People can get sick if they ingest contaminated food, but surprisingly, other animals can also get food poisoning, including your pet hedgehog. Enteritis is the proper medical term for this condition, and it refers to inflammation of the small intestine. Here are three things hedgehog owners need to know about enteritis.
What are the signs of enteritis?
If you've ever had food poisoning before, you should recognize similar signs in your hedgehog. Hedgehogs with enteritis develop mucoid diarrhea, meaning that their diarrhea contains mucus. They'll also develop anorexia, which means that they lose interest in their food and start losing weight. Since hedgehogs are already so tiny, losing weight during illness is very serious.
Since diarrhea causes fluid loss, your hedgehog may also become dehydrated. Hedgehogs that are dehydrated become weak and may wobble when they walk. You may also notice that your hedgehog has become lethargic and is lying in one place instead of moving around like they normally do.
Left untreated, enteritis can kill hedgehogs. If your hedgehog shows food poisoning symptoms, take them to a vet right away.
Why do hedgehogs get enteritis?
Enteritis occurs when your pet ingests bacteria such as Salmonella. If you don't wash your hands before feeding your pet or re-filling their water bottle, you could inadvertently contaminate their food or water. To minimize this risk, always wash your hands before caring for your pet.
Food can also be contaminated at some point in the supply chain through no fault of your own. For example, vegetables and fruits can become contaminated with bacteria if they are watered with contaminated water. You're probably already washing the produce that you eat, but you need to do the same for the produce you feed your hedgehog.
How do vets treat enteritis?
Your vet will need to provide both fluid and nutritional support to your hedgehog. Your pet will receive intravenous fluid injections to quickly re-hydrate them; these injections are given in the abdomen. Food will be given to your hedgehog in a small syringe or eyedropper.
Antibiotics may also be necessary to kill the bacteria responsible for the infection. Your vet will perform a stool culture to identify the bacteria responsible and then prescribe an appropriate antibiotic for that bacteria.
Once your hedgehog has been stabilized, you may need to continue re-hydrating them at home until their diarrhea is gone. Re-hydration fluid can be made by mixing water, sugar, and salt; fill your pet's water dish with this fluid.
If your hedgehog has diarrhea, they may have enteritis and should be seen by a veterinary hospital, such as the Canine Center.