In our Geoffrey's case, a gradual and steady decline in kibble consumption 4 months prior to his passing was the first sign. Then scratching started, followed by mild but continuous quill loss, occasional vomit, visible fatigue, yellowish skin, bruising, loss of appetite, green urine, and finally immobility.
Geoffrey was a picky eater and never made a success transition from what his breeder had fed him to high-quality low-fat dry cat food. His staple food was always Techni-Cal Precision Adult Formula (approx. 95% of his meals), but he also ate Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul Adult Formula (3%), Wysong Vitality (1%), and occasionally tried various other kibble including Wellness Complete Health Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal & Rice Recipe, Fromm Chicken A La Veg or Fromm Duck A La Veg, Newman's Own Organics Adult Cat Formula, Solid Gold Katz-n-Flocken, Eagle Pack Adult Cat Formula, etc. (1%).
TIME FRAME WHEN THE HEDGEHOG WAS ON THE FOOD:
All his life - from his estimated date of birth (June 6, 2005) till his passing (May 7, 2009).
Live mealworms in all forms (larvae, pupae, and beetles). He LOVED melted ice cream from time to time. G was offered but never ate any fresh fruit, cooked vegetable, canned cat food, baby food, scrambled eggs, steamed salmon, cooked chicken or turkey breast, shrimp, canned or freeze-dried insects, yogurt-covered insects, frozen pinky mice, etc.
G weighed about 300 grams all his adult life. He was an avid wheeler and never was overweight. He lost approx. 30 grams during the last few weeks in his life, but his weight was pretty consistent until then.
AGE WHEN THE SYMPTOMS STARTED:
We really don't know when his liver problem started, but he was 3-1/2 years old when we first noticed his kibble consumption receded.
G was an excellent wheeler and climber. His will to wheel didn't fade until about 3 weeks before his passing. He wheeled 2 to 4 miles every single night until then, even though he wheeled further in his younger age. During the final 3 weeks, he started to wheel less than 1 mile each night and the distance became shorter each night, until he completely stopped wheeling 9 days before he passed away.
ANY EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE LIVER ISSUE:
No. No hibernation attempt or major sickness/injury whatsoever.
TESTS PERFORMED & OUTCOMES:
G was taken to the vet for general examination after we observed a decline in his kibble consumption for 3 weeks and when G started to scratch himself (his quill loss didn't start another 3 or 4 weeks). Both a fecal test for worms and parasite as well as a skin scrape test for mites and fungal infection were conducted. The results were both negative.
MEDS & HERBAL REMEDIES:
We decided to go ahead and apply Revolution without waiting for the test results. The vet probed G's belly thoroughly and found nothing amiss at this point. We discussed to have X-rays and blood work done if G's appetite continued to diminish.
To keep a close eye on him and make sure he would put enough food to ward off Fatty Liver Disease (FLD). G's appetite bounced back somewhat after the vet visit even though he continued to scratch and started to lose one or two quills a day. We treated him with Revolution twice, 4 weeks apart, but his scratching intensified. Vomiting started. The second vet app was arranged for X-rays and blood work. However, the day we took him in, G looked fatigued and weak, so we, together with the vet, opted not to anesthetize him. He was sent home with a bag of Carnivore Care and we were told to "aggressively put more food into" G. Carnivore Care was to boost his calorie count and provide better nutrients for his recovery. At this point, the vet said the biggest fear was G was developing FLD. G was still eating some kibble and mealworm pupae on his own, so we were hopeful. Several days later G discharged green urine. I phoned the vet and I was told to syringe-feed Carnivore Care to him every 4 hours around the clock and try to make him as comfortable as possible. The vet said G was in his palliative care stage, I should cherish every moment I had left with G, and bring him in if he was in pain. Several days later G passed peacefully in his own hedgie bag at home while I worked right next to his cage.
The necropsy found a large tumour in G's spleen and his liver was enlarged and quite friable. The vet felt the direct cause of his death was the liver failure caused by FLD, but it was quite possible that there was originally a tumour in the liver as well. Three months earlier the vet probed G's underbelly and found no enlargement or lump in his spleen or liver, so the vet believed the tumours were very small and undetectable, perhaps even by X-rays at the time - G being a small hedgie wouldn't have been of much help either.
ANYTHING ELSE RELEVANT:
At the time I did not know many liver patients experience intense itchiness. I customarily put G on my chest and gave him a body massage in the evening. During his illness, G melted like butter when I rubbed his ears and face. I realize now that he was suffering from the symptom of liver disease and my rubbing his ears and face somewhat relieved the itchiness. I can't help but to think we could have saved him only if I had known his liver was failing.
All his life G's feces had a green tinge and it never went away. Our vet suggested G had some "underlying issues" with his liver and/or spleen and they became full-fledged problems when G got older for no longer being able to contain the issues under control. This is the only reasonable explanation I could find to date, so I believe his guess to be true.