Hedgehogs are cute little animals that look like they belong in a fairy tale. They are also very rare, and their numbers are declining rapidly.
The problem is that hedgehogs are prone to developing cancerous tumors. How long can a hedgehog survive after being diagnosed with cancer?
Hedgehogs are nocturnal mammals native to Europe and Asia. They are known for their spiky quills, which give them their name.
Their quills are covered with hair, and these hairs contain keratin, a protein found in human nails and hair.
Cancer is a disease where cells divide uncontrollably and form abnormal growths or tumors.
Cancer can affect almost every organ in the body and can spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
So if a hedgehog develops cancer, how long can it live? We take a look in this article.
How Long Can A Hedgehog Survive After Being Diagnosed With Cancer?
Cancer affects many different parts of the body, but it is most commonly seen in the digestive tract.
Tumors grow in the lining of the stomach, intestines, rectum, esophagus, mouth, throat, and anus.
These tumors may be benign (not dangerous) or malignant (cancerous). Benign tumors tend to have a slow rate of growth, while malignant tumors can grow quickly. If you think your pet has developed a tumor, contact your veterinarian immediately.
When it comes to hedgehogs, there are two main kinds: European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus), and African pygmy hedgehogs (Atelerix albiventris).
Both species are popular pets, and both are susceptible to cancer. However, only about 10% of all cases of cancer in hedgehogs occur in African pygmy hedgehogs.
This means that 90% of the time when a hedgehog develops cancer, it is an Erinaceus europaeus, so if you have a European hedgehog, you should be extra vigilant when it comes to cancer checks.
The average lifespan of a hedgehog is between 3-and 5 years. In general, hedgehogs who are kept as pets tend to live longer than those that live in the wild.
The average life expectancy of a hedgehog with cancer varies depending on the type of cancer.
Some forms of cancer are more common in one sex over another. For example, males are more likely to develop aggressive forms of cancer such as osteosarcoma, whereas females are more likely to get soft tissue sarcomas.
As already mentioned, tumors are common for hedgehogs, and often, cancerous hedgehog tumors will start developing around 3 years of age.
The most common hedgehog tumors are usually found in the mouth, mammary gland, stomach, reproductive system, or intestinal tract.
But if a hedgehog develops one form of cancer, they often develop another quickly, so, oftentimes, the most humane thing to do would be to euthanize the animal, especially if it’s quite an old hog.
Unfortunately, hedgehogs with cancer can die quickly, even if they appear healthy. Hedgehogs could have cancer for a long time, but will not show any symptoms. However, when symptoms appear, it is often too late.
That being said, hedgehogs can live with cancerous tumors for up to 3 months and some owners even report them living 9 months without displaying symptoms.
Yet once the cancer is identified and it is a mass growth, it often means the cancer is spreading rapidly and the quality of the hedgehog’s life will decrease, meaning the best thing for them is to put them down.
You can work out the quality of life by looking at your hedgehog and asking these questions:
- Are they still active?
- Are they still eating or have you noticed weight loss?
- Do they seem to be enjoying themselves?
- Are they still pooping?
- Do they look like they are in pain?
If the answer to these questions is no, then it is probably time to end their lives. If the hedgehog shows signs of pain or discomfort and your vet cannot help, then it is time to euthanize them.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Hedgehog Tumor
If a hedgehog has a tumor, it will probably display some signs of discomfort. They might feel like their tumor is growing larger, and they might also experience pain from the tumor.
The universal symptoms to look out for include weight loss, abnormal mass, difficulty breathing, and lethargy.
If the tumor is in the reproductive system, you might see vaginal bleeding and bloody urine. Many owners would need to remove their pet’s ovaries to stop this tumor from developing.
Tumors located in the digestive tract will mean your hedgehog will show signs of diarrhea, different color stools, stools with mucus, and an inability to eat.
Hedgehogs with tumors are also prone to infection because of the open wounds caused by the tumor.
Hedgehogs who are suffering from a tumor should be taken to the vet right away.
If a hedgehog shows no signs of distress, then this does not necessarily mean that they are okay, and they need to be seen by a vet to receive proper treatment.
How Is Cancer Treated In Hedgehogs?
Treatment options will depend on the type of cancer being treated. They range from surgical removal to medicines.
Surgical removal: This is the most commonly used method of treating cancer in hedgehogs. It involves removing the tumor surgically.
Amputation: When a hedgehog has a limb tumor, amputation may be necessary. Amputations are performed to prevent the spread of cancer cells and to keep the hedgehog comfortable.
Medicine: Some cancers can be treated with medicines, but this should never be at the expense of the quality of life of the hedgehog.
Radiation: Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. Radiotherapy is typically used for small tumors and can be used on pets.
We hope that we were able to give you information about how long hedgehogs can live after having cancer.
We know that this subject is very difficult to talk about, but hopefully, by reading our article, you can gain more knowledge about this topic and know when it is most humane to either put your pet down or try some recommended treatment options.