It's now the middle of winter and so far you have had no problems with keeping your hedgehog warm. But, during playtime tonight, you noticed your hedgehog is not acting well. The symptoms don't really matter at the moment. The fact is, you now need to take your hedgehog to the veterinarian, and its well below freezing outside. How do you keep him warm?
There are many ways in which you may approach this task, and each method may have the same final result (a warm hedgehog). Below are some suggestions and ideas to help you travel safely.
Provide plenty of layers of bedding in the travel carrier. I use a hard sided collapsible carrier to transport my hedgehogs. In this carrier I place several layers of Vellux blankets for them to crawl under, and a cloth bag to snuggle in. These two together will provide a soft, cushioned layer of bedding to help your ailing hedgehog to remain comfortable, and will provide your hedgehog protection from the cold air.
Use an external heat source in the hedgehog's carrier. I like to keep a 'Snuggle Safe Heat Disc' in the carrier so that if the hedgehog can move closer to the disc for warmth if necessary. Having a heat source that will last for many hours is a necessary precaution, in case your car should break down or some other problem prevents your timely arrival at the veterinarian's. Please remember that whatever heat source you choose, to wrap it in a towel or a cage liner to prevent possible burns, and that there is space in the carrier for the hedgehog to get away from the heat. Here are some possible heat sources:
- Snuggle Safe Heat Disc - A microwavable, pink plastic disc now being carried by several chains (including Pet Supplies Plus and PetSmart) as well as many smaller stores and online retailers. This disc will provide heat for up to 12 hours.
- Disposable hand warmers - These are plastic pouches that, when an internal capsule is broken, will release chemicals that mix and produce heat. They are commonly found in the hunting/fishing section of sporting goods stores. Depending on the type you buy, they can stay warm for about 2-6 hours.
- Rice or buckwheat bags - For a quick, homemade hand warmer, take a large cotton sock, fill it with rice or buckwheat, and tie a knot in the end. You can also sew the end for a permanent bag. Warm the bag in the microwave for about 90 seconds, and you will have a homemade heat source. Rice bags may stay warm for 1-2 hours.
- Hot water bottles - There are quite a variety of hot water bottles, from the old classic versions one sees in old movies, to those that never need to be filled and are microwavable, and even an electric version, on the market today. The amount of time one stays warm will vary, with approximately 1-2 hours the average.
Insulate the hedgehog carrier. I recommend wrapping the carrier with a blanket or towel when transporting the carrier between your car and the building. This will help prevent cold air from reaching your hedgehog, which could result in a chill. If you plan to rest the carrier on your car's floor, place a layer of blanket or towels under your hedgehog's carrier. Floors of cars are cold, and can make the floor of the carrier cold very quickly as well.
Do NOT place your hedgehog's carrier directly in front of a heat vent. While this may sound like a good way of keeping your hedgehog warm, it can cause your hedgehog to overheat rapidly, leading to a much more severe problem than the original. This also applies to direct sunlight.
These tips should help you travel from your home to the veterinarian's office, and back again, while keeping your hedgehog warm. Having a plan of action should you have to travel during the middle of winter, before it becomes a necessity, is, in the opinion of this author, the only way to help ensure the health and well-being of your hedgehogs.