Hedgehogs are exotic animals that haven’t been domesticated for very long time relative to other popular pets. As much as we know about them, there is a lot we don’t know. This, coupled with the fact that hedgehogs do have more special needs than other small standard small animal pets, leaves a lot of room for our friends to become unhealthy without us even realizing it.
For this reason, veterinary care is very important in maintaining the health of our hedgies.
Regular Health Checks
Not every veterinarian cares for exotic pets, so it will take a little research on your part to find a suitable vet in your area. I recommend that while doing your research, you also take note of any 24-hour animal hospitals as well; just in case there is an emergency outside of office hours.
It is recommended that an introductory appointment be set up within the first 4 to 8 weeks of owning your hedgehog. After that, an annual check-up appointment is required.
This is so that the doctor can get to know the animal, what is normal and also so they can keep a baseline record in regards to health. If you just bring your hedgehog in to the vet’s office when something is wrong, it will take more time to diagnose an illness because there is no medical history.
During your general health checks, you will be asked to give information about:
- Age (first appointment)
- Habitat (first appointment)
- Food Type
- How much food is given
- Activity Level
Since hedgehogs can be very defensive around people they don’t know very well, your vet may have to sedate them for a short time to perform a full physical examination.
Keeping Track of Health at Home
When I take Nestor to the vet when something is wrong, I am always asked if there is:
- A decrease in food or water intake
- A decrease in activity level
- Sudden weight loss
- Whether or not he could have gotten into anything
Animals will naturally hide symptoms of illness so that they don’t appear weak to predators. Weight loss and low food and water intake are often the first signs that something could be wrong.
It is a good idea to keep track of these values over your hedgehog’s life so you know what is normal and what is abnormal. Even if you don’t have an exact number for them, like if you just fill the water bowl every night without measurement for example. You can still check to see how much the levels have gone down by in the morning.
Over time, it is very noticeable if your hedgehog hasn’t drunk anything or ran on the wheel throughout the night.
I clean Nestor’s wheel every night, so if it’s in the same condition the following morning I know he didn’t run on his wheel.
I also use a small scale to measure out the amount of food Nestor gets during his nightly cage cleaning, and how much food is left in the morning. Again, over time you will come to know what is normal for your hedgehog and what is abnormally low.
The cost to see an exotic vet is usually a little more per visit than a vet for standard pets such as a cat or dog.
On average, the base cost to even see a vet is usually around $60-70. Any treatments, including the anesthesia if your hedgie needs to be sedated for the examination, are added on top of that base cost.
I’ve found that generally the cost of treatments and medications are pretty reasonable, averaging about $30 per treatment. It can add up, but the real cost comes from any imaging services needed.
It is recommended that you slowly start saving an emergency fund for surprise vet visits. That way you have peace of mind that you will be able to provide the care your hedgie needs when they really need it.
Veterinary costs can vary depending on region, and may also vary from practice to practice. Remember to ask about the base costs for that practice when shopping for an exotic vet.
How did you decide which vet to take your hedgehog to? What was your experience dealing with exotic vets? Let us know in the comments section!