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Old 08-03-2013, 12:55 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Red, swollen skin (been to vet); any similar issues?

Last night when I came home from work, I took Minnie out and saw the top of her head, all around her ears, and along her quill/belly line looking very red and irritated. I turned her over and her belly had patches of red and looked swollen; her eyes were puffed up and it looked like she had a double chin because that area had swelled up. I scanned through the quills along her back and there were a few other red patches.
The reaction had to occur within 24 hours, so I panicked and took her to an emergency vet because she looked so uncomfortable. They did not give a definitive diagnosis, but the record I took home says "Suspected mites and secondary bacterial infection." She has been losing quills, but she is 12 months old and possibly going through her second phase of quilling? I keep all the quills I find to keep track of how many she is losing, and they all have the bulb at the end. Her skin has not been flaky either.
They treated her accordingly for mites and gave me an antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory medication, and advised to give her children's liquid benadryl (she has had similar episodes where allergies were suspected..cleared up very quickly after injection and reaction was never this severe) and they used Revolution while we were there. They did not do an actual skin scraping to verify.

Has anyone else seen a reaction like this to mites? Or one so severe in that short period of time? She only seems to be displaying some of the symptoms of mites. I did not care for the vet and will not go back, but I want to trust her judgment enough to know what is wrong with Minnie. I took her around 7:00PM last night, and I just recently checked her; the skin over forehead is definitely less red, but she is still very swollen.
I gave her the benadryl before going to sleep last night so she could get her extra rest. She had thrown up on the way home last night, which I'm assuming was a combination of stress and nausea from the long car ride (called vet just in case), and wanted her to take it easy. She did eat some around 1AM and 7AM, but mostly slept in between. I know her schedule has to be out of whack and she did not run on her wheel for very long.
Whew. I think that's everything. I would just like opinions from seasoned hedgie owners!

Minnie <3
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Old 08-03-2013, 03:14 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Scary! It sounds more like an allergic reaction than mites. I've never heard of mites acting so quickly and severely like that. Has anything in her environment (either in her cage or just in the air, like perfume, dust, smoke, etc.) changed at all in the past 48 hours? Was this totally out of the blue, or did you notice a little redness maybe the day before?

If she's inflamed and swelling, my biggest concern is that her airway could close off, or her throat could close preventing her from eating or drinking. Did the Benadryl help? Can you post pictures?

I'd take her back to a vet and request a skin scraping, and maybe even take a stool sample to test for bacteria and parasites. Keep us updated.
Hedgie Mommy to little Piglet
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Old 08-03-2013, 03:57 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Yes mites can come on fast, especially if the hedgehog has a compromised immune system such as a recent illness or after a stressful even. It sounds more like allergy or perhaps she does have mites and is allergic to them.

You say she's had reactions like this before on not as severe. Have you given her something different to eat, or a different treat prior to these episodes? What about a different laundry detergent, or anything you use that's different. It would be a good idea to chart everything you give her and what detergents you use etc so if she continues to have these episodes, you can see if there is some trigger.
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Old 08-03-2013, 08:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thank you both for the advice! Nothing has changed in her environment very recently, that's what worried me about her reaction being so severe. She is definitely improving though; that swelling on her belly and chin has noticeably gone down since I last posted. I'm not sure if that's due to the benadryl or the anti-inflammatory meds, but one (or both) seems to be working.
We did find a stray kitten two and a half weeks ago, and after taking her to the vet yesterday morning, we discovered she's got a whole slew of problems (fleas, ear mites, upper respiratory infection). Minnie has been near her a couple times, but she hasn't been in contact with her since Monday. I also switched her food from Iams to Natural Balance 2-3 weeks ago, but haven't noticed any type of reaction to that. Those are the only things I can think of that have changed somewhat recently.
Her reaction definitely seems to be due to some kind of allergy, but since I'm not sure what is causing it, I can't remove it from her environment. So frustrating!
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Old 08-03-2013, 09:04 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I don't have the experience to do any form of diagnoses, and I wish you luck figuring this out.

But, I have been faced with the task of identifying mysterious allergens before, a process that could be applied to hedgehogs. Allergy reaction can be immediate (and thus pretty easy to identify), or slower-onset (thus really miserably-difficult to identify), so you create a super-controlled situation, and very carefully vary one thing, wait, vary a different thing, wait, etc. In humans, it's usually eliminating things slowly a week at a time, getting down to minimum, then adding things back in a week at a time. I don't know what timescale is appropriate for hedgehogs, but people seem to do food-changes a week at at time so that might be a good guideline?

In this case, this is all the possible factors I can think of:
- interaction with other animals
- interaction with humans (soaps, lotions, laundry detergents, fabric types)
- environmental allergens (pollen, smoke, cleaning chemical, perfume, dust, cooking aromas, blah in the air. Remember that if you can see or smell it, at least trace amounts of something are present.)
- bedding -- if fabric, then laundry detergent (a typical "prescription" for humans with eczema is to wash clothing with a white-vinegar rise to deactivate any lingering detergent)
- food (including treats, bugs)
- water (do you use unfiltered tapwater? the makeup can change seasonally and be within regulatory limits)
- toys (funky fibres on a stuffy, strange chemical getting licked off a plastic toy...)
- cage material (metal, plastic, wood, whatever coating, whatever base material)
- anything during out-of-the-cage playtime (carpet dust, cat toys with saliva, cleaning residues...)
- bathtime/footbath exposures (soaps, oatmeals, water, container material, towel with any residues...)
- medications
- food & water dishes (pet-grade materials might not meet human-food-safety standards? no idea. Paint, plastic reacting over time...)

I can't see her being allergic to heat or light, so that probably doesn't need to go on the list. Can anyone think of other things a hedgehog could be exposed to?

If you can hyper-control those as much as possible (move hedgehog enclosure to a room no animals are permitted in, use filtered or bottled water, limit or eliminate treats for a while, wash hands before playtime (the vinegar-rinse works for cutting soap residue on humans, too, but you'll need to wait 10min after rinse for the smell to fade, etc), you might be able to figure out what is going on? Keep in mind that it can be several things at once (like a human having a gluten AND nut allergy).

Last edited by Annie&Tibbers; 08-03-2013 at 09:09 PM.
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Old 08-03-2013, 09:16 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I am so glad Minnie is feeling better. She is such a pretty little girl!
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