Written by Kelly Sosik-Hamor
There are two theories on how a hedgehog gets mites. First, they can be transferred from an outside source (a infested bag of wood shavings, another hedgehog, or even from a different animal), or Second, that they came from the hedgehog himself (A few living on the hedgehog until the hedgehog's immunities become low and they are able to reproduce).
Several species of mites have been identified on hedgehogs, including sarcoptic, demodectic, psoroptes, and chorioptes.
The saroptic mite is also known as scabies, or sarcoptic mange. This mite can also affect dogs and cats and an infestation can present similar to allergic reaction (the skin reacting to an irritant). The sarcoptic mite can be difficult to find in skin scrapings, and it may take several scrapings before a mite is actually seen. This mite can affect owners, so it is very important to seek proper treatment from your vet. The life cycle of this mite is roughly 21 days.
The demodectic mite is a tiny cigar shaped mite with eight legs. These mites feed in oil glands and hair follicles. It is possible that our hedgehogs, as well as other animals, normally carry a small amount of demodectic mites on their skin. This won't manifest into a problem unless immune deficiencies are present (infection, extreme stress, etc), so be sure to have you pet checked for the underlying cause. This mite can be transmitted to humans, but it rarely causes any problems. Their life cycle is 20-35 days.
The psoroptes is a scabbing mite that is rather serious. They do not burrow as other mites do, instead they seek shelter and reproduce under a scab. The life cycle of this mite is 9 days, however they are known to reproduce vigerously. They is more often seen in live stock, then household pets.
The chorioptes mite is an oval shaped gray/ white surface mite. This mite may be transmitted from host to host, or through bedding. An infestation may characterized by rough patchy skin with scabbing around the edges.
Mites are easily diagnosed by a vet. If your hedgehog is scratching a lot and appears to be losing quills in a concentrated area, you need to go to the vet and have him do a skin scraping. A skin scraping is a very simple procedure that takes only about 10 mins and won't cause your hedgehog any harm or discomfort. Once a scraping is taken, your vet will look at it under a microscope to see if any mite can be found. It should be noted that the mites won't always appear in the scraping, and you may want to proceed with a preventative treatment.
Up until recently, Ivermectin was the treatment of choice for mites. This treatment is always preformed by a vet and may be oral, topical, or injectable *. Generally the hedgehog is given 3 times treatments spaced 2 weeks apart, but this varied based on the severity of the mites. Unfortunately, Ivermectin is not effective in all cases, and greater sucess rates have been seen when using Revolution.
Currently most breeders are treating mite outbreaks with Revolution (r) (selamectin). A single topical treatment of Revolution will last a full 30 days and will outlast the life cycle of any mite. See your vet dosage information and for a prescription for Revolution.
It is also important to note that mites like cortisone and will reproduce rapidly when it is used. Their reproduction rates increase during cool weather and decrease during hot weather, so preventive treatments are more important during cooler months. Their life cycle can be as short as 10-12 days during the winter.
* Injectable ivermectin is extremly dangerous to hedgehogs and has resulted in death, in several cases. Please do not allow your vet to use this treatment.