Obesity is one of the most common issues with hedgehogs in captivity. It is mostly due to a lack of knowledge on how to take care of a hedgehog. Hedgehogs need proper care to thrive. Food restrictions and enrichment activity are key aspects. In this hedgehog obesity guide, you will learn the reasons, tips, and tricks to understand and fix obesity.
What is it?
Obesity is when your pet is overweight. This can cause serious health concerns and decrease your pet’s quality of life. It is most common in hedgehogs who have inexperienced owners who don’t know the proper care guidelines. Obesity can also be a symptom of a larger health concern like hepatic lipidosis or other diseases.
- Early death
- Increases risk of health issues, attacks, or diseases
- Creates unhealthy fat deposits in eyes and other places
- Irritable moods
- Increased sleeping time
What Causes it?
Obesity is usually the result of improper diet and exercise. Although it can also be caused by genetics, stress, and hibernation. Small cages with no areas or outlets for activity affect how much exercise and enjoyment your pet has. Overfeeding or leaving food out can also cause obesity. Certain illnesses can also cause your pet to look or be obese.
- Too much food or treats
- Not enough exercise
- Untrimmed nails can decrease wheel use
- Incorrect food percentages
- Incorrect bedding
- Sleep interruptions
- Injuries (broken foot, splinter, etc…)
- Stress situations and changes to their life
- Improper cage and accessories
How to Tell?
Unfortunately, hedgehogs are not all the same size and weight. Some are naturally small or large. A heavier weight could be healthier for that specific pet. So you can not simply weigh them. Instead, carefully examine them and watch their behavior. There are a few key ways to tell if your hedgehog is obese.
- Unable to roll up in a ball
- Deposits of fat or rolls
- Round, non-teardrop shape
- Longer stomach width than the length from nose to tail
- Unable to pull their head down due to fat rolls
- Fat deposits around eyes
- Double chin
- Belly touching ground
- Fat legs instead of small muscular
- Armpit fat rolls
How to Fix it?
There are a few ways to lessen or to fix obesity in your pet. Let’s start by making sure you have the proper basics: cage, toys, and food. If you need more help on a proper diet check out this feeding guide. Making these changes or starting out this way will decrease most cases of obesity.
- Proper cage size (min of 2.5 to 3 square feet)
- Access to a sturdy wheel (12 inches wide)
- Warm temperatures (cold encourages lethargy and hibernation)
- 1-3 tablespoons of kibble a day (slowly decrease to this level)
- Kibble should be based on correct percentages (use food switch guide if you are not following percentage rules)
- Remove food after done eating
- Cut back on the treats, especially fatty insects (maybe a cricket a day instead of mealworms)
- Add toys like balls and empty toilet paper rolls for increased activity
- Make sure it is dark in their living space (they are nocturnal and active at night)
The Next Step
- No more treats until the weight is under control
- Hide food around cage instead of in bowl to encourage foraging (activity)
- Place food in toys so they have to work for it
- Provide exercise outside of the cage
- Create a large area for them to play with different toys and new items
- Do a few of our tricks to increase activity that are listed below
- Give it time. It is a process that needs a combination of things
Ways to Increase Activity
- A dig box or other foraging box
- Various moveable toys: balls, toilet paper rolls, snuggle buddies, cars, etc…
- Hide low-fat treats or the treat’s smells inside toys (make sure they don’t eat the toys)
- Regularly clean their wheel and try not to leave strong scents
- Create a fenced-in area outside of the cage filled with objects and toys (supervision required)
- Clean cage regularly and move cage items to create the biggest space available
- Add fleece strips or other fluffy bedding to encourage movement and foraging
- Switch to better bedding to increase activity
- Try very shallow swimming or wading in water that is halfway up their legs (only if they enjoy the water and only for short periods of time)
- Place food and the sleeping area on different stories of the cage (if you have multiple levels)
- Let them sleep in the day, in darkness
- Make sure the wheel is stable, comfortable, not too loud, or too hard to push
If it’s Not Working
If the first tips didn’t work, then your pet needs some advanced help. An exotic vet is recommended for the best care. Ask them to check for other health concerns. Explain what you have tried and for how long. They might have more tips or supplements you could try.
Final Tips and Advice
- Make sure to not do anything cold turkey unless necessary. It will cause stress, certain diseases, and other unfortunate occurrences
- If you think something is seriously wrong with your pet, you should always seek out a vet first
- If you are unsure about what to feed them and how much check out our feeding guide
- Remember you might not always see them exercising because they are nocturnal
- If you are encouraging activity, due it at night so they can have a restful sleep
- Use a kitchen scale to measure progress (same time daily)
I hope you enjoyed this article and found ways to help your pet! Remember we are not vets. So please seek out a vet if your hedgie is in need.
Let us know in the comments how you enrich the life of your hedgehog with activity!