In the grand scheme of things, Hedgehogs are basically healthy creatures with few health problems. This does not mean, however, that health problems cannot crop up. There are two health concerns that are common to hedgehogs. One, Vestibular Syndrome, is not fatal, and does not have long lasting effects. The other, Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome or WHS, is fatal, and does have long lasting effects.
Vestibular Syndrome is also common in dogs. This syndrome occurs for no known reasons, but it is believed that it has to do with inflammation of the nerve that runs through the middle ear. This controls balance and spatial orientation. Vestibular Syndrome is not life threatening, but it can be very scary for you and your hedgehog.
Vestibular Syndrome is not a long lasting illness. It usually comes on quickly, and is gone within a few days, at the most. Your hedgehog may be unable to stand or to walk straight. He may bump into things as well – remember that he doesn’t see well to begin with. He may even be nauseous, causing him not to eat as usual.
You should take your hedgehog to the veterinarian, just to make sure that the problem is Vestibular Syndrome, and not Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome, which is much more serious. WHS or Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a progressive neurological condition. Nobody knows what causes WHS, and there is no cure for the condition. There are treatments that can be administered, however, for the care and comfort of the hedgehog.
When you think of WHS, think of how Multiple Sclerosis affects human beings, as this is pretty much what your hedgehog is going through. WHS causes paralysis, which typically starts in the hind legs or hind quarters, and moves towards the front of the body. The paralysis may be equal on both sides of the hedgehog’s body, but it may only affect one side of the body at first.
Hedgehogs that have WHS often have weight loss, and this weight loss is a direct result of not being able to stand in front of their food dishes. As the disease progresses, the hedgehog will become completely paralyzed, and unable to care for himself at all.
It is a good idea to talk to your veterinarian concerning both Vestibular Syndrome and Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome – before they occur. Understand what you should look for, and what you should do in case you do see signs of either problem. If your hedgehog is diagnosed with WHS, know that you can help him, even though you can’t cure him, and he can live a long and happy life regardless of this debilitating disease-just as people with MS do.