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Old 12-09-2011, 02:47 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Losing quills...how much is too much?

Hi everyone first timer here though I've browsed before for various questions.

I have a probably almost 3 year old male hedgehog named Winklebottom (King of the hill reference.) A friend raised him as a baby and when she found she didn't have enough time for him she gave him to me about last April, so this is my first winter with him and I'm guessing that may be part of the problem. I also moved in May to a higher altitude which resulted in some dry skin but he seemed to get over that quickly. I spoil him mercilessly and I also fret constantly that I'm missing something. This issue comes up again and again and despite google and forum readings and even a reassurance from his former owner I'm a bit worried, hopefully needlessly.

From April to October everything was the same: healthy poop, eating, playing, sleeping. However he wasn't getting enough light (which forums helped me figure out) and he did try to hibernate one night, I caught it right away and immediately got a heating pad. He was warm the next day and has been fine ever since (trust me, I'm keeping an eye on that!) Before the hibernation attempt he was losing a very small amount of quills per the usual, like maybe 10-20 a month...a very hard to notice amount. Right before the hibernation attempt (I'd say maybe a month before) the quill loss intensified...I'd say double and it was noticable that whatever the prior amount it was literally twice that...20-40.

Since then (October) its been the same...it seems like quite a bit but his previous owner said as long as he has no bald spots he's fine. He didn't so I tried to chill out over it. Today I noticed on his back (not where the little normal patch is, the mohawk bit) on his upper left shoulder area there was a very small thinning spot...like if you will 3 rows and in the three rows 3 or so quills were noticeably gone. But right above that I noticed a very small new quill growing in so part of me is thinking that since October it has gotten colder here (it went from like 110 degree highs to 50 highs in a week) and since they are growing back despite the thinning maybe its just a winter thing?

I'm sure I sound like a moron right now. Frankly I don't think my friend took good care of him...when I got him his whole cage was coated in a layer of poop I can't even describe (literally everything from the wheel to his bedding). She gave me no instructions other than how to feed him. So I'm hoping that this is nothing and I'm doing fine.

What would you guys recommend? Other than this continuing quill loss that is more than it was, this is the first little thin spot I've noticed and there is nothing else differently noticeable about him. No lumps, always normal body temperature, normal attitude, normal eating and pooping. He does sneeze every now and then (as I read that they tend to do) and about a week ago I heard him doing it two nights in a row...but I've heard nothing since so I'm chalking that up to the usual. Any help is appreciated thanks!
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Old 12-09-2011, 02:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Losing quills...how much is too much?

Ugh my description wasn't good (I considered a pic but I know its hard to spot in pics). He's not missing three rows...just in those particular three rows there is a noticeable loss of quills but as said they seem to be growing back. Thanks!
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Old 12-09-2011, 02:53 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Losing quills...how much is too much?

I cantoffer much advie but does he have a heat source other then the heat pad? The change in seasons should have no effect on his quills because they're kept on the 12 hour light with a constant 74 degrees air temp.
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Old 12-09-2011, 03:24 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Losing quills...how much is too much?

As many others will tell you, so many things can cause quill loss from benign easy fixes to serious issues. I'll list some easy things to fix and see if they help and others will hopefully jump in if I miss any:

Bedding - from what I've read liners are the most recommended as allergies to other shavings and Carefresh can exist. Pfeffer started on Carefresh but got switched to liners after realizing how expensive Carefresh would be cleaned out 1x a week and I had to keep picking pieces out of her quills. At the same time if you do use liners its possible they are allergic to your detergent, I use Biokleen for Pfeffer's liners and no softener. All other washable items in her cage and the towels I use on her are also washed with Biokleen. A fragrance free allergy friendly washing solution is your best bet.

Food - hedgehogs can have tons of allergies, and the more ingredients the more likely a sensitive hedgehog can have a reaction. Natural Balance limited ingredient comes highly recommended and comes in the following 3 flavors: Green pea with Chicken/Salmon/Duck. I combine the Chicken and the Salmon for Pfeffer.

Bath time - It took me a while before I realized I was over soaping Pfeffer with "gentle wash soaps". I have a special prescription antifungal/antibacterial soap that I use for her and I fill up the sink with warm (but not hot) water and only a very small squirt of soap into the water. I do not rub her with any soap as this can be very irritating. Swimming around in mostly water bath and a gentle rinse have worked the best for me (I've had many quilling issues with my girl) Bathing them in oatmeal or olive oil or flax seed oil is recommended by some but may cause more problems then it solves. IF this fix doesn't work after one try, abandon the oil baths.

Food drizzle - I have played around with drizzling Flax and Fish oil on my girl's food, it's important not to overdo the drizzling but so far it does not seem to harm more than it hurts. For some hedgies they can have digestive issues from eating too much oil and some will not like the smell of either fish or flax oil. Oils will make poop smell so it is recommended the cage is very airy if you are going to try this option. Pfeffer gets one capsule of Twinlab Flax/Fish Combo oil over her food each night.

Infections, mites - If you are noticing progressive quill loss it is important to take your hedgie in for a skin scraping. The vet should be able to rule out mites, intestinal parasites, and any kind of skin infection or fungal infestation in the quills. My vet informed me it's important to freeze the food as it can carry mites. All of these issues should they be diagnosed in a hedgehog are relatively easy to treat, just be very vigilant that your vet has give you the correct dose. Disguising antibiotics if your hedgehog will not bite a syringe can be frustrating but doable, there will be plenty of advice here in any case.

If all else fails: your vet should be able to prescribe a water basted moisturizer for severely dry skin. A few droplets under the quills and in the problem areas are sufficient.

It is important to remember that any continued sign of quill loss should be investigated by a vet. Persistent quill loss in females can be linked to reproductive issues, I am unaware of any similar issues with males and quill loss. More than 1 year and a few months old is probably too old to go through quilling (once again others may say different or have late quillers)

Your hedgehog does not sound like he is losing quills to too extreme of a point yet (when Pfeffer was really bad she lost about 50 during a bath and usually around 20 a day). In any case I'd recommend a trip to the vet and if your hedgie is given a clean bill of health start trying some changes to the food/bedding/baths and hopefully something will stick! If you think altitude/ dry air are problematic I know there are some owners who do use a small humidifier near the cage. I keep my two heat lamps on 24/7 and I have a small table side light set on a timer to turn on for 14 hours a day.

Pfeffers Mom.
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