Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome | Hedgehog Health

Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS) is a disease that affects the nervous systems of African pygmy and European hedgehogs. It is degenerative and progressive.

WHS has symptoms you can look for, but it can only be properly diagnosed by a necroscopy and a pathological examination.

There are many other illnesses or injuries that cause symptoms similar to WHS, so before you make any conclusions, if you suspect WHS, take your hedgehog to a vet.

Your vet might find a different illness causing the symptoms.

What is Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome?

WHS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of African and European hedgehogs.

Neurodegenerative means that, with time, the hedgehog’s nerves will deteriorate and stop working.

WHS is sometimes referred to as progressive paralysis. A hedgehog diagnosed with WHS will gradually lose control over her muscles.

The hedgehog becomes completely immobile about 15-18 months after the onset of symptoms.

In the USA, about 10% of pet African pygmy hedgehogs are diagnosed with WHS.

Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome Symptoms

Cases of WHS have been increasing in domestic African pygmy hedgehogs. But, you should never assume your hedgehog has WHS; take your pet to the vet and get a professional opinion.

Your vet should rule out any other diseases or illnesses that could cause these symptoms to ensure your hedgehog receives early treatment.

WHS takes months to develop. Symptoms usually show between 1 ½ and 2 years (18-24 months) of age. These are symptoms that are present in a hedgehog with WHS.

Some of the early symptoms of WHS are the hedgehog’s inability to close its hood and difficulty standing and walking. These are the first symptoms you’ll notice.

Other symptoms include:

  • Wobbling while walking and shaking while trying to stand still
  • Falling to one side
  • Loss of movement control
  • Paralysis starting from the hind legs and gradually moving towards the front of the body
  • Stiff limbs
  • Bulging eyes
  • Twisted spine
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Gradual muscle weakness

WHS is a progressive disease. The paralysis will begin in the hind legs and will gradually progress towards the front of the body.

Eventually, the hedgehog will become completely immobile at around 18 months after the onset of the symptoms.

Other Possible Causes of These Symptoms

There are other diseases, illnesses, or injuries that might cause symptoms similar to some of the ones mentioned above.

Here are some of the possible causes that your vet should rule out:

  • Semi-hibernation: if your hedgehog gets too cold, it will wobble.
  • Inner ear infection: this causes loss of balance
  • Dehydration: if your hedgehog is dehydrated, it won’t be able to stand upright.
  • Overgrown nails
  • Arthritis
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Tumors
  • Broken limbs
  • Bone Inflammation
  • Poor nutrition

These are only a few of the possible causes of the symptoms. It is important to take your pet to the vet if you suspect any health issues.

(See: When to take your hedgehog to the vet?)

What Causes Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome?

Wobbly hedgehog syndrome

No one knows for sure what causes WHS, but many believe it has a genetic factor. However, not all of the hedgehog’s offspring inherit WHS.

Some hedgehog breeders believe that the hedgehog’s diet may cause WHS, but there is no scientific proof to back that theory. Nevertheless, hedgehogs should always be fed high-quality food.

What is the Treatment for Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome?

Wobbly hedgehog syndrome has no cure.

It can really hurt to watch your hedgehog live with wobbly hedgehog syndrome. As WHS progresses, your pet will need your attention more and more.

There are ways you can make your hedgehog’s life easier.

You should give your hedgehog the highest quality food you can. Make sure you give your hedgehog live bugs from a pet store as a source of fiber.

Hedgehogs will be able to eat on their own during the beginning of the illness, but as it progresses, they’ll need to be hand-fed.

Give your hedgehog a Vitamin E rich diet. Vitamin E will reduce the severity of the symptoms, but will not slow the disease.

This is only a temporary remedy; after a while, the hedgehog will develop a resistance to Vitamin E.

Make sure your hedgehog stays warm, but not too hot.

Once your hedgehog is no longer able to stand by himself, you can roll up two towels and put them on either side of him to keep him upright.

See this website for alternative treatment methods for WHS. Also, click here to see massaging methods to improve muscle tone and maze activities.

Is Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome Fatal?

Hedgehogs affected by WHS usually die within 2 years from the onset of the symptoms.

Euthanasia (putting your pet to sleep) is recommended when it is no longer possible to maintain a good life quality for your pet.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is of general nature and does not constitute medical advice. You must not rely on this information as an alternative to advice from your veterinarian. If you have any questions related to a medical matter, consult your vet or another healthcare provider. 

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