Nobody likes the thought of their hedgehog having mites but the truth is it can happen. Mites cause itching, hair and quill loss, and are just plain gross but they are also able to be avoided and gotten rid of if your hedgehog gets them.
What are Hedgehog Mites?
Mites are a type of arachnid, like spiders and ticks. They bite and cause irritation to your hedgehog's skin as well as spine (quill) and hair loss. Mites are typically tiny black or red arachnids and can spread from one hedgehog to another quite easily.
How Do Hedgehogs Get Mites?
Mites can be contracted a variety of ways. New hedgehogs, bedding, and food are the usual culprits of a mite infestation. If your hedgehog has a new friend and also suddenly has mites, they probably got them from the new hedgehog in the house. If you haven't exposed your hedgehog to another hedgehog (and haven't handled another hedgehog and then handled your own) the reason for his mite infestation is probably from his kibble or his bedding. Natural items like food and substrate often carry these small mites that are then are introduced to your hedgehog's enclosure and cause an infestation.
How Do You Know if Your Hedgehog Has Mites?
You may or may not be able to see the actual mites on your pet hedgehog but you probably will see the damage the mites cause to your pet. Mites cause irritation, hair and spine loss, all of which are usually pretty obvious to a hedgehog owner. While hedgehogs will normally shed some of their spines, areas of apparent spine loss or hair loss are abnormal and should be indicators that your hedgehog may have mites.
Your exotics vet will do a skin scrape to obtain a sample of skin and hair and look under a microscope for the mites. A skin scrape is not a 100% accurate test but if there is a heavy burden of mites it will usually be able to detect their presence.
Hedgehog Mite Treatment
If mites are found on your pet hedgehog your exotics vet will probably use a drug such as ivermectin, selamectin, or another safe treatment of mites for hedgehogs. Even if the skin scrape is negative your vet may still treat for mites since they are fairly common in hedgehogs. If these mite treatments do not work and the skin scrape was negative, further testing such as skin biopsies may be warranted to check for other diseases or allergies.
Aside from treating your hedgehog for mites, you'll need to treat their environment as well. Clean and wash the entire cage, hide box, water bottle, any blankets or towels, toys, and the wheel in the cage with a mild dish detergent and rinse well. Throw out any bedding that isn't washable, along with all the kibble that is already in the cage. Freeze the remaining bedding and kibble that you have for 24 hours to kill any mites that may be in them and to prevent reinfestation.
How Can You Prevent Hedgehog Mites?
Thankfully it's easy to prevent mites. Always wash your hands after handling any other hedgehog at a show, pet store, or friend's house. If you bring home a new hedgehog be sure to quarantine them for one week to watch for signs of mites or other illnesses before introducing them to your other hedgehogs. Also, make sure you are washing your hands after handling your new hedgehog and before touching your other ones. Freeze all bedding and packaged food after you purchase it (not the crickets or mealworms though) for 24 hours before putting it in the cage with your hedgehog. These items are the usual suspects for mite infestations in pet hedgehogs when there has been no other hedgehog exposure.