The eyes of hedgehogs are prone to both injury and irritation because of the way they protrude from the skull. They aren’t laid deep into the skull, like human eyes are, so owners of hedgehogs should take extra care of hedgehog eyes.
As a pet owner, you should make sure your pet is healthy and happy, and that includes monitoring their eyes for potential health issues.
Here we’re going over the eyesight quality of hedgehogs, the symptoms and common issues that harm their eyes, along with treatments, and then how to care for hedgehogs who have turned blind.
It’s a common misconception that hedgehogs have good eyesight since they are nocturnal animals. Not all nocturnal animals have great eyesight and the hedgehog is one of them.
Their eyes don’t need to be sophisticated because there is simply nothing to see in the dark. Their eyesight is worse than a human’s but, like bats, they rely on other ways to navigate the world.
They use their sense of smell and hearing to find their way around while their limited eyesight is used to identify the outlines of objects that are important to them.
With their poor depth perception, they need to get really close to objects to properly see them. Their vision doesn’t have a complex color pattern like our eyes, too, so they primarily experience the world in drab shades of brown and tan.
Hedgehog Eye Problems
Two of the huge problems that face a hedgehog’s eyes are infections and eye-bulging, which sometimes go hand in hand. Eye bulging can also be caused by damage. Mites can also be an issue if skin mites have gotten out of hand, but we’re covering all three problems and their treatments below.
One of the more common causes of eye irritation is debris, where dust or a foreign object makes its way into their eyes. Like us, they respond by having a watery eye that they’ll itch or rub often.
Repeated heavy scratching can be indicative of an infection, especially if they seem to have a substance in their eyes. Eyes that are shut closed and won’t open may also be held shut by an infection. It’s common for hedgehogs to hide their faces when experiencing pain and discomfort around their eyes.
If an eye has bulged, it may have been caused by bumping into something head-first. If not, a brain tumor could be to blame. Needless to say, eye-bulging can be a concerning issue for owners, who should take their pet to veterinarians at the first sign of irritation.
If action is not taken, more injuries can develop, the hedgehog could become blind, and even lose the problem eye.
Hedgehog Eye Treatments
So, how are these problems treated? Once taken to a veterinarian, they will likely reach for medications that can help. There will be oral antibiotics and painkillers, and maybe even eye drops that intend to reduce swelling so that the eye eases back into its socket.
The treatments either work and cure your hedgehog’s eye or the eye will fail and shrivel up. Hedgehogs will scratch this away on their own, exposing the socket which must then be stitched up or left alone to heal on its own. Stitching is best to avoid secondary infection.
Sometimes surgery is required to remove a bulging eye, often to avoid the hedgehog scratching it off. Only middle-aged hedgehogs can have surgeries, there are risks with young or old animals.
Surgery is especially required if there is a tumor present in the head, but only if it is accessible, and even then there’s a chance the surgery won’t be a success.
Most tumors that interfere with the eye are too deep in the head to operate on, so unfortunately euthanasia may be the best option to spare the hedgehog from pain.
Prevention is better than cure for a lot of these problems, so what should you do? Two main things reduce the chance of your hedgehogs damaging or infecting your eyes. It’s all about how you stage your hedgehog dwellings.
They should be clean and have no sharp objects or edges where the hedgehog can hit their eye and damage it. Bedding is also a must and it should be soft, so stay away from wood chippings.
Hedgehogs can lose their eyesight or their eyes to eye problems. They can even develop glaucoma and cataracts. Also, severe mite infestations can cause mange or fungus infections that can rob a hedgehog of its eyesight.
After losing sight, hedgehogs become even more dependent on their senses of hearing or smell. Their tiny whiskers also help when navigating the environment around them.
Adjustments will be made by the hedgehog over time but, if your pet becomes suddenly blind, there are things you can do to help their transition into blindness.
First, make their cage smaller so they can memorize how to maneuver the area. After cleaning, place treats and accessories in the exact same places so the hedgehog knows where they are.
Routine and sameness will help the hedgehog live their day-to-day lives with fewer interruptions and less chance of injuring themselves further.
Water bottles can be difficult to find for blind hedgehogs. Make your water sources easier to find by placing them beside the food bowl, instead of expecting the hedgehog to reach up and find the water bottle’s narrow nozzle to suck from.
We’d advise you to put the food and water inside heavy bowls because the hedgehog will now be much clumsier, so they might throw their bowl around by accident.
A cage camera is ideal for monitoring the behavior of your hedgehog. From there, you can adjust accordingly to create a comfortable life for them. If you see them bumping into something in the night, move it so their path is clear.