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Old 04-17-2014, 02:33 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Mites Question

Hello all. I have been lurking this forum for a while now, and only recently joined (after the arrival of my own little hedgehog, of course).

So I have some questions in regards to mites (as the title suggests lol).
Firstly, I have a little female hedgehog that I purchased 6 days ago from a local pet store (there are sadly no breeders in the area that I have been able to find, so the store was the next option. They say their hedgies are sourced from a breeder in Calgary, but they won't say who). They say she is about 3 months old, and they had been housing her in a mixed group of males/females the same age, in some paper and wood shaving bedding. The day I arrived at the store to finally bring her home, some guy was burying her and her buddies underneath all of the bedding and making an absolute mess of the whole place...
Now, when I brought her home and released her into her new home I noticed some scratching going on. She was (and is) being housed in a fleece lined sterilite container, so I was not sure if the itching was from maybe being tickled by the fleece fibres, or maybe because she had dust from being buried under all the wood shavings. To be on the safe side, I took out the liner, washed it, and made sure there were no shavings left anywhere. I gave her the day to kind of acclimatize, and the next day gave her a water only bath to try and maybe cut through what I thought was dust from the shavings, to maybe give her some relief. Needless to say, this only helped for a little bit, and the next day she was back to itching. This time I went out, bought some oatmeal shampoo (the aveeno stuff that I see so often recommended on here) and gave her a proper bath, shampoo and toothbrush and all.
Again, this seemed to ease the itch somewhat, and she seemed to be doing good. Then I got up the next day to see her cage was a mess of dandruff and quills. It looked like it had snowed in there overnight, and there were maybe half a dozen quills scattered about the tub, with her still scratching. The amount of dandruff really surprised me, because the days leading up to this had been dandruff free (I had attempted to do a dark cloth test to see if I could see any mites the day I brought her home, but I couldn't actually get any dandruff off of her)

Thankfully, her vet check was that day so when I took her in, and mentioned her discomfort he went through and tried to check her for mites. He had no luck, but said that even though he wasn't finding anything, that she could still have mites. He believed that if she did, we had caught it super early on, and that that was very good. She cleared the rest of her check, and being the friendly (albeit itchy) girl she is was enjoying the attentions of the vet and the techs all the while.
So, he treated her with Revolution, with a dose behind the ear, and said to keep an eye on her. He figured that she would not need to be treated again because of how early on the infestation is, but if she was still having issues to bring her in again in he next few weeks.

So, that night although she was friendly, she was certainly uncomfortable, doing lots of jittery things and scratching and just being jumpy. I read several articles that mentioned that Revolution can sometimes make them itchy and cause some irritation, so I thought that was it. That would have been two days ago— she is still uncomfortable, in that she is still scratching at the same level as before (I wouldn't call it frantic scratching, more like she has an itch that isn't going away so she scratches it a lot) and being jittery and jumpy. She isn't shedding dandruff nearly as much (almost back to her pre-snow day levels), but she is still shedding quills.

So, thats my limited history with my little girl. Now, to my questions.
First, with this treatment of Revolution, how long can I expect to wait before it starts having any effect, provided it works this time around and does not need re-treatment?
Secondly, in the mean and in between time, is there anything I can do to help ease her discomfort? I don't want to over bath her and give her dry skin on top of the mites, but is there anything I can do to make her more comfortable?
Thirdly, could it be possible that at 3 months old, she could potentially be starting to quill at the same time?
And finally, as a weird sidenote, she weighs roughly 207g. Is this a normal weight for a 3month old? She doesn't look thin to me, she has a good sized little belly on her for sure, but I have no idea how close she is to her cohorts from this weight. She was certainly the smallest one at the store, but then again, there were a bunch of males there who were I am sure much older than 3 months....


Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for your time and efforts.
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't have any experience with mites but I thought you should know, if she was being housed with males she is probably pregnant. You might want to start preparing for babies as the gestation period is pretty short. Read through the babies and breeding threads to learn more about this. Good luck with everything!
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Old 04-17-2014, 04:12 PM   #3 (permalink)
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At 3 months old, she's at the age to still be quilling, so like you thought, her continued quill loss could be from that. However, with mites, quill loss still tends to continue for a bit longer even after treatment as all of the damaged quills fall out.

The continued scratching & jumpiness concerns me a bit though. I can't recall how long Lily continued to scratch after we started mite treatment. It may be a good idea to call your vet & ask about her behavior. It could just be dry skin bothering her, but she may also end up needing a second dose after two weeks have gone by. For dry skin, you can use flaxseed oil in her rinse water after a bath. You can also try putting on her food, but that works much more slowly (and you don't want to do it every night - maybe a couple or few times a week, to avoid diarrhea).

Unfortunately, like PricklePrincess said, she's almost certainly pregnant being in a cage with that many males. Here's the sticky you should read - https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...by-advice.html and you'll want to continue doing reading in the Breeding & Babies forum if you have time, to answer other questions you may end up having. If you have a question & can't find the answer in the forum using the search function, feel free to post & ask. Sometimes breeding & babies questions take a bit longer to get answered (since most of the time it's best that only the experienced breeders answer them), but someone will answer.

Unfortunately, because she's likely pregnant, you may have more issues with the dry skin issues since you'll need to switch her back to a particle bedding like wood shavings, Carefresh, etc. Fleece/fabric liners are great most of the time, but not for moms & babies. If you do call your vet to ask about the scratching & jumpiness, definitely mention that she's probably pregnant and ask about their availability and emergency hours. You'll want to make sure you know where to take her if she has any complications, even if it's the weekend or middle of the night, particularly because of her young age.
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Old 04-17-2014, 05:04 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Yup like everyone is saying she is most likely pregnant and if she has a good sized belly she is very possibly only days from giving birth. Please read all you can about it here on the forum and she will need to be on loose bedding, not fleece, before she gives birth because you won't be able to clean her cage for 5-6 weeks.
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Old 04-24-2014, 12:30 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Thank you all for your prompt responses.

In the past few days her situation seems to have changed a little. The dandruff is almost completely gone (I'd say easily 95-97% gone), and she is scratching less, so I think the mite problem may have finally resolved itself. I've been giving her baths in simple fresh water, and that seems to have also eased any itching she may be experiencing.

She is definitely quilling at this point, she is shedding lots of quills, and when I run my fingers across her quills and look between them I can see the buds of soon to erupt and partially erupted quills, so I think that might explain some of the residual jumpiness/grouchiness she is exhibiting right now.

In regards to her potentially being pregnant, if she is she will be in the earliest parts of the gestation. She was only exposed to the males for 2-3 days (I was going into the pet store daily, and so when she and her buddies came in from the breeder on the Thursday, I picked her out and had brought her home by the Saturday), which puts her due date from May 16-June 6th, if I counted my days right.

As I can't be sure that she was bred, what I am currently doing is monitoring her food intake (she gets 60 pieces of kibble a day, plus two always uneaten mealworms and whatever treats I offer her and she refuses....), and her weight. I know that she is also still growing, so I am looking for extreme spikes in weight, especially towards the end of the due-dates, just like I would in my alpacas. I will also be keeping an eye on her mammary glands and vulva, to hopefully give me an indication if she starts waxing up or swelling.

I would like to note that I think you guys may have misinterpreted what I meant when I said she had quite the belly on her— I had meant that her belly was fat, like a puppies, not fat as in pregnant. If she was heavy with hoglets and due to pop at any day, I am pretty sure I would have noticed (I have a background in animal husbandry, so I am pretty good at palpating for unborn babies)

That being said, I will also be keeping an eye on her abdomen, and palpating it on a weekly basis (If she is pregnant, I don't want to damage any fetuses so I think once a week should be okay). She doesn't roll up in a ball unless she is sleeping, so she is pretty easy to check over and thus far doesn't seem phased by anything beyond the scary piece of chicken I had offered her last night. I've actually been quite impressed, the only signs of stress she has shown me was a single green dropping after her first ever bath.



In the long run, I don't plan on switching her bedding over from the fleece liner to an alternative unless I get more solid evidence that she is pregnant. With her recovering from mites and enduring the discomfort of quilling, I am reluctant to make the switch to something that may only reinfest her with mites or dry her skin until I know the birth is impending.

I am wondering though, if she does show signs of being pregnant later on in the possible gestation, and I go to make the switch, what bedding options do I have that I can be sure won't have mites (or that I can treat to ensure they don't have mites?) I really don't want to reinfest her, nor her hoglets, especially knowing that her immune system will be vulnerable right before, during and after the labor.

As well, I have noticed that there is an exceeding amount of recommendations that the female be left completely alone beyond food/water changes right before, during and after her birth. Why? Birth for any animal is a stressful and hard event, the last thing I would want is to completely ignore her while she is in labor and simply hope for the best, when I could take her to the vet to get her medical attention. And frankly, as with any new mum, I would want to monitor her and her babies to make sure everyone is healthy and maintaining their condition after the birth as well. Why is there such a taboo against anything beyond the most vital of interactions with new mum Hedgehogs? I am truly interested, as it seems to be such a strange concept, especially after the experiences I have had with first time mum livestock/dogs/cats/etc.

Again, thank you for the prompt responses! They have been very helpful!
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Old 04-24-2014, 12:47 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I can understand your concerns with the bedding & not being sure she's pregnant, just keep in mind that occasionally hedgehogs show no signs of being pregnant at all. And I could be totally wrong on this (I'm not a breeder & haven't dealt with pregnant small mammals), but I'm uncertain of how easily babies would be felt before the last stages of pregnancy. I know I've read that hedgehog fetuses don't usually show up on ultrasound until close to birth. It might be easier to feel them via palpating though!

Carefresh or other paper beddings would probably be the best choice. They're more likely to dry skin out, I think, but less likely to carry mites. To be 100% safe though, a lot of people recommend freezing the bedding for a night or two before using it. You can also freeze shavings to try & kill off any mites that might be in them.

I know some breeders keep webcams in their mom's nesting boxes so they're able to keep an eye on the birth without being too close. That sounds like a great way to watch for possible issues with the birth so that you can get medical help ASAP if needed without causing issues with your presence.

What I'm seeing is one major difference in the animals you list experience with versus hedgehogs - hedgehogs are small prey animals, and they're also not very domesticated. They still have a lot of wild instincts, and for most hedgehogs (especially one new to the owner), the presence of a human (a potential predator in their mind) during something as stressful as birth is only going to be more stressful. Honestly the best thing that can be done most of the time is to just stay away & let mom handle things, provided there's no medical issues going on. The same goes for after babies are both, up to 2 weeks or so. Being around the cage, handling mom or babies, etc. could all stress mom out very easily. When small mammal mothers get stressed...they tend to eat babies. Their instincts tell them that their current situation isn't safe, that there's predators around. Rather than have predators kill the babies, mom eats them herself to get back the resources put into them, so she can reuse those nutrients & try again with a new litter once she's in a safer situation.

If you do spot medical issues, mom's health always comes before babies & if you need to, definitely take her to the vet at any time if the situation is something serious. Mites are typically not considered serious, as far as I know. But otherwise, if mom seems healthy, usually the best thing is to not press your luck & just leave everyone alone as much as possible until a couple weeks have gone by and mom has (hopefully) calmed down a bit. A lot of people want to try and help or step in if something's going on (like mom carrying a baby around too much, etc.), but often that just backfires because mom gets even more stressed out.

I hope she does turn out not to be pregnant! And like I mentioned, I'm not a breeder, so if any of them contradict anything I've said, definitely listen to them over me. Just thought I'd weigh in on the whole "leave hedgie moms alone" topic & give you an answer sooner rather than later (since it can sometimes take a bit for breeding questions to get answered).
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Old 04-24-2014, 02:16 AM   #7 (permalink)
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First off, thank you for your speedy response. I really appreciate the clarification you were able to provide, and will certainly be keeping my eye out for paper type bedding to get for her if and when her time is coming up. As far as the mites go, I don't know how bad they can get in hedgehogs, but I have seen animals on the brink of death because they have had such heavy mite infestations that they were chronically dehydrated and ill, so I am always hesitant as to making sure my guys don't contract them, or if they do that they are treated ASAP.


Lol I do understand what you mean about fetuses being hard to find until close to the due date— even then, ultrasounds don't always pick up the fetuses when they are too close to the date because of the size, from what I have heard. Everything I've read has lead me to believe that the only way to know for sure if an animal is pregnant is to run an x-ray close to the due date and look for spines/skulls, but with x-rays being expensive and unneeded excess radiation, this isn't something I would ever consider unless I was seriously into hedgehog breeding lol. So far, palpation has been the best way I've been able to determine whether an animal is pregnant or not, especially before the due date when the babies are being repositioned for the birth canal.

As I had mentioned before, I do have experience with pet type animals (dogs/cats), however as far as domesticated prey animals go, the alpacas I breed are not nearly as domesticated in terms of human tolerance as people would like to think. Sure, their physical traits are human selected, but in terms of temperament they are decades behind the domestication of their camel and llama counterparts. Females can and will reabsorb or abort a fetus at the slightest stressor, including herd health days, stray dogs nearby, new situations or travel, etc. And although they are considerably larger than hedgehogs, their flight or fight responses are much more attuned as far as I've been able to see (you can put your hand near a hedgehog and it may not really bother, but 99% of alpacas you go near and they bolt like wild animals). So I can sympathize with the need to keep mum's and their babies away from stressors for their own healths sake. That being said, it astounds me at how extreme it seems hedgehog breeding goes in maintaining low stress levels in their females. Stressed bitches and queens will hide, abandon and kill their young, stressed alpacas will abandon or harm their cria, I do not see why hedgehogs are in a separate category for stressed out mumhood? Obviously, going in and manhandling her and her hoglets is a big no-no (just like manhandling new puppies and the bitch would be a big no-no), and she shouldn't be disturbed. But separating her completely and installing a webcam? Wow. How do you guys do any imprinting on the babies if you don't make any noises to get them used to your voice? Ive seen posts recommending that you make no noise when near the female, but the female should already be used to hearing your voice, so I fail to see how this would be a new stressor. As for your scent, you are going to be getting your scent all over her food and water dish when you change the food and water, and when you put it in your scent will be getting on the bars of the cage, the nearby bedding, anything really that you have come in contact with. If scent is such an issue, why not ingrain your scent in the bedding before introducing it into the cage (like you would introducing a t-shirt for her to learn a new smell) by putting it in some sort of cloth bag and packing it around, or things like that? Your scent would be nothing new then, so you should be able to change the bedding quietly in areas far from her if she isn't hyper-sensitive, right?
How do you guys do any of the basic husbandry stuff for making sure the babies and Mum are remaining healthy? If you can't change bedding, how will you know if she is showing signs of a uterine infection or tear? How do you make sure she doesn't develop mastitis? How do you make sure the babies are gaining properly weight wise, without weighing them?
I'm sorry for all the questions, but I am truly intrigued as to how different the hedgehog world seems to be as compared to the other experiences I have had with other animals. I have never come across people who are so intensely caring of their pets that they bend over backwards to ensure that there is next to no stress and no way for their pets to get hurt. Not to say other pet and livestock owners don't bend over backwards to care for their babies, it just seems like hedgehog owners have it down to a fine science, taking things up a notch.
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Old 04-24-2014, 04:19 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Not sure if I can help much more, since I don't breed! The usual recommendation is that after two weeks, you can start handling the babies as long as mom's not too stressed out by it, but breeders that know their hedgehogs well (when they have babies as well as without babies) can make better judgments on when an individual mom would be okay with it. On the forum, we typically give the recommendations that are safest for mom & babies, since some moms can be more nervous & especially people in your situation that are uncertain about hedgehog behavior & signals, they could easily make a mistake or misjudge a situation and cause a baby (or all of them) to be eaten (not saying you would - just others that find themselves with a brand new pregnant hedgehog & no prior experience with hedgies).

Kind of the same thing as far as bedding - the usual recommendation is after 2 weeks, you can start removing a handful of dirty bedding (away from the nest) for a handful of clean so you're not removing too much of mom's scent. Same thing breeders that know their moms well - they might be able to do this earlier, but we usually stick with the 2 week recommendation for other situations. Even hedgehogs that are generally calm or friendly may do a complete 180* once they have babies, so it's hard to know what to expect.

I'm gonna stop answering questions though since I'm just going off what's been said by the breeders on here for the years I've been here. I can PM one of the breeders to answer the other questions though! Or if you want to message them yourself to get more information & ask questions, Nancy & Nikki are both admins and retired breeders with years of experience, and there's a few others on the forum as well.
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Old 04-24-2014, 04:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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You have to consider that she may have been with the males before they arrived at the store. They may have all been together since weaning which would mean she could easily have babies early. I would prepare for them now and keep expecting them till 55 days after you brought her home.
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