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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So a little back story on my hedgehog, Sonic, and his battle of the swelling...

He's about 4-5 months old. Very friendly and typical active level.

A couple weeks ago, his front left leg started swelling. I took him to a vet who found nothing was broken since Sonic was still walking and using his exercise wheel and was otherwise fine (no attitude changes either). Sonic was given antibiotics for a week and had his exercise wheel removed. During the wheels' absence, he would climb the walls of his cage I guess from boredom even though he had toys to play with. Nothing with the leg changed.

I called the vet again about it and he said that he didn't want to over do the antibiotics on Sonic because it could start having some negative side effects since hedgehogs are so little. He said to just let it go on and watch it for any signs of getting worse, also could have the wheel back in his cage.

Two days ago I thought I saw his back right leg starting to swell but wasn't sure. Last night when I check on him, it was definitely swollen and now his front leg swelling has gotten worse. He was still walking around although it seems like he was starting to slow down (I can only imagine how painful it is to have two limbs swollen, with the one now three times normal size).

I called the vet this morning (they were closed when I made my discovery). They're going to have Sonic on a new kind of antibiotic but I can't pick it up until tomorrow. This morning, my boyfriend's father told me that he saw Sonic running on his exercise wheel last night (boyfriend's father is up during the night while boyfriend and I are sleeping for work). So maybe it's a combo of he is aching but not enough to stop using the wheel and maybe when I saw him, he was taking a break form being on his feet? Hard to say, I wish I had a cam I could set up to watch him.

Sonic is not the first hedgehog I have had with swelling limbs. My first hedgehog, Shadow, had her leg and tail swell up. However, she passed away before the vet could treat her and she was on Aspen bedding.

Are hedgehogs prone to swelling? What is causing this? I have friends and family members trying to help figure this out with theories ranging from the wheel (which has mesh for the surface the hedgehog runs on and Sonic's wheel is the same one I used with previous hedgehogs with no problem) to food allergies.

I checked him to be sure hair wasn't stuck on him but I could not find anything. He used to be on Carefresh bedding but he has been switched to towels (boyfriend has allergies) where I lay two bath towels on top of each other in his cage. I checked again for any possibility of threads wrapping around his legs but find nothing. The vet hasn't found anything wrapping around his limbs either and seems to be at a loss for the cause.

I really worry that it will get to the point of having to do amputations (which would leave him to be stuck being immobile, which is currently my 6.5 yr-old's fate [her name is Willow], she can't walk at all and she has all her limbs) or putting him down. He's sooooo young! And I feel bad that I can't find the source of all this in order to make it stop.

Anyone experienced this mysterious phenomenon and was able to find a solution?
 

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Can you post pictures of the swelled legs? Are they discolored at all, or just swelled? Does he react in any way if you squeeze them? Do they feel squishy (like they're swelled with fluid) or like normal legs that just happen to be three times thicker?

Did the vet do any kind of tests at all for the first visit, before he gave the antibiotics? Or are the antibiotics just kind of a "Toss this at the problem & see if it improves"? It seems like some testing may be helpful for narrowing down the options, but I don't have a ton of medical/health experience with hedgehogs, so I'm not sure exactly what would be helpful. The usual things are typically bloodwork, and perhaps x-rays or other types of scans to see if the legs look normal internally or if anything else becomes apparent. Hopefully Nancy or Kalandra will be by with some advice - they're the two most experienced ones I know on here with health issues.

All of that said...I'd highly recommend changing your wheel. Mesh surfaces are not good for hedgehogs, and though you haven't had a problem yet, it's possible for them to catch nails or toes while running and injure themselves. Typically a solid-surface wheel is the best option to make sure they stay safe. Store-bought wheels are Flying Saucers or Comfort Wheels (NOT Silent Spinners - they have slits that also catch nails/toes), or the best & most-preferred wheels are bucket wheels or cake cover wheels, which can be bought online (for about the same cost - $20 from some sellers) or made yourself. Those wheels are easy to clean & usually pretty silent.

Hopefully we can all get this figured out for your little guy...poor baby, this sounds like it must be pretty uncomfortable!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Interesting - so even the mesh wheels can cause injury? I'm surprised at this. I had hedgehogs for 12 years with no issue with the mesh wheel. I wonder then if this is happening because of the wheel, like my boyfriend is theorizing. The back leg did start swelling a few days after I put the wheel back in his cage you may have something there. I'll look into getting back into bucket wheels then because if the mesh wheel is hurting Sonic, I want it stopped and I certainly don't want future hedgies to get hurt.

The vet didn't do any testing really other than examination. He said that because Sonic was walking around normally that it wasn't broken so it was an infection. But because we had no idea what caused it, it was hard to say really precisely what was going on. So then he prescribed the antibiotic and felt it would take care of it. Sonic was on it for 7 days. Sonic didn't like it one bit so I gave him a couple treats afterwards so he could feel better and "wash out" the bitter taste.

I haven't tried squeezing the leg, usually he pulls away or balls up if I do touch his limbs (even before the swelling). I'll try to get some photos tonight after i get home from work - visuals do help. Where the equivalent to an elbow is on his front leg, it looks like a round bulge was there on top of the swelling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Ok, I got some photos, not sure how well you can tell by them, Sonic was being awfully squirmy. The black you see on his feet is just poop - I hadn't given him a foot bath yet. Hopefully I cna get these photos to show, my first time doing this.

I was able to get out of work early so I managed to get his medicine today. It's in the fridge. He gets two doses per day (every 12 hours). He already got one today.

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Ouch...that definitely looks uncomfortable, poor guy! :(

Like I said, try to (gently) feel his legs & see if they're squishy-feeling, feel firm, etc. Basically, if it feels like the swelling is fluid or if it's more solid. There'll be different ideas/suggestions for what might be wrong depending on what the legs are actually swelling with/from.

It seems like it might be useful to see if the vet can get a sample from the swelled legs - either of tissue (maybe?), or if they seem to be swelled with fluid, take a sample of the fluid. It seems like he was just taking a shot in the dark to prescribe antibiotics and more testing would be a good idea to try & narrow down the possibilities of what it might be.

That all said, maybe Nancy will have some other suggestions! If she contradicts me, listen to her. :)
 

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The vet should do a fine needle biopsy and see what is there.

I took in a little guy many years ago with knees that looked like that. I knew the history of the hedgehog and the swollen knees started around 5-6 months old. My memory escapes me and I've forgotten what the diagnoses was but have written his new owners to see if they remember.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Nancy, if you hear back what it was, please do let me know. So yours had the same thing at roughly the same age? Did it get corrected?

The new med Sonic is on is amoxicillin. He was very grumpy this morning, balled up and hissing. After several minutes he finally unrolled and with some squirming around, finally got him to take his medicine.

My diabetic cat, Scamp, thought Sonic was getting something good and wanted his medicine.

Right now I have Sonic in bed with me as I'm working from home today. He just finished his breakfast.

Because of how he was behaving, I was worried that his legs got worse since yesterday but I don't notice any changes. He seems to have calmed down now at least.
 

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You may want to also ask your vet about prescribing some metacam. Its an anti-inflammatory pain medication. It wouldn't need to be much, but even one dose for a couple of days may help give him some relief until the antibiotics really start to work (assuming they are going to of course).
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
So here is the latest update:

The vet is hesitant for doing a biopsy, since it would require cutting away a section and his leg is pretty small.

The front of Sonic's leg, nearby where the "wrist" would be abouts, the skin is starting to peel. I'm guessing because the skin is having trouble coping with the swelling. The vet has told me to put preparation H on it once a day. And to use the regular one, not any of those with extra stuff in it so it doesn't hurt him.

Sonic is still eating and drinking and still wants to move around (I know if he had access to a wheel, he'd run on it and would also be climbing the walls of his cage if I hadn't moved him to a cat carrier to help restrict activity in case that agitates things).

Vet has expressed that he is at a loss at this point. The both of us feel that it isn't a tumour for sure (I had a hedgehog in the past who had a tumour) as this is behaving very differently.

Sonic is still taking his amoxicillin meds and there's quite a few days left of it.

*sigh* I don't know what to do for him. :( I wish I could just make all these swellings go away and have him go on as a normal hedgie.
 

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I'm not sure if it affects hedgies, but an edema is, very basically, an accumulation of fluid in the tissues, and the limbs are commonly affected by it.

Has the vet determined whether there's fluid in his legs and if so, has he tested the fluid? If he hasn't done anything other than a physical observation of Sonic, personally I'd push for a fluid test or biopsy. But perhaps Nancy or Kalandra can weigh in on that.
 

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The vet can do a fine needle biopsy simply by inserting a needle into the swollen area and drawing off some fluid to test.

I have not heard from the owners of the hedgehog I mentioned and I don't remember details but I believe it was considered something hereditary and hedgie lived a normal lifespan with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Maybe it is an Edema? If it were an infection, it would have responded to the antibiotics by now I would think. If anything was broken, it would be just the one leg affected and he would be limping or walking funny. Any time I turn my back on him, he takes the opportunity to zoom off so he's not slowed down by it.

The vet is having me call him again today about Sonic so I'm going to try again for a biopsy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
So I was finally able to talk to the vet today again and from what he said, he's pretty much labeling this case as "mystery." He said that for it to be an edema, it would be effecting all of the legs but there's only two that have swelled. He has said that since the limbs have not gotten worse, and he's had enough antibiotics to kill all possible infection, as well as not being slowed down by the swelling, then we should just keep going like normal pretty much.
 
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