hedgehog and diligence and dedication to ensure they remain outgoing and friendly. Annual veterinary examinations are recommended due to the high incidence of disease seen in hedgehogs and these visits will go much smoother if the hedgehog is well socialized (I see some hedgehogs that are unable to be examined without administration of general anesthesia). It is also important to be aware that there is an extremely high incidence of aggressive cancer (tumors) in hedgehogs. They can also carry diseases that are zoonotic (contagious) to humans – including salmonellosis, dermatophytes, and others. If you have young children in your family (age 5 or younger) or any immunocompromised adults, a hedgehog may not be a good pet to add to the family. We have also unfortunately seen a number of hedgehogs develop wobbly hedgehog syndrome that have died (either as a result of the disease or that have had to be humanely euthanized due to deteriorating quality of life issues).
Bottom line is that I have seen hedgehogs make fabulous pets in some situations but this is definitely not a pet I recommend for everyone. Continue to research this topic to make sure you reach the best decision for your family.
I am available to consult with you through Angell Animal Medical Center’s Avian and Exotic Medicine Service by calling (617) 522-7282 or visiting www.angell.org/avianandexotic to make an appointment.
posted at 3/30/2011 9:00 AM EDT
Thank you for replying so quickly.
As I said, this will be my daughters pet and her responsibility. Now neither of us knew of the contagious diseases they can carry and makes me a bit leery. I see we need to do some more homework on this. We will be sure to consult with you if we go ahead with our decision.
posted at 3/30/2011 9:16 AM EDT
Wow, I can tell you what my decision would be...
posted at 3/30/2011 10:07 AM EDT
Something to keep in mind is that alot of animals can carry such diseases, or their food can. Even your dog's food can.
Now I don't know much about hedgehogs, but in many cases its possible to reduce the risk of such animals carrying such diseases by controling diet and exposure to other animals (which would be another reason to talk to a reputible breeder).
Socialization is something that has to be done with any animal really, cat, dog or other, though I imagine it takes a bit more work to socialize something like a hedgehog than a puppy.
posted at 3/30/2011 12:24 PM EDT
How about a kitten? Soft, furry, friendly
posted at 3/30/2011 12:35 PM EDT
Or a hamster?
posted at 3/30/2011 6:35 PM EDT
I vote hamster..they make great pets...just don't do what my son and I did..and pick out the biggest ..roundest one. The next day..she wasn't so big and round..and instead of one hamster we had something like seven..lol
posted at 3/30/2011 6:43 PM EDT
I had a hamster. Cute, fun, cuddly, and essentially free. In fact, you can even try out the whole "care for a pet" thing with it and see how interested you still are in 6 months to get an "exotic pet."
posted at 3/31/2011 7:46 AM EDT
Kargiver..it was pretty funny..lol..a hamster was my son's first pet of many..and his test pet as far as responsiblility. After that..it was a kitten. He had that kitten for 17 years and grew up with him. When that cat passed away it was a hard thing to get over.
posted at 3/31/2011 7:56 AM EDT
Thank you all for the replies. We are really looking for information on Hedgehogs. No interest at all in hamsters, but thank you for the suggestion.
If there is anyone that has had one or has one as a pet I would love to hear from you. Thanks.
posted at 3/31/2011 7:59 AM EDT
I can imagine it was devestating. My first dog died about 15 years ago, and it still makes me choke up.
posted at 4/1/2011 9:40 PM EDT
is a good place to get more info about owning hedgehogs
Dr. Graham posted a great response above
She is an awesome vet if your small pet ever needs vet care
posted at 4/6/2011 8:00 AM EDT
I've been a hedgehog owner for over 10 years, and recently just started my own rescued (sanctioned by all the US hedgehog groups as well).
Hedgehogs can be GREAT pets if you do your research and know what to expect---and if you know where to find quality hedgies.
The food mixes they sell in pet stores are almost all crap---no hedgehog breeder or enthusiast would ever feed their hedgehog what passes for hedgehog food in pet stores. If you read the ingredients, you'll find a lot of what is in the mixes is actually very unhealthy for hedgehogs.
Domestic hedgehogs do not come with diseases.
Hedgehogs are NOT hamsters. They are not even close. Hedgehogs are not rodents, they do not have bucked teeth and they do not and cannot eat seeds or hamster food.
They are insectavores, in the wild they eat bugs.
That being said, they do make great pets. They are low maintenance, inexpensive--after the initial cost. You only need to go to the vet when there is somthing wrong, like mites etc. hedgehogs don't need shots etc. you don't have them fixed.
A quality hedgehog from a breeder will run you around $200-250---but you are getting what you pay for. You could probably find a hedgehog for cheaper in a pet store, but pet stores have to be specially licensed to sell them, and you have no idea how old the hedgehog is, where it came from, if mixed pairs were kept together, and if the hedgie will be friendly or not.
Buying from a breeder or a rescue, is really the best way to go to ensure a successful match.
Hope this helps!