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Secondary liver disease. Frustrated!

3191 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  Nancy
Hi everyone. I am very frustrated with my hedgehog, Annabelle. She will be turning a year old on May 1, but I feel like I am failing as an owner. :(

A little background (sorry if it's long):

I acquired Annabelle from a breeder last summer. I had done a lot of research prior to that and knew that I really wanted/would be able to care for a hedgehog. The food mix she came with from the breeder was a combo of Blue Buffalo and several Purina foods. I asked about the Purina, but the breeder assured me that she'd been feeding it from the beginning and that she'd never had a problem with it, so I decided to continue feeding it to her since that's what she was used to.

From the start, Annabelle was a picky eater. I tried adding Chicken Soup Lite to her food, but she wouldn't touch it. Eventually she stopped eating everything in the mix except for the Kitten formula. To this day, that's all she will eat. In the fall, I noticed that she was eating less and had stopped pooping. I thought that maybe she was constipated, so I brought her to the vet. The vet I use is known in the area as an exotic specialist, and sees a lot of hedgehogs, so I felt comfortable using her.

Anyway, the vet performed the same sort of exam that she had for Annabelle's baby check-up. Then she turned her over and noted that her belly was jaundiced. I felt horrible, but I hadn't noticed the yellow color before. She decided to keep Annabelle for a few hours to run some tests. Nearly $300 later, Annabelle was diagnosed with secondary liver disease. The vet explained that since Annabelle had gone off her food, toxins had built up in her liver and caused the jaundice/lack of energy. She prescribed medicine (which was a pain in the butt to administer orally!) and told me that secondary liver disease is common in hedgehogs and that some seem to live with it indefinitely. She also told me that Annabelle's kidneys appeared abnormal on ultrasound, and that she might have a congenital defect.

In February, Annabelle went off her food again and was very yellow, almost orange. I brought her to the vet again and she was diagnosed with a possible UTI; the vet theorized that the discomfort from the UTI had caused her to go off her food, and then the liver disease flared up as a result. She got put back on medicine and her color seemed to clear up a bit.

SO, that brings me to last night.

I decided to give Annabelle a bath because I noticed that the fur on her belly was a bit yellow, probably from urine. The yellow color washed off with the shampoo, but as I was parting the fur to make sure I'd gotten all then soap out, I noticed that she was yellow again.

I'm just frustrated because it seems like no matter what I do, she's still yellow! I cannot get her to eat any other food, so she is stuck on the Purina Kitten Chow. She has a healthy appetite and runs all night on her wheel, but I wish I could do something about her color. I did all the research I possibly could before getting a hedgehog, and I still feel like I've failed her in some way. It's a terrible feeling. :(

Has anyone dealt with secondary liver disease in their hedgehogs before? The vet assured me that it's common and from the reading I've done, it seems to be a different ailment than fatty liver disease. She said that liver problems are common in hedgies and that it's just something we'll have to deal with, but I hate seeing Annabelle all yellow; it makes me think that she's doing poorly.

Thanks everyone. I guess I mainly needed to vent. None of my friends really understand what I'm going through; they think that because Annabelle isn't a dog or cat, she's not worth all the time/energy/money I've spent trying to figure out her problems. But she's my responsibility, and I'm not just going to let her suffer is something can be done to help her. Maybe there's a treatment option I haven't found out about yet? Thanks again for reading all of this. :)
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Hedgehogs can develop liver problems if they go off their food but I always thought it was FLD. I never heard of anything else.

Is she overweight? FLD happens more often if the hedgehog is overweight but can happen with any if they go off their food.

Some of them can be incredibly fussy about their food and getting them off a kitten food can be difficult. What you can do is go up in steps. Get the same food only the regular version rather than the kitten. Powder a few of the regular kibbles and coat the kitten food with it. After she has eaten it for 5ish days, powder some of the kitten and coat the regular. Give her a half and half mix of kitten with the regular powder and regular with the kitten powder. Hopefully, she will eat both the regular and the kitten.

Leaving some of the whole kibble in a baggie with some of the powder from the other version will help mingle the tastes. If you can get her onto the regular, then after a few weeks you can start working on going from regular to lite. This won't be a quick process and they can be stubborn. It is especially difficult when they choose not to eat rather than eat the food you are trying to get them onto.

If some of the yellow colour is washing off, perhaps her skin is getting stained as well. What type of bedding is she on? If shavings of any type, put her on liners. Colour from shavings can stain. Is she getting urine stains from her wheel or does her bedding need to be changed more often? Does she pee in her sleeping area? Is she showing any symptoms other than yellow? Is she eating her normal amount right now?
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Thanks so much for replying, Nancy. :)

Annabelle isn't overweight. Last time the vet weighed her she said she was right where she should be... but I have noticed that she's a bit more petite than most hedgehogs I've seen.

And thank you for the tips regarding switching picky eaters... I never would have thought of that. Hopefully it will be enough to trick her!

I keep Annabelle on pine bedding, which is actually yellow! I have resisted getting liners because I pay to do laundry and I figured it would be too expensive, and she's also not litter trained. But if it will keep her belly from being yellow, I'll do what I have to do!
I'd get her off pine bedding. Even kiln dried pine gives off VOCs that can damage the liver. Yes, I know "dozens of breeders use it with no problems" but years of small mammal-keeping has convinced me that it's contributory to poor health. Switch to liners, Aspen or another chemical-free bedding.
Sorry to hear Annabelle is giving you troubles. I wish you both the best in getting everything solved with her! You are definitely not failing as an owner, quite the opposite. It's fantastic that your vet is knowledgeable and that you are taking her in for these things.
If you buy a few yards of fleece you can make yourself numerous liners. Liners don't have to be washed in a washing machine. You can do them by hand in the sink. Single layers of fleece dry very quickly. Wash in the sink or bathtub and hang over the shower rod to dry.

I would switch her to liners rather than a different type of loose bedding or aspen. Ultimately, liners are the healthiest. Although aspen does not give off the same VOC's that pine does, aspen can be every bit as dusty and I know of many people whose hedgehogs were allergic to aspen. Aspen gives me asthma attacks.

Good luck on the food change. It can be a challenge. :D
Free2Dream said:
I keep Annabelle on pine bedding, which is actually yellow! I have resisted getting liners because I pay to do laundry and I figured it would be too expensive, and she's also not litter trained. But if it will keep her belly from being yellow, I'll do what I have to do!
I pay for my laundry & it really only costs me about $3.00 monthly. I have a number of liners that I change out when dirty, enough to last me about a month. That way when I do a hedgie wash the machine is about 1/2 full too. One thing to note if you're sharing the washing machine/drier, give the liners a once over before going in to remove any stray quills & the machine a once over after the wash.
Thanks for the suggestions, guys. :) I am definitely going to switch to liners. I'm not crafty at ALL, but hopefully measuring and cutting fleece won't prove that difficult, haha. I'll try to post pictures of Annabelle's new digs soon. :)
Wash and dryer dry the fleece before cutting. That will eliminate any shrinkage and the piece will go to shape. Usually the factories press the fabric so it can shift a bit when washed.

Once dry, take your cage and lay it upside down on the fleece and trace the cage. Usually the cage top is slightly bigger than the bottom so it gives you a liner that is just slightly bigger than the base. That is the easiest almost goof proof way to cut straight and the right size. :D
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