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Old 01-10-2014, 09:50 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Hibernation scare

With the recent cold weather here the house got colder despite our furnace's best efforts. I went to check on Matt (the hedgehog) this morning and when I picked him up, I could have sworn he was dead. Cold, stiff, and unmoving.

After a little poking, however, I noticed that he was responding a little bit to stimulus. I could "tickle" him on one side and he'd curl that direction, tickle the other side and he'd curl that way. So "not dead". That was good.

So for a while, I cradled him against my bare chest. I "unrolled" him a bit so I could place his belly against me to help warm him up. After a little bit, he would start lifting his head a little bit, move one or more legs, then settle back down. That there was movement was good. (Hey, I thought he was dead. Any signs otherwise I'm taking as a good thing.)

Once he was moving a bit, although still extremely lethargic, I moved him back to his cage, big pile of Aspen under him and his little "house" cubby over him, then set a small 20-40 watt (can't say for certain) desk lamp shining on the "house" to warm it. Blanket draped over everything to hold in some of that heat from the lamp (with some care so the blanket doesn't come in contact with the lamp--no sense risking even a small chance of a fire). Also turned up the heat in the house and since we're past those record cold temperatures it should warm up nicely.

That's the best I can do before I have to go to work. We'll see how he's doing when I get home. If I can find my heating pad, since that seems to have walked off, I'll see about setting it under the cage as a "cage warmer" to keep him cozy if the house gets cold again.

Anything else I need to be doing?
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Old 01-10-2014, 01:29 PM   #2 (permalink)
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What's the temperature of his cage? It's critical that you have a heating setup for him that keeps his cage between 73-78* at all times. When you get home from work, if he's still lethargic, he needs to go to the vet.

Heating pads aren't ideal because it doesn't warm the ambient air, just the floor, so when he gets up to walk around the change in temperature can trigger another hibernation attempt.
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Old 01-10-2014, 01:46 PM   #3 (permalink)
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If you can find one at a local store, try to pick up a thermostat (I think Petco carries them in-person, or a pet store with a good reptile or aquarium section should have one), and an independent heat source -- heat lamp (CHE, no light so it'll work at night) or space heater. Set it all up so that even as the house-temperature fluctuates, he'll stay nice and warm.

After attempting to hibernate, his immune system will be weak for the next while. He'll be more prone to URIs, so if he starts sneezing or licking his nose, head to the vet for medication.
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Old 01-10-2014, 08:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Matt didn't make it.

When we got home, he was dead.
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Old 01-10-2014, 08:51 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Make certain he is really dead and not just in hibernation. Try warming him up. When they are trying to hibernate they feel freezing cold and there is no response. It can sometimes take quite a while of warming for them to start to respond.
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Old 01-11-2014, 12:34 AM   #6 (permalink)
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The whole house was up to 75. Athena's room was probably 77. And the cage, with the 40 watt red light shining on the little igloo "cubby" was probably a bit warmer. And he was stiff as a board with his lips pulled back a bit. He was also "stretched out" and not curled up. Earlier he was rolled in a ball, a bit stiff but not like this.

I can try, but i really think he's gone.
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Old 01-11-2014, 01:15 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Sadly, your description sounds like he is gone. I'm sorry for your loss.
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Old 01-11-2014, 01:17 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I'm so sorry for your loss.
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Old 01-11-2014, 01:28 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Lessons learned and we will be getting another.

I can't help but go over the sequence of events and I knew that Hedgehogs needed to be kept in the low seventies, and that's usually where we keep the house. But when we got hit with the cold snap, there just wasn't enough furnace capacity and I did not make the connection at the time that "oh, wow, this is bad for the hedgehog."

And that error on my part is probably why I'm more stressed about this than my daughter is. (Kids are resiliant. She cried. She wrote a little memorial. She drew a tribute art piece. And now she's coping with the loss quite well.)

We will be getting another. I'm loathe to use the word "replacement". One can never replace something you've loved in that space in your heart, but something new can make it's own place. This time we'll be better prepared. I've got the ceramic heating element (and I can feel pretty confident that the maybe half hour I would have saved by coming straight home from work rather than stopping at the pet store) and a thermometer to keep in the cage.

Live does go on.
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Old 01-11-2014, 08:56 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm sorry for your loss. I hope you enjoy having a new hedgie friend to play with, though.

Don't forget that you need a thermostat to go with the CHE bulb (sorry if you did, just didn't see it mentioned). The thermostat is what will keep the temperature of hedgie's cage constant. Otherwise if the temperature drops down again & you're relying on the bulb just being a certain distance from the cage, it can't adjust to cope with the cooler room temperature and the cage temperature will still drop as well.
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