Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome

Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS) is a degenerative neurologic condition that can occur in African Pygmy Hedgehogs (aka Four-toed hedgehogs). The cause is unknown, but is believed to be genetic.

This condition causes demyelination, where the protective coating of nerve cells experience damage. This causes ataxia (difficulty walking, stumbling), paralysis, and weight loss in hedgehogs. There is an evident “wobble” when the hedgehog tries to stand still. Signs usually occurs around 2-3 years of age, but can happen at any age. Both males and females can be affected with equal frequency. Death commonly occurs 18-24 months after onset of clinical signs.

There are other causes of neurological signs, like ataxia, that can cause suspicion of WHS. Brain or spinal cord diseases, vestibular (inner ear) problems, malnutrition, tumors, toxins, trauma, or other conditions can all be investigated as possible causes. Diagnostics like radiographs (x-rays) and bloodwork can be done to help rule out some of these conditions. However, WHS can only be definitively diagnosed after death via histopathology (looking at tissues under a microscope) of nervous tissue (brain and spinal cord).

Treatment for WHS is supportive care; helping the hedgehog remain upright using towels, making food and water easier to access or hand feeding, and cleaning after the hedgehog as soiled itself. There is no cure for WHS. Prognosis is grave and euthanasia is recommended when quality of life is poor.

Hoppes, S., DVM,DABVP (Avian). (2016). Common Diseases in Hedgehogs. Retrieved from https://www.vin.com. Southwest Veterinary Symposium, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA

Axelson, R., DVM (2011) Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome. Retrieved from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/wobbly-hedgehog-syndrome