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This may be too late to be useful, but watermelon is another great thing for hydration. Many hedgehogs like it because of the sweetness, but it's got a ton of water in it. I'm not sure how well a hedgehog would go for lettuce/cucumber, so watermelon (other melons can work too) may be a better bet, especially if he's a picky eater.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
I was thinking the same thing!

I'm appreciating how the vet keeps checking in with me, but I get the feeling he hasn't tried to feed hedgehogs before. Mine is so picky, I can't imagine him actually eating lettuce; he's previously sneered at kale and spinach. I am wishing my Doctor Dolittle of a father would come to visit; little hedgehog will eat ANYTHING he offers.

It's 45 minutes until little hedgehog gets stolen for cuddles, and probably 1.5 hours before he starts to eat, so we'll find out later.

I took advantage of the co-keeper being out for the evening to install a curtain rod and some blackout-curtains separating little hedgehog from us brightly-lit humans. Considering our multi-week argument over lighting that ended with me threatening co-keeper with a fork, I'm fairly certain the curtains will be met with protests and disbelief. Luckily, co-keeper has a temporarily-injured back and isn't allowed to go climbing on ladders and lifting weights to disassemble the setup, so bwahahaha, I win! Historically, little hedgehog has been just fine wandering around in the perpetual twilight compromise lighting we've had going on, but I've always wanted to give him better full-dark at night.
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
Normal-looking poop (1/2 usual volume), normal-looking pee (usual volume), on schedule for his usual self-wake-up. Ate kibble happily. Accepted his 0.02mL dose of painkillers unhappily and with bribery, with the last bit smeared on a mealworm. :/ Zero luck with even curiously sniffing any offered fruits or vegetables tonight, but they'll spend the night in his cage with him.
 

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Poor little hedgehog! I hope he'll get better soon.

I wonder if they get these stones because of the cat food... I don't think it's that good for them, since lots of cats get those problems as well from kibble.
My previous hedgehog had bladder stones, his urinary tract was blocked and he couldn't pee anymore; nothing changed in his behaviour until that day (and I never saw anything wrong with his pee). I took him to the vet who helped him but unfortunately he passed away unexpectedly a couple of hours later when we were already home... he most likely had a reaction to the sedation. I wonder what exactly causes these crystals/stones, I'm kinda paranoid about it with my current hedgehog since there aren't many suitable brands to choose from in my country and I'm afraid he'd might get it as well if I'm feeding him the same food.
 

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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Right now little hedgehog is running so heartbreakingly slowly. I'm glad he's at least using his wheel, but it's like a world-class marathoner suddenly reduced to crawling. By this time last month, he was almost at 100km. This month, he's at 34km.

I'm less and less convinced it's a urinary problem in this particular instance.

But the main thing I've learned about stones is that it requires:
1. a hedgehog who is prone to forming stones; AND
2. inappropriate diet (mineral unbalance)
Either one alone will not result in stones; both need to be there.

As for what "inappropriate diet" for a hedgehog is... who knows? The research doesn't exist, and cat kibble is an easy default when you don't really know what else to do. I've been concerned over how hard kibble is, and how much little hedgehog needs to work to eat it, but attempts to introduce anything else in as a diet-staple have thus far failed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
I will be so happy on the day I can stop updating this log.

Last night, little hedgehog did the same clunka-clunka-clunk slow walk on his wheel. He covered 100m in 31 minutes before wiggling the odometer & wheel out of alignment.From listening, it sounds like he wheeled about 2 hours.

Food & water continue as normal:
water (drink + evaporation): 20g
cranberry (diluted this time; drink + evaporation): 8g
normal kibble: 5g
diet kibble: 1 piece
For treats, he ate one mealworm & one mealworm beetle (coated in the last drop of painkiller he otherwise refused), and consented to try a tiny bit of mango (less than the volume of half a small mealworm). All other offerings were rejected.

He gifted me with more waste products sometime in the night. They look normal, but again, he's one poop short of what I expect.

Cutting the painkiller dose in half (from 0.04mL to 0.02mL) had no observable impact. I'm wondering if his slow walk is from being in pain, or from being groggy-disoriented off the painkillers. Tonight, we'll experiment with not giving him any and see if he continues to be active.

Tiny friend, I wish you could just tell me what is wrong, if anything is wrong, if you're already better & my intervention is making you feel worse.
 

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I've been avoiding posting on HC recently, but have been following your situation closely. I don't know that they will be helpful to your situation, but here are some thoughts that I've had during this thread. While reading your observations, Sophie's blood-in-urine / cystitis / dehydration issues (now possibly 'cured') have come to mind several times. She never had 'crystals' or stones, but I see possible similarities or related issues.

The question of how healthy a kibble diet is did come up with us, but the vet never came close to making the large leap that turned out to be required for Sophie to show signs of improvement. We did that on our own, somewhat accidentally. I have since found that there are many qualified people (vets) that are strongly opposed to dry food diets in cats and other small mammals.

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urine crystals on his wheel
Sophie's urine was always what I considered to be 'light yellow'. 'Crystals' were never an issue for her. However, since completely changing her diet and removing all dry kibble and significantly increasing hydration of food, it seems that her urine should be much lighter than what I had previously considered to be light. Looking back, it was a much stronger yellow (almost electric) than I had realized.

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it's a major problem for cats
Dr. Pierson's website, which I did not find until after 'solving' Sophie's issues was a very important discovery. Really eye-opening and also helped to target my information searches and learn much more about this.

http://www.catinfo.org/

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My small friend has previously rejected efforts at wet food
This is a tough one. IF dry food is actually poisoning your animal, as was clearly the case with Sophie, then a transition is required. There are some sites out there that touch on transitioning dry diets to wet, but it may come down to a heavy-handed approach (though not desirable) being required.

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So, part of performing a urine analysis requires collecting a fresh, uncontaminated urine sample.
It isn't something that I have done, but I believe that there are palpation techniques for 'causing' urination and avoiding needle extraction. It is my general understanding that the rate of success is pretty good. There might be a learning curve to the process.

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'Wheel time' has been mentioned. Sophie's wheel time plummeted before she got sick, from over three hours a night, to just under one hour a night. Her wheel time may have dropped anyway, but I am certain that her deteriorating (but not yet visible) condition was a directly related factor. Wheel time since her recovery has improved, up to about 1 1/2 hours. 'Bad nights' of almost no wheeling are down from 3 - 4 nights a week, to about 1 night a week.

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the vet is pushing a insectivore kibble popular with zoos (Mazuri insectivore)
Mazuri was recommended by my vet also. The general feeling on them is that the ingredients are okay (not ideal), but that acceptance by hedgehogs is not good. I spoke with someone at Mazuri and they do not do sample quantities. The big plus for Mazuri is that the food is supposed to be fed highly hydrated - the benefits of which (to me) cannot be overstated. The benefits of the hydration of the food probably outweigh reservations regarding ingredients. It is my understanding that a lot of zoos feed Mazuri. I have wound up developing my own wet-food diet for Sophie, but using ingredients that 'should' be pretty well balanced: (ground kibble / meat baby food or meat canned cat food / vegetable baby food).

An unbalanced 'custom' diet is a dangerous thing - worse the worst quality food. For that reason I have limited our switch to whole foods / raw foods and am using products that I know to be decently balanced as her primary food. Secondary foods are 2 grams of mealworms (about 12) and two freshly thawed pinkies (about 3.5 grams).

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An ultrasound can (but not necessarily) show much greater detail than x-rays. Sophie's x-rays showed nothing out of norm. An ultrasound was recommended. It would have cost about $1,000 after including all of the attendant costs. I declined, in part because of my guesstimate of cost / benefit likelihood.

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skipping the urine analysis, and skipping over any drug side-effects (yay for being an obsessive researcher!) again leave me feeling like I better be a hyper-vigilant advocate on behalf of my quilly friend.
Yes. Yes. And yes. I am very happy with my vet. She cares - a lot. She is fully qualified to look at health issues. However - I am 'on the ground' with day to day experience with hedgehogs in general and with Sophie in particular. There are areas where it is clear to me that I know more than she does. I blend this with her knowledge and experience in health areas where she clearly knows more than I do. There are things where neither of us knows what is right or best - that's just a fact. I've been lucky that we respect each other.

Problem relationships arise where: A) The vet seems to think that they 'know all'. B) Owners believe that they 'know best'. Situation A or B is bad for the animal. Put both together and the animal has no chance.

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Has the vet not done a urinalysis? If not, what is the reasoning not to? The urinalysis will show crystals, bacteria, infection, blood etc. If I remember correctly, the urinalysis will also show what type of stones are developing. As they pass a stone, it irritates the urinary tract usually causing bleeding and often starts an infection which could be treated in it's early stages rather than waiting until there is blood showing.
Yeah, seems pretty important to me too. Give me data. If nothing out of norm is found, okay, but give me data points with date stamps to put in the record.

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Of course, the question then is do I go to the first vet, who is nearby & I had to argue with for mite-treatment, or the second vet, who I went to yesterday, gave me instructions he later revoked, and I argued with about food?
It might be worthwhile to organize the most salient points of the chronological record and get a consultation with a hedgehog specialist. They might work with you directly, or they might (because they will not actually be seeing the animal) require that the consultation come through your local vet (as sort of an official 'referral consultation'). My vet has been exceptionally open to my presenting her with Sophie's situation via email.

It helps tremendously that I am a professional person, capable of organizing and prioritizing communication. This has allowed me to be extraordinarily thorough - and has provided her with more information in one thread of emails than she could gather in a year's worth of visits expensive and time wasting visits. We have an understanding that if I were to ask more from her by email than is reasonable as a 'normal course of consultation' - that she will bill a consultation fee for her extra time and that I will be happy to pay that fee.

This 'remote consultation' is perfectly reasonable and bypasses (in part or possibly entirely) the vet that you 'have' to use but are rightfully disappointed with. You should be able to find a path to corresponding directly with a hedgehog specialist. Even if that correspondence was facilitated by your local vet - you would have copies of everything. You would be presenting observations in the way that you want them presented. You would be asking the questions the you want asked in the way that you want them asked. You would gain the benefit a written, detailed response. This isolates (if needed) your local vet to something of a non-interfering observer and ensures direct access to, and response from, the expert.

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I like white or light coloured wheels. Dark wheels are good at camouflaging any blood or off coloured urine or feces. With a dark wheel, your little guy might have had a blood tint that you were unable to see.
Agree with the light colored wheel. Much more important for us is the addition of a white layer of fleece over her litter pad. It gives me a really good look at pee quantity and coloration. They urine passes through the layer but leaves a really good view of what the quantity was and coloration.

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Little hedgehog ran for about 2 hours last night in his slow, "something is wrong" gait that is only slightly faster than a walk, but he did run!
Sophie's running has yet to fully recover. Perhaps a consequence of her illness; perhaps a natural change in behavior; perhaps a combination of both - no way to know. Her average speed used to be 1.8 - 1.9 mph. That dropped to 1.3 mph, a huge drop percentage-wise. However, I have found (with the help of our 'data port') that she is in fact averaging about 1.55 mph for the first 95% of her runs. I am able to monitor in real time and discovered that on an hour-and-a-half run (for example), she is holding at 1.55 mph average speed until about the last 10 - 15 minutes. When the run is over, the cyclometer shows an average speed of barely more than 1.3 mph. I was certainly pleased to discover that this number is a deceptive one. It is clear that the last 10 or 15 minutes of wheel time is REALLY slow and throwing off the true average.

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I didn't have a chance to tell him that we've already been skipping the morning dose, on the premise that if little hedgehog is sound asleep, waking him up to give him painkillers so he can sleep seems counter-productive.
I had to get Sophie up early in the morning for two weeks for her medications. It was just something we did - took only a couple of minutes - and she was back asleep in no time. She tolerated it very well. (Especially after we both got better with scruffing and dosing.)

Accepted his 0.02mL dose of painkillers unhappily and with bribery, with the last bit smeared on a mealworm.
Once you both get used to it, scruffing and dosing goes pretty easily and is the best way to dispense a complete dose with surety.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgSVUG4y2lWjMyBAKYNbFBaRQgjkEFCE7

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and how much little hedgehog needs to work to eat it, but attempts to introduce anything else in as a diet-staple have thus far failed.
At this point I would strongly consider forcing the issue. I didn't want to 'starve' Sophie into a behavior change, and was able to introduce major changes in increments, but you might not be able to do that. She was always happy to have the meat baby foods or canned meat cat foods, so I was able to use those to introduce other things. For example, I can grind kibble to dust and mix it with her wet food. I was also able to use this as a way to add baby food veggies. She always hate, hate, hated veggies, but I was able to add it in small amounts and then shift her blend over time (which didn't take all that long really).

One thing I did was give her some, but not nearly enough, of her preferred food. This ensured that she was eating at least something, but left her hungry enough that she 'had' to eat what she didn't like very much. That doesn't always work, and she went a bit hungry for a few nights, then decided it was okay to fill up on the non-preferred food.

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For one diet shift, I started her with 8 grams of meat based wet-food, with 2 grams of veggies. Currently, her blend is 4 grams of meat with 10 grams of veggies. Wow! Veggies are the dominant taste now and she is eating fine.

Actually, I really don't like the veggies being so high, but am using them as healthy but low energy filler. After her cystitis was cured, she began eating A LOT - packing on over 100 grams in a very short period of time. She isn't overweight (keeping weight on had always been the problem), but I was carefully managing her food to level off the rate of gain. Because she is eating so much more, the veggies have been needed to give her volume while limiting calories.

She bottomed at 290 grams, and was at about 330 grams when she saw the vet. After her bleeding stopped, that was when she really began to take off on eating and weight gain:

89 weeks: 416 grams (14.67 ounces) (+20) (+5.05%)
88 weeks: 396 grams (13.97 ounces) (+4) (+1.02%)
87 weeks: 392 grams (13.83 ounces) (+14) (+3.70%)
86 weeks: 378 grams (13.33 ounces) (+12) (+3.28%)

Egad! Those were some big gains. Current weight: 427 grams and looking pretty good I think. (She has a 'loose skin fold' under her chin, but I can't decide now if that has always been there or not.)

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water (drink + evaporation): 20g
I am using a graduated cylinder (a plastic one from a laboratory supply house) to measure water, so do not have any way to reference weight. When Sophie was a baby she drank like a fish, 60 ml per night. At her bottom, bleeding and slightly dehydrated, she was drinking 11 - 14 ml per night - despite having plenty of fresh water available at all times. AFTER switching her to a highly hydrated diet (no dry kibble at all), water consumption slowly began to increase. She is currently drinking 20 - 30 ml per night - on a highly hydrated diet. This is very interesting to me (though I am not qualified to know what to make of it).
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
G&P: thank you. It's a weird feeling to want to induce a diet-change, but not wanting the change to create more strange behaviours and be unable to sort out what is caused by the foods vs what was already wrong vs what is caused by the medications vs... too many things at once! Makes for sloppy data.

For future reference, water's specific gravity is by definition 1 g = 1 mL = 1 cm3. I don't like that I can't determine drinking vs evaporation, but I think he's avoiding the cranberry (no tiny crumbs in it), so I think that means I'm losing ~5g/night to evaporation, so he's drinking 15g...
 

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G&P: thank you. It's a weird feeling to want to induce a diet-change, but not wanting the change to create more strange behaviours and be unable to sort out what is caused by the foods vs what was already wrong vs what is caused by the medications vs... too many things at once! Makes for sloppy data.
Diet came up in conversation with our vet. It was much more a part of general husbandry rather than specific to possibly helping Sophie. We even discussed that the literature / teaching these days indicates a strong connection between dry kibble and kidney issues. The Mazuri was suggested in part because it is intended to be well moistened.

The results of her several tests showed only one marker out of norm. She tested as slightly dehydrated. This didn't especially surprise me because I was already concerned with how little she was drinking.

Specific to her condition, still tentatively diagnosed as 'likely cystitis, aggravated by dehydration', the vet recommended "moistening" her kibble as much as possible. She did not come back to the Mazuri recommendation (or other options) - even after I indicated that I was highly dubious about the success of moistening kibble.

This is where we both missed what was right in front of us as possible courses of action that should be pursued somewhat vigorously. She did not press - at all - that forcing hydrated feeding might be valuable and important. "Try to moisten kibble" was as far the directive went. Possibly, because I had expressed doubt, and clearly was very much on top of things with Sophie, she gave my opinion too much weight and did not press the hydration discussion as much for that reason.

It might also have been a time factor. She was very generous with her time with Sophie. In ideal conditions, more time might have made a difference. Sophie got far more vet time than what my doctor gives me. I don't think it is a stretch to say that pets often get more direct and more personal care than people do. Sophie got more time and attention than my doctor has given me - ever.

In our earlier husbandry discussion she highly recommended feeding vegetables and
I expressed extreme doubt that anything could be done there. I had made several serious attempts to offer vegetables, with zero success.

Even more of a blind spot for me, and something that the vet did not pick up on - I had already been giving Sophie chicken and turkey baby foods as 'treats' with great success. She loved them. I think that because everybody says to feed 'kibble', 'kibble', 'kibble' - like a drumbeat - that I just zoned out, for a long time, seeing the opportunities that the baby food offered.

Two or three weeks later, Sophie started gaining weight, despite being even sicker than before (still more blood and fresher blood in urine). I was having a terrible time finding kibbles that were lower in fat that what I was feeding and mistakenly thought that canned cat foods were lower in fat / protein. (I have since learned that they are actually higher!) She was certainly gaining the weight as a result of running so very little; it was dropping to near zero several days a week. She was dying.

In the course of my adjustments, she was getting an allowance of wet food every night - not a lot - but just enough that I started wondering to myself if there was less blood in her urine. I made no additional changes at first, then thought, "Yes, there is less blood in her urine." I immediately ramped up that part of her diet, restricted kibble, and saw clear improvement in only a week or so. At that point I removed all dry kibble and went to a 100% wet-food / natural-food diet (slow changes be damned).

Dramatic improvement followed over the next couple of weeks. It took quite a few weeks for blood-in-urine to disappear completely, but it finally did.

I'm not certain that she is 100% and think (hope) that she is still recovering her activity level. Even after the bleeding ceased completely, her wheel time was awful. It took several more weeks before her wheeling bounced back some. Whether she will continue to improve or whether this is her new normal remains to be seen.

She gets 1.5 grams of kibble ground into each entree dish (usually three per night). I am hopeful that is enough to ensure a proper amount and balance of nutrients, though can only guess. So far no one has a clue whether that amount of kibble is enough to ensure that she's getting enough of all needed nutrients.

Moistened kibble, no matter how light - total failure. Simply refused it. Kibble ground and snuck into her wet-food blend - total sucess.

.
 

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Discussion Starter · #31 ·
Food & water continue as normal:
water (drink + evaporation): 14g
normal kibble: 6g
diet kibble: 0 pieces
applesauce: 0g
baby lettuce: 2 full leaves, 2 half leaves (!!!!)
chicken (unseasoned, roast): roughly 1 cm3
pear: 0g
mango: 0g
No other treats.

We skipped the painkiller last night. He ran on his wheel at the normal pace and style (I feel like such a stalker, sitting outside his blackout curtain listening to him wheel!), but only for 10 minutes. For the first time ever, he took his belled catball into his tunnels, and played with it (evidenced by listening to the bell).

Peed & pooped, but I only got to observe it once it was dried-out, not fresh, so I can't really evaluate subtleties of quality.

Fecal & urine samples go to the vet in a few hours.

I hate how ambiguous this all is. My only undeniable symptom is "He's not running as much." Even when he's out with us, his activity level seems fine, scampering and exploring, awake and alert.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Conclusion: This is the worst-named thread in a totally inappropriate section of the health board.

Today's vet visit shows a clear urine analysis and fecal analysis from in-house examination. With nothing on xray, nothing in the urine analysis, nothing in urine analysis, I'm going to declare my initial "I found a crystal!" inaccurate and a lesson in always get a second pair of eyes and photograph anything weird for later reference.

The vet looked over small friend's xrays with another exotics specialist, and they noticed a few small dots of mineralization along the base of his spine. This could be akin to what happens in some cats (another creature with a very flexible spine), but that is really rare in young animals (like my 9-month-old hedgehog), and neither of them had ever heard of it in a hedgehog. It also doesn't make sense when his diet isn't all that heavy in calcium or vitamin D (...although the mealworms will no longer be fed kale).

But, he may have just tweaked something during the epic 13-kilometer run that started this whole fiasco. The urine analysis showed normal liver function, so we're going to try a bit of an anti-inflammatory (like the hedgehog equivalent of an aspirin). If he is tweaking his back, that'd be aggravated by his wheel (even though it is a 12" diameter) forcing his back to curl in exactly he wrong direction, impacting the lower spine.

So, we're going to give him a lot more free-play roaming time for the next while, see if he runs around gleefully on flat ground. I'm going to try to source a flying saucer, or see if I can build him something of the horizontal-wheel variety to give him a running surface that doesn't tweak his back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
So far tonight, little hedgehog has climbed his humans, stolen socks, anointed on musical paraphernalia, and sprinted to every favourite dark corner, sniffed happily, then sprinted off to the next one. Apparently Operation "Who needs a wheel when you have an entire apartment to roam?" is successful!

No medication tonight, no way to measure how much distance he's covering in his free-roaming, and, due to a communication mix-up, no starting weights on food & water for tracking, so tomorrow's going to be a low-data day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Final post in this thread:
With zero medication, but free roam of the apartment, little hedgehog is back up to running top-speed for a few hours a night. I can't track the distances, but doing a rough time * speed = 5-10 kilometers a night. He's still at <15 minutes at a slow (but not stumbly) pace on his wheel, split into 2 sessions. (Behaviourally, he seems to return to his wheel to pee if it isn't that far from where he was when the urge strikes.)

Conclusion: this problem had absolutely nothing to do with urine crystals, hibernation, or any of the usual culprits, but has to do with his wheel making him miserable. We use(d) a 12" Comfort Wheel; the best guess is that despite the diameter, he still needs to arch-compress his back a bit to run on the circular surface. I'm trying to source a large enough Flying Saucer, and am prototyping turntable style wheels for my friend to have a flat running surface.
 
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