YVCipedia SMALL MAMMALS
FEEDING HEDGEHOGS, AND OBESITY IN HEDGEHOGS
Veterinarians understand the nutritional requirements of dogs, cats, and several other domesticated animal species, but the nutritional requirements of hedgehogs are relatively unknown. The following recommended home-made diets and the commercial formulated diets are based our understanding of hedgehog anatomy and physiology and on years of observation by veterinarians and other people familiar with hedgehog health and illness. Free-ranging hedgehogs are insectivores and omnivores. Captive diets should be relatively high in protein ( 30 to 50%) and low in fat (10 to 20%).
THE MAIN DIET
Hedgehogs should be fed a main diet supplemented with additional nutritionally appropriate foods. The best main food is commercially formulated hedgehog diet. Formulated diets should be uniform kibbles - all the pieces of food should look the same. Blends and mixes that contain some pellets combined with other food items are only balanced if the hedgehog eats all of the ingredients, and that will not happen - they will always pick and choose. Mazuri Hedgehog Diet is the best hedgehog food; 8 in 1 Ultrablend Select Nutrient Rich Hedgehog Diet is very good. Both are readily available online and in some pet stores.
If hedgehog food is unavailable, alternatives are premium low fat commercial cat food and insectivore diets. Young or pregnant hedgehogs can be fed kitten or ferret diets.
THE DAILY SUPPLEMENTAL FOODS
The main diet should be supplemented daily with nutritionally appropriate foods, including:
~ Premium-quality canned cat or dog food
~ Cooked meat
~ Cooked egg
~ Fruit: bananas, grapes, apples, pears, berries
~ Vegetables: cooked and uncooked beans, carrots, squash, peas, tomatoes, leafy greens
~ A high quality chopped salad: 2 parts diced spinach, kale, or leaf lettuce, 1 part each diced carrot, diced apple, diced banana, diced grape or raisin
~ Insects: mealworms, earthworms, waxworms, crickets and cat treats. Mealworms are high calorie and low calcium and should be limited to 6 to 10 smaller mealworms 2 to 3 times per week. Insects should be fed (“gut-loaded”) for two to three days after purchase; Mazuri High Calcium Gut-Loading Diet is ideal - we stock this in small bags at Yarmouth Vet Center for owners requiring small amounts.
AMOUNTS TO FEED
Young, pregnant, or lactating pets can be fed free-choice, but the amount should be measured out for all others.
An adult hedgehog will thrive on 3 level teaspoons of the main diet (eg Mazuri), 1 level teaspoon of meat, egg, and/or insects, and 1 level teaspoon vegetables and/or fruits per day.
Hedgehogs are generally nocturnal feeders. The main diet plus the supplement should be fed in the evening, and the treats in limited quantities throughout the day and evening to encourage social interaction. Treats can also be hidden throughout the the hedgehog’s environment to encourage foraging.
Fresh water should always be available free-choice in a shallow bowl; most hedgehogs can be trained to drink from a sipper bottle.
To introduce a new main diet gradually mix the new with the old, in increasing amounts of the new and decreasing amounts or the old, without changing the total amount. One to two weeks is a reasonable time frame to switch foods.
Obesity is a common problem in hedgehogs. The cause of obesity is almost invariably feeding too many calories. Medical health issues that could potentially contribute to obesity, such as hypothyroidism, occur rarely if at all.
Obesity in hedgehogs has the same wide range of negative health consequences in hedgehogs that it does in other animals and people, including diabetes, liver disease, orthopedic problems, digestive tract problems, and cancer.
Obesity in hedgehogs is prevented by converting them to the foods listed above and feeding the recommended amounts.
Obese hedgehogs are treated by converting them to the foods listed above, and feeding about 20% less than the recommended amounts.
Yarmouth Vet Center