Hedgehogs are cute little mammals and you’ll definitely be happy to keep them as a pet.
If you have pet hedgehogs, you need to care for them and keep them from getting diseases and parasites. An example of a common pet parasite is a flea.
Can hedgehogs get fleas? Yes. Hedgehogs can have fleas and they even have their own flea species: The Hedgehog Flea (Achaeopsylla erinacei).
Hedgehog fleas can be very harmful to your pet hedgehogs. You should do your best to prevent your hedgehogs from getting fleas.
Fleas on Your Hedgehogs?
Did you see some organisms on the body of your hedgehog?
How do you know that they are fleas? Are they harmful to your hedgehog? Don’t worry. Let’s start by identifying what fleas are.
First of All, What Are Fleas?
Fleas are insects in the Pulicidae family.
Fleas are one of the only kinds of wingless insects. This means that fleas do not fly. Fleas are obligate parasites. As obligate parasites, fleas must live on a host and cannot survive for long outside a host.
Fleas are easy to recognize. They are laterally flattened which means that the body of fleas looks very flat (sideward).
As parasites, fleas get nutrition by feeding on the blood of their host. They look for soft parts of the skin of their host to suck blood.
Many flea species are host-specific (meaning that they prefer one type of host over others).
Can Hedgehogs Get Fleas?
Yes. Hedgehogs can get fleas. Hedgehogs even have a kind of flea that prefers hedgehogs over other animals.
The hedgehog flea (Achaeopsylla erinacei) is host-specific, so it prefers one kind of host (i.e. hedgehogs) over other available hosts.
Examining Your Hedgehogs for Fleas
Here are some ways to examine your hedgehogs for fleas:
- Checking for Fleas: Raise the fur and quills of your hedgehog to reveal the scalp or body. Fleas are reddish or dark brown and are flat sideward.
- Checking for Flea Dirt: Flea dirt is very small dark flakes that you can see in the fur of your hedgehogs.
Flea dirt is a combination of flea droppings and the blood of your pet. To identify flea droppings, rinse it with water.
If the water turns red, it is flea dirt.
Symptoms of Fleas Infestation on Hedgehogs
Do you think that your hedgehogs have fleas? Here are a few symptoms that can help you to confirm:
“Asymptomatic” means that your hedgehogs are not showing symptoms. If your hedgehogs do not have a high load of fleas, they may not show symptoms of a flea infestation.
2. Always Scratching Themselves
If the body of your hedgehog is always itchy, it is a sign that your pet has fleas.
If a pet previously had fleas, or you have heard of a flea infestation in your area before, it is possible that your hedgehogs are scratching because of fleas.
3. Start Losing Some Quills
This will happen if you do not remove the fleas from your pet hedgehog or treat your hedgehog quickly.
If your pets continue to scratch their body, they may lose some quills.
If you are suspecting your hedgehogs of having fleas and you see them losing some quills, they might’ have had fleas for a long time.
4. Anemia and Nutrient Deficiencies
Fleas primarily feed on the blood of their host.
Without sufficient blood, your hedgehogs may be showing signs of nutrient deficiency.
Hedgehogs can also develop anemia (which is the loss of blood) causing them to lose weight. This symptom usually occurs if your hedgehog has a lot of fleas.
5. Secondary Infections
Secondary infections are infections or diseases that occur because of untreated wounds in the body of animals.
In the case of hedgehogs infected with fleas, if you do not get rid of the fleas quickly, your hedgehogs can get some secondary infections.
Examples of some secondary infections that hedgehogs can get are:
- Ringworm infection
- Mycobacterium infection (such as Mycobacterium marinum)
Now that you know the symptoms of a flea infestation on your hedgehogs, how do you treat infected hedgehogs?
Treating Hedgehogs with Fleas
You should use products recommended by your vet to treat your flea-infested hedgehog.
One popular product used to treat hedgehogs with fleas is a pyrethrum-based powder which pet owners use to dust their flea-infested pet.
You should, however, get the best recommendation from your vet.
Preventing Your Hedgehogs from Getting Fleas
Here are some ideas to prevent your hedgehogs from getting fleas
- Wash and Disinfect Your Hedgehog Cage Regularly: Little social mammals like hedgehogs, guinea pigs, mice, etc. can easily get parasites and infections from other animals in the cage.
Some parasites such as fleas and mites sit on the floor or bedding of the cage and wait for new hedgehogs to attack.
You should wash and disinfect the cage often to reduce the spread of these parasites.
- Isolate Infected Hedgehogs: If you have a bunch of hedgehogs and you find fleas on the body of one, you should isolate that one while you treat it.
You should also check others for flea infestation.
- Do Not Introduce New Hedgehogs Into the Cage Immediately: If you have a new hedgehog, you should first examine it for fleas.
If possible, you should give it a bath before bringing it into the cage.
1. Can Hedgehogs Get Fleas from Other Pets (Or Vice Versa)?
Fleas are host-specific. This means that flea species cannot survive on another host (outside its preferred host range) for long.
The hedgehog flea is Achaeopsylla erinacei. Even if fleas from your cats and dogs find a way to the body of your hedgehogs, they will not survive for long.
Also, if Achaeopsylla erinacei individuals find a way to the body of cats and dogs, they will not survive for long.
2. What Are Other External Parasites of Hedgehogs?
Here are a few other parasites of hedgehogs:
- Lice: Just like fleas, lice are insects that feed on the blood of their hosts. Lice have legs that are well-equipped to anchor on the body of their host.
There are no hedgehog-specific louse species, but a few attack hedgehogs.
- Mites: Mites are not insects but arachnids. Mites are very common in wild hedgehogs and easily move from one animal to another, so remember to examine new hedgehogs before you bring them into the cage.
- Ticks: Just like mites, ticks are arachnids. The hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus) is host-specific and prefers hedgehogs to other pets.
Ticks can be recognized by their inflated abdomens.
3. Can Your Hedgehog Die of Flea Infestation?
It is not so common for hedgehogs and other pets to die of flea infestation.
Flea attack, however, can cause secondary infections, anemia, and other factors that can harm your hedgehogs.
If the number of fleas on your hedgehog is high (i.e. a high load), your hedgehog may not survive the infestation unless you treat it.
Hedgehogs can get fleas and fleas are harmful to hedgehogs.
You should always check your hedgehogs for fleas and bathe them often.
Remember to isolate any hedgehog that has fleas and use recommended products to remove the fleas.