If you have a hedgehog who won’t stop scratching, you may be wondering why. Hedgehog itchiness could be due to dry skin, but there’s a chance your hedgehog’s itchy skin could be caused by mites. The symptoms of dry skin and mites are similar, so it can be hard to determine which one is causing the itching. Here we’ll cover what you need to know about hedgie mites.
What are mites?
Mites are small arachnids similar to ticks and spiders that bite your pet and cause skin and quill irritation. Mites may be visible on bedding or your hedgehog’s skin, but mites are usually too small to see with the naked eye.
How can hedgehogs get mites?
It is possible for your hedgehog to contract mites in various ways. Mites can be passed through interacting with new hedgehogs, or handling multiple hedgehogs without washing your hands. Bedding and shavings are the most common vehicles for mites to get into your hedgehog’s space, especially if they come from a pet store where mites could have spread from other animals. Mites will happen from time to time when you use shavings as your habitat substrate, so don’t feel bad if mites happen. There are some preventative measures you can take to help prevent mites including freezing your shavings for a day or two before putting them in your hedgehog’s enclosure. (This is not a 100% foolproof measure.)
How to know if it’s mites
Symptoms of mites include:
- Excessive scratching, biting, licking or chewing
- Dry, flaky skin
- Significant quill loss or bald patches
Some symptoms of mites overlap with symptoms of other issues, like dry skin. There is a chance that symptoms may result from other health issues. The only way to know for sure if your hedgehog has mites is to have your exotics veterinarian examine your hedgie.
Does my hedgehog need treatment?
If you suspect mites, the quicker you take your hedgehog to the vet, the better. Hedgehogs with mites need to be treated as soon as possible to avoid potential damage that mites can do. If not treated, mites can cause your hedgie to experience total quill loss, additional skin diseases like mange, infection, and in extreme cases, death.
If your vet determines that your hedgehog has mites, they will suggest a treatment. There are not currently any hedgehog-specific mite treatments, so you may get medication designed for other small animals.
IMPORTANT: Vets may prescribe Ivermectin, but in our experience, and experiences of many other hedgie owners, Ivermectin has seriously harmful, sometimes fatal results and we strongly recommend that if your veterinarian offers Ivermectin as a treatment for mites that you politely, but firmly refuse it. Ivermectin comes in multiple forms, including a dip, shot, and spray, but in our experience, none of these forms are safer than the others. Instead, ask your vet to prescribe kitten Revolution, which is a safe and effective treatment for mites in hedgehogs. One does (a drop of Revolution between your hedgehog’s shoulder blades) should cure your hedgehog’s mite problem.
It’s also a good idea to thoroughly clean your hedgehog’s enclosure and bedding as part of their mite treatment and also throw away any remaining shavings that may be from an existing package used prior to mite infestation and purchase new shavings.
Mites are often species-specific, meaning they live on only one type of animal, but it is possible that your hedgehog’s mites could spread to other pets. Keep an eye out for mite symptoms in other pets and if you suspect the mites have spread, have your vet check all of your pets for mites.