Fleas in Hedgehogs
What are fleas?
Hedgehogs can acquire external parasites; however flea infestation is not a common problem. Fleas are a small insect parasite that may take up residence on your hedgehog, especially if exposed to fleas outdoors or in a house with dogs, cats or other animals who themselves have fleas. They can infest hedgehogs if there is a heavy infestation in the home but generally do not like the African hedgehog presumably because of the hedgehog’s low body temperature. Fleas are acquired from other infested animals or environments (i.e. visiting another home with a flea infestation).
“Flea infestation is not a common problem in pet hedgehogs.”
What are the signs of fleas on my hedgehog?
Fleas can affect a hedgehog of any age and sex. Your hedgehog may or may not be itchy depending on the hypersensitivity of the individual animal to flea bites. You may see the hedgehog losing quills, biting, licking, chewing, or scratching itself. Early in the infestation there may be no signs whatsoever that your hedgehog even has fleas. There may be a history of fleas on other animals in the home or perhaps other infested animals having been in the home as in the case of a previous tenant in an apartment
Fleas leave their feces on the skin, amongst the hair of the hedgehog. This is often called flea dirt. Flea dirt is small, comma shaped black debris the size of pepper. Small red bite marks or sores may be found on the skin and these will occasionally develop into a secondary bacterial skin infection. Each flea takes a small blood meal and young hedgehogs with heavy infestations may even become anemic as the fleas feed over time.
Regular examinations (at least once a year) will potentiate early identification of the problem and proper treatment. Other diagnostic tests may be done to ensure there is not another disease or problem, such as mites, causing the itching and scratching . Fur and skin will be examined for evidence of fleas and other external parasites.
How are hedgehogs with fleas treated?
Because fleas can affect dogs and cats and the infestation likely started with them, all animals in the house should be treated. There are no hedgehog specific drugs for managing fleas in hedgehogs. All products used are for dogs and cats and their use in hedgehogs is described as “off-label”. Topical cat medications such as Advantage™ and Revolution™ appear to be safe but should ONLY be used under the guidance of a veterinarian familiar with hedgehogs. Topical flea powders, premise sprays or even professional pest exterminators may be used but consult your veterinarian first. Since adult fleas can live off the hedgehog in the carpets etc., it is very important to treat the environment since the flea eggs have usually fallen off the animal and hatch in the environment where the animal resides and visits. Depending on environmental humidity and temperature, flea eggs may hatch in as little as 14 – 28 days, producing the next crop of adult fleas looking for a blood meal. Treatment must be long enough to get the last egg hatched. Consult with a veterinarian familiar with hedgehogs regarding the proper topical and environmental treatments.
Certain products should not be used on hedgehogs. DO NOT use flea collars on hedgehogs. DO NOT use organophosphates, straight permethrin sprays or permethrin spot-ons on your pet hedgehog.
Do I have to worry about being affected by fleas myself?
In heavy infestations, fleas may bite humans and may cause problems in those people especially sensitive to insect bites. Bite marks may be noticed around the ankles. Generally the problem is self-limiting following elimination of the parasite from the home.
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