Q: I just handed over my baby hedgehog, 14 months, to my veterinarian tonight. It’s his first experience with a hedgehog. My hedgehog has been making a mess of his cage the past few nights, and I have played with him quite often except the past two days. Tonight I found that his back legs were not working properly and began worrying. I was afraid of Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome, but X-rays showed no sign of it. He is 430 grams, which I didn’t think was overweight. I feed him 1/8 cup or maybe a tad more a night. He doesn’t have a temperature or anything; however he developed fatty tissue chunks in his backend. The vet says it looks like he is overweight from the X-rays. I am so confused. The vet says it looks like the fat pressure is compressing two discs. What do you think? I know obesity is a problem in hedgehogs, but 430 grams isn’t much — and he was fine last week. We were thinking an onset of diabetes? Something can’t be right with his metabolism to go from fine to blown up. Do you have any ideas?
A: This sounds sadly suspicious of Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS) as you wrote in your note. Unfortunately, radiographs (X-rays) cannot show if a hedgehog has this disease; even blood tests cannot help. This disease is only diagnosed on histopathology, usually done after the hedgehog has died. There are no tests for this disease in a live hedgehog.
Some other rare diseases can cause the neurologic signs you are seeing, but more tests other than radiographs need to be done. Other ailments that can cause the loss of function in the back legs include toxins, liver disease, neurologic infections, cancer and metabolic disorders.
Tests such as a complete blood count and a biochemistry profile are the necessary diagnostics that are performed first to rule in or out some of the diseases I mentioned. If those tests do not point to a specific problem, then more advanced tests are recommended.
As you probably know, there is no treatment for WHS. So if your hedgehog does not respond to any of the treatments in the hospital, this is another reason to consider that WHS is the cause of the improperly functioning back legs.