Why Does My Hedgehog Scratch Itself So Much?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. February 5, 2017
Why Does My Hedgehog Scratch Itself So Much?

Sharing our home with a pet is without doubt a good decision, in addition to being a great responsibility. While initially only cats and dogs had a place in the world of pets, nowadays we find that many people choose to share their space with an exotic animal. Hedgehogs are among the most popular "modern" pets: although small, they require specific care, like any other animal, to enjoy good health and happiness.

One of the biggest worries for hedgehog owners is the question why does my hedgehog scratch itself so much. Stay with us at AnimalWised to learn all about the skin conditions of hedgehogs and how to treat them!

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Hamster Scratch So Much?

Do hedgehogs molt their quills?

If in our article on caring for a hedgehog we gave general advice, in this one we will move on to specific care during a period in every hedgehog's life. The molting period of a hedgehog's spines, also known as quilling, is a phenomenon that is repeated periodically until the hedgehog acquires adult spines and their color finally sets.

During this process we will see our hedgehog being restless, with itchy skin and dandruff. If your hedgehog scratches itself more often, you will know that it's in its quilling period because you will not see any areas without spines, as new ones grow where the shed ones are lost.

When do hedgehogs molt their spines, though?

  • At 4 weeks of age, it will change its nesting spines for juvenile ones.
  • At 6 weeks of age, the first spine color change will take place.
  • Approximately at 2 month old, it will go through a second molt and change from juvenile to adult spines.
  • Between 3 and 6 months old we will observe a new spine molt. The new spines will acquire a definitive color and they will be thicker.

During the hedgehog's spine molting process it is important to not to disturb our pet and to provide it with extra care. Lubricate its skin with jojoba oil or liquid hypo-allergenic Vaseline, avoid placing it on its back and remove the spines that have shed inside the cage.

Why Does My Hedgehog Scratch Itself So Much? - Do hedgehogs molt their quills?

Can hedgehogs have dry skin?

Another possible reason why your hedgehog scratches itself so much is dry skin. A hedgehog's skin can suffer alterations in moisture level and dry out, leading to various signs and symptoms. These symptoms include dry and irritated skin, dandruff and the loss of the odd spine that does not correspond to a period of molting.

This change in the hedgehog's skin may be due to environmental factors, poor rinsing after bathing or inadequate nutrition.

As with the spine molting, we must proceed to moisturize its skin regularly using jojoba oil or liquid hypo-allergenic Vaseline.

Why Does My Hedgehog Scratch Itself So Much? - Can hedgehogs have dry skin?

Can hedgehogs have mites?

Hedgehogs are susceptible to suffering an external mite infestation. As you know, mites are small arthropods that can be observed as whitish particles, similar to dandruff. If we brush the hedgehog's spines on a black surface we will see that what we thought was dandruff in fact moves; we are consequently dealing with parasites.

When a hedgehog has a parasite infestation due to mites this can seen through the following symptoms:

  • Irritated skin
  • Red skin
  • Peeling
  • Burning skin
  • Excessive scratching
  • Loss of spines
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weakness

Mite infestation must be treated immediately because it can lead to secondary bacterial infections. In this case we can use de-wormers containing the active substance selamectin. However, the veterinarian is the only person qualified to administer or prescribe any drug treatment for your pet hedgehog.

Why Does My Hedgehog Scratch Itself So Much? - Can hedgehogs have mites?

Can hedgehogs have ringworm?

Fungal infestation, also known as ringworm, can affect our hedgehog if its skin is not in good condition. If our hedgehog suffers from ringworm, we will notice the following symptoms:

  • Skin lesions
  • Scabs
  • Peeling
  • Hyper pigmentation (darkening) of the skin
  • Excessive scratching
  • Bleeding from injuries
  • Generalised spine fall

Fortunately, ringworm can be treated. However, treatments are long and require active monitoring by the owner and the veterinarian. If you suspect your hedgehog suffers from ringworm, you must go to the vet immediately so that they can prescribe the appropriate chemical treatment.

Generally, your vet will prescribe anti fungal actives such as ketoconazole to be used topically, although an oral treatment may also be performed depending on the severity of the case.

Why Does My Hedgehog Scratch Itself So Much? - Can hedgehogs have ringworm?

What is spine retention in hedgehogs?

Sometimes the molting process does not take place like it should and some spines may be retained, causing an infection at the base which is then accompanied by an accumulation of pus. Occasionally the spine and the abscess do not follow the normal course, which can produce subcutaneous cysts in our hedgehog. This is called "spine retention".

In these cases, we must keep the area clean and disinfected using an antiseptic. The vet will prescribe a topical application of antibiotics if necessary, and in some severe cases the oral administration of drugs.

We must remember that veterinary care is essential because the veterinarian is the only uniquely qualified professional to prescribe drugs to our pet.

Why Does My Hedgehog Scratch Itself So Much? - What is spine retention in hedgehogs?

What to do if your hedgehog scratches itself a lot

As we have seen, there are many possible reasons behind a hedgehog's excessive scratching. Some of them are mild and can simply be due to inadequate nutrition, but others may end up being very dangerous, such as those resulting from an infestation of parasites.

To diagnose the underlying cause and provide the best care for our pet, you should not hesitate to visit the vet. In fact, this is the only way to ensure that your hedgehog gets the treatment it needs.

Do you share your home with a hedgehog?

If you have decided to adopt a hedgehog we recommend that you keep browsing AnimalWised and take a look at the following articles:

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Hedgehog Scratch Itself So Much?, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

Write a comment

Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
1 comment
cindy jackman
Could i get all the low down on a hedgehog we just got one and want to learn alot about him thank you
Why Does My Hedgehog Scratch Itself So Much?
1 of 6
Why Does My Hedgehog Scratch Itself So Much?

Back to top