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Can Hedgehogs Drink Milk?

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Dietary restrictions and the feeding habits of your pet are some of the crucial things you should watch for, especially if you love exotic pets like hedgehogs.

In some cases, owners of hedgehogs face difficulties and problems when their pets fall sick due to just one small meal that hedgehogs can’t consume, such as milk.

Can hedgehogs drink milk?

No, hedgehogs can’t drink milk. They are naturally lactose intolerant. This also means that they can’t consume any dairy foods or products like cow’s milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter. The best source of drink for your hedgehogs is just clean water, given in a flat plate or bowl.

Helping human hand give food with a feeding bottle a Young European hedgehog

There is no need to feed them any type of liquid that could affect their digestive system. Hedgehogs thrive on a mixed diet and they could get most nutrients and energy from just their foods.

Why Milk Is Not Suitable For Hedgehogs

Unlike other small mammals, hedgehogs are hypolactasic (lactose intolerant).

This generally means that their digestive system lacks the lactase enzyme to break down or metabolize lactose molecules in milk, leading to further digestive complications like an upset stomach, gas bloat, and loose stools (diarrhea). Left untreated, this could also lead to the death of the hedgehog.

Do Suckling Hoglets Drink Milk?

Although hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, adult female hedgehogs feed their babies (suckling hoglets) with milk. This might come as a surprise, but their milk is harmless because it possesses a very low amount of lactose.

In the Journal of Animal Physiology & Animal Nutrition published in 1998, German researchers, E. Landers and his team found that hedgehogs’ milk composition was mostly rich in fat, protein, and a very little amount of sugar.

Approximately, they found 26g of fat, 16g of protein, and 0.07g of lactose per 100ml of milk. This contributes to the fact that suckling hoglets are able to feed off the milk from their mother as a source of nutrients.

What Are Other Foods That Hedgehogs Can’t Eat?

  • Besides milk, it is advisable not to feed hedgehogs with bread because they can’t digest it well. Acidic fruits like pineapples, grapes, and raisins are considered toxic to hedgehogs. This is because of the amount of citrus in those fruits that hedgehogs can’t tolerate.
Slices of bread on a wooden table black background
  • Hedgehogs also can’t digest dried foods and fruits like cheap cat and dog biscuits, raisins, and dates. They also can’t digest starchy vegetables like corn, celery, carrots, and potatoes. Hence, it would be best that you feed them with wet and softer foods.
  • Recent studies also showed that hedgehogs are prone to Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). Symptoms of MBD in hedgehogs are joint abnormalities, weakened muscle contractions, tremors, weak bones that are depleted in calcium, and metabolic disruption. This disease is mainly caused by foods that are high in phosphorus and low in calcium composition. The imbalance of calcium to phosphorus ratio in hedgehogs’ diet would lead to malnutrition, causing their bones to become weaker.
  • Phosphorus also contributes to healthy bones, kidney functions, and other metabolic processes. But excessive consumption with calcium deficiency in hedgehogs’ diet would certainly lead to nutrient imbalances and higher phosphate levels in the blood, causing vital organs to consume calcium from other parts of their body. Also, calcium and phosphorus bind together to give strong and healthy bones in hedgehogs. Any lack or improper balance between those two is one of the common triggers for MBD in hedgehogs.
  • These are some examples of foods that are low in calcium to phosphorus ratio:
Types Of FoodCalcium To Phosphorus Ratio (Ca:P)
Cheap cat/dog foodsBelow 1:5
Peanuts and Oats1:6
Sunflower Hearts1:7

What Can Be Considered As A Healthy Diet For Hedgehogs?

  • For hedgehogs, the most simple but healthy diet is a diet with high protein composition and a low amount of fat. Any source of protein like cooked meat, minced beef, or boiled eggs would certainly fulfil their needs. But it is advisable to monitor the amount of protein they eat to prevent any excessive consumption because, unlike wild hedgehogs, pet hedgehogs are prone to suffer from obesity due to their less active habits.
  • In some cases, due to their omnivorous nature, they might eat terrestrial insects like crickets, beetles, and caterpillars. They possess the ability to digest chitin, (a good type of polysaccharide), from the exoskeleton of insects, which provides them with an ample amount of protein and glucose. As a precautionary measure, try to keep them away from any poisonous, toxic, and stinging insects like bees, scorpions, or wasps.
sliced yellow melon, slices of watermelon and blueberries
  • Fruits like papayas, watermelons, bananas, melons, berries, and apples are also good sources of fiber and vitamins for hedgehogs. Like any other meal, a small amount should be considered due to the fact that these fruits contain a high level of sugar, which could lead to weight gain and obesity problems in hedgehogs. In turn, this could make them suffer from liver complications and diabetes.
  • High-quality cat/hedgehogs kibble is also one of the good sources of meal for hedgehogs. It is advisable to look for high-quality kibble with balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio (at least 1:1) and a high in protein to fat ratio (at least 30% protein and 20% fat for an optimal composition). At least 1-2 tablespoons of kibble are enough to supply them with energy and nutrients for a day.
  • Providing your pet hedgehogs with enough clean water in a flat or shallow bowl is also crucial to prevent dehydration and thirst, especially during summer.

Final Thoughts

Above all, hedgehogs could live longer and grow healthier with a proper diet and balanced meals. Maintaining the right amount of nutrients in their foods and avoiding foods that are harmful to them is not that hard, once you know the types of foods that they can and can’t eat.


Hedgehogs & Lactose Intolerance

Milk Composition In Female Hedgehogs

Lactose Intolerant & Hypolactasia

Hedgehogs’ Healthy Diet (What They Can And Can’t Eat)

Metabolic Bone Disease In Hedgehogs