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What Does It Mean When a Hedgehog’s Quills Fall Out?

You should know the problem signs when caring for your pet hedgehog, starting with quills. Sometimes referred to as spines, quills cover the majority of a hedgehog’s body. Occasionally, the quills will begin to fall out during a period known as “quilling.” Meanwhile, owners may wonder if the large amount of shedding is normal when a hedgehog loses quills.

What Is Quilling?

This shedding process called quilling is normal in baby and junior hedgehogs. Quilling will first occur when a hedgehog is about two months old when finer quills are shed—and longer, thicker quills are grown. When the hedgehog is about four months old, this process takes place again. It is difficult and uncomfortable for the newer, larger quills to pass through the old holes. Throughout their lifetime, about 90% of a hedgehog’s quills will be replaced. If owners do not know this, they may be shocked by the amount of quills shed. Adult hedgehogs shouldn’t lose large amounts at one time.

When to Be Concerned

At times, there may be complications with reproducing the quills, displaying redness, swelling, scabbing, or discharge where a new “spine” is trying to come through. If so, it may be necessary to lightly clean and even assist the new spine in coming out by gently pulling on it. This is important in preventing infection and worsening of the condition.
Changes in behavior may occur when a hedgehog loses quills. However, continue to handle your pet hedgehog. Try to comfort him, rather than excessively handling him.
Be attentive to newer spines coming out, making sure the ends have a bulb shape. If this bulb is missing, this could mean damage to the quill, and the broken piece could still be inside your hedgehog, making manual extraction a necessity.

Other Things to Watch for

The major reason for abnormal quill loss in hedgehogs is mites. Mites can enter in through food, bedding, and other items, and can irritate the skin, resulting in quill loss. Although it can’t be seen by the naked eye, the local veterinarian can use a microscope to determine whether your hedgehog has mites.
Inappropriate diet, an imbalance in hormones, stress, allergies, or the dry air may be other contributing factors in excessive hedgehog spine loss. In any case, if your adult hedgehog is experiencing quill loss in large amounts—especially when bald spots are visible—a veterinarian exam is necessary to determine the root issue.

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