Wobbly hedgehog syndrome is something that a lot of owners fear. A WHS diagnosis is NOT good (not by a long shot).
But what exactly is it? And what can you do if your pet hedgie gets diagnosed with it?
These are things that many owners don’t know very well. Our guess is it’s due to a lack of desire to look this information up (which we understand since it can be a scary thought).
However, there’s also a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to wobbly hedgehog syndrome. From symptoms to treatment options, you’ll hear many different things.
But we’re going to clear everything up.
This guide will serve as the only resource you need when it comes to wobbly hedgehog syndrome. You’ll learn what it is, the symptoms to look for, and the best course of action if your poor hedgie gets WHS.
What Is Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome?
Wobbly hedgehog syndrome is a rather unpleasant degenerative neurological disorder that affects hedgehogs specifically. As of right now, there is no cure.
At its core, WHS has a lot in common with multiple sclerosis that presents in humans. However, the exact cause of wobbly hedgehog syndrome is not clear. There are some theories that it might be linked to genetics but nothing definitive has been proven yet.
Another theory about the potential cause of wobbly hedgehog syndrome is that dietary factors could have an influence. This is partly due to the fact that certain vitamin supplements can sometimes relieve symptoms temporarily. Again, no firm evidence for this has been found as of yet.
It’s also typical for wobbly hedgehog syndrome to present in hedgehogs who are two or three years old. It isn’t exclusive to this age range, but the vast majority happen around then.
The unfortunate reality with diseases that affect pets is there simply aren’t many resources going into research and prevention. Then when you add that to the unique challenges neurological conditions present, it delays the possibility of a cure even further.
Now that you have a better understanding of what wobbly hedgehog syndrome is, it’s time to jump into the symptoms. Even if you don’t suspect your hedgehog of having WHS, knowing these can make a world of difference.
It will allow you to recognize the disease and act faster, improving your hedgie’s level of comfort.
Loss Of Motor Control
One of the things you’ll notice if an African pygmy hedgehog has WHS is they might start to wobble (even when standing still). This is because the disease is attacking the neurological connection between their brain and muscles.
It will start at the hind legs and slowly work its way up to the front of the body over time.
At first, the hedgehog might wobble or even drag its legs when trying to stand or move around. After a while, this loss of control will hit the front of the body and their mobility will be severely impacted, rendering them quadriplegic.
Due to the loss of motor control, their muscles will begin to atrophy. This will follow the disease as it works its way to the front of the hedgehog.
While muscle atrophy itself is not as concerning as the other things wobbly hedgehog syndrome eventually impacts, it can be a useful tool for confirming a diagnosis. Since the loss of mobility and motor control will happen first, any lack of progress there combined with atrophy is a further sign that something is wrong.
Another early symptom of wobbly hedgehog syndrome is weight loss. This is normally caused by the fact that the affected hedgehog will simply not have the energy or ability to access their food.
Even after the diagnosis and adjustments in feeding options, there will still normally be an amount of residual weight loss.
Treatment And Care
Now that you know the main symptoms to look out for when it comes to wobbly hedgehog syndrome, it’s time to talk about treatment. There’s no known cure for WHS as of now, but there are still things that can be done.
The methods below will hopefully help slow down the progression of the disease, and most importantly make the affected hedgehog more comfortable.
Take Them To The Vet
The first and most important thing that should be done if you suspect wobbly hedgehog syndrome is to schedule a trip to the vet. As much as we can provide general information and advice based on best-practices, a vet who has knowledge of WHS is your best source of information.
One of the most helpful things your vet can do is give you a firm diagnosis based on clinical signs. There are many illnesses and diseases that can look like wobbly hedgehog syndrome at first, so you want to make sure it’s actually WHS before proceeding. While they can’t give you a 100% diagnosis until they perform an autopsy and look at the spinal cord and tissue in the central nervous system, they can give you a very confident ruling.
All of the following can look like wobbly hedgehog syndrome initially:
- Inner ear issues
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Other neurological diseases
Once your vet has ruled everything else out, they’ll be able to help you move forward with a course of action for treatment and comfort care.
Add Some Vitamin E
It’s often recommended to experiment with vitamin and nutritional improvements as a way to treat some of the symptoms of WHS.
The most common course of action is to add or increase the amount of vitamin E that your hedgehog is consuming. This has been linked to temporary improvements for symptoms in a number of hedgehogs.
However, it’s important to know that the level of efficacy is not predictable and will inevitably fail. Some hedgehogs respond very well to an increase in vitamin E, while others don’t see much improvement. After a while though, it won’t make a difference.
Despite the fact that it’s a short-term measure, we think it’s 100% worth trying. Whatever needs to be done to provide some extra comfort to a hedgehog with WHS should be done.
Make Sure They’re Warm
Heat is important for any hedgehog, but if they have wobbly hedgehog syndrome it’s something you need to pay extra attention to. Hedgehogs with WHS can have issues staying warm for a couple of reasons.
The first is that they simply aren’t as mobile as before. As you probably know, the ability to move helps generate heat in the body. A hedgehog that’s forced to sit around more than they want will run a little cooler than one that’s active.
The other reason is related to mobility but in a different way. As wobbly hedgehog syndrome progresses, a hedgehog will lose their ability to move around in the cage. This means they can’t seek out warm spots (if you use a heating pad for example) when they’re a little cold.
Being extra attentive to a hedgie with wobbly hedgehog syndrome is necessary. Tuck them in with blankets if needed or reposition them in their cage to warmer areas. It will keep them comfortable and help them maintain the warm body temperature that they need.
Give Them Rubs
The symptoms of wobbly hedgehog syndrome can be quite uncomfortable or outright painful for your poor pet. This is primarily because the muscle atrophy, but all the other unpleasant symptoms can add up too.
Something you can do to make things a little more comfortable for them is to give their muscles a little rub. Be very gentle and pay attention to how your hedgie responds. If you find the sweet spot it will really help provide some relief to the discomfort.
We also think it provides some emotional comfort as well. If you had to go through all these symptoms you would be pretty upset and scared. If touching them and letting them know you’re there to help calms them even a little bit, it’s worth it.
Make Their Environment Extra Comfortable
Since wobbly hedgehog syndrome will result in your hedgie spending more time being immobile in their cage, you should do whatever it takes to make that cage as comfortable as possible.
Get some of the best bedding you can and upgrade any liners you’re using as well. Maximize comfort and softness as much as you can to ensure they have a nice place to lay when they don’t have the energy or ability to move around.
When The Time Comes
Wobbly hedgehog syndrome doesn’t have a cure, and when the time comes you will likely have to euthanize for the sake of the hedgehog. It’s awful to have to think about this, but it’s just the way it is.
You don’t want your hedgehog to suffer needlessly at the end of their life, so you should be prepared to make this decision when the time comes. Your vet will likely bring this up as well.
Do the best you can to keep them comfortable and as happy as possible. When things get to the point where they can’t be helped anymore and are simply miserable, it’s time.
Honestly, writing this up was a pretty big bummer. Thinking about the poor hedgehogs that have to suffer from this is enough to ruin anyone’s mood.
But it’s important to have the right information out there about wobbly hedgehog syndrome, and we hope we accomplished that with this guide.
By now you should have a strong understanding of what WHS is, the symptoms it causes, and what you should do after receiving a diagnosis.
We hope this is never something you have to deal with. However, it’s our feeling that you should be prepared in case that time ever comes.