02-13-2014, 12:51 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Traveling during winter
The following article was written by me and originally published in the International Hedgehog Association's newsletter and is currently located on my website. It has had minor updates over the years. I thought I would post it here as we have had some requests for winter travel help lately.
---- Traveling during winter ----
It's now the middle of winter and so far you have had no problems with keeping your hedgehog warm. But, during playtime tonight, you noticed your hedgehog is not acting well. The symptoms don't really matter at the moment. The fact is, you now need to take your hedgehog to the veterinarian, and its well below freezing outside. How do you keep him warm?
There are many ways in which you may approach this task, and each method may have the same final result (a warm hedgehog). Below are some suggestions and ideas to help you travel safely.
- Tip 1: Provide plenty of layers of bedding in the travel carrier. I use a hard sided carrier to transport my hedgehogs. In this carrier I place several layers of either cage liners or fleece/flannel blankets for them to crawl under, and a cloth bag to snuggle in. These two together will provide a soft, cushioned layer of bedding to help your ailing hedgehog to remain comfortable, and will provide your hedgehog protection from the cold air. Additional tip: also take extra bedding with you. Should your hedgehog soil their bedding, you will have a fresh set of dry carrier material to keep him warm for the trip home.
- Tip 2: Use an external heat source in the hedgehog's carrier. I like to keep a 'Snuggle Safe Heat Disc' in the car with me in case we need an emergency source of heat, or in case I cannot keep the cage warm enough with the car's heater. Having a heat source that will last for many hours is a necessary precaution, in case your car should break down or some other problem prevents your timely arrival at the veterinarian's. Please remember that whatever heat source you choose, to wrap it in a towel or a cage liner to prevent possible burns, and that there is space in the carrier for the hedgehog to get away from the heat. Here are some possible heat sources:
- Snuggle Safe Heat Disc - A microwavable, pink plastic disc now being carried by several chains (including Pet Supplies Plus and PetSmart) as well as many smaller stores and online retailers. This disc will provide heat for up to 12 hours.
- Disposable hand warmers - These are plastic pouches that, when an internal capsule is broken, will release chemicals that mix and produce heat. They are commonly found in the hunting/fishing section of sporting goods stores. Depending on the type you buy, they can stay warm for anywhere between 2-12 hours.
- Rice or buckwheat bags - For a quick, homemade hand warmer, take a large cotton sock, fill it with rice or buckwheat, and tie a knot in the end. You can also sew the end for a permanent bag. Warm the bag in the microwave for about 90 seconds, and you will have a homemade heat source. Rice bags may stay warm for 1-2 hours. Warning: A warmed rice/buckwheat bag may smell enticing to a hedgehog. Please watch to ensure that your hedgehog does not try to bite/dig at the bag to get to its contents. If your hedgehog does, remove the bag immediately and use a different warming method.
- Hot water bottles - There are quite a variety of hot water bottles, from the old classic versions one sees in old movies, to those that never need to be filled and are microwavable, and even an electric version, on the market today. The amount of time one stays warm will vary, with approximately 1-2 hours the average.
- Tip 3: Insulate the hedgehog's carrier. I recommend wrapping the carrier with a blanket or towel when transporting the carrier between your car and the building. This will help prevent cold air from reaching your hedgehog, which could result in a chill.
These tips should help you travel from your home to the veterinarian's office, and back again, while keeping your hedgehog warm. Having a plan of action should you have to travel during the middle of winter, before it becomes a necessity, is, in the opinion of this author, the only way to help ensure the health and well-being of your hedgehogs.
- Tip 4: Do NOT place your hedgehog's carrier directly in front of a heat vent. While this may sound like a good way of keeping your hedgehog warm, it can cause your hedgehog to overheat rapidly, leading to a much more severe problem than the original. This also applies to direct sunlight.
--- end of article ---
Travel by car
When traveling by car, it is important to ensure that your hedgehog is secure. I highly recommend buckling your carrier into the back seat of your vehicle. Back seats are often the safest location in your vehicle should you get into an accident. Never place your hedgehog's carrier on the car's floor, as the floor can be extremely cold during the winter or hot during the summer, and the ride on the floor is very bumpy, making travel sickness more likely.