Hedgehogs as pets must be handled for at least an hour daily. This leaves plenty of room for a pet hedgehog to transmit diseases to their human owners. In most cases, you won’t contract anything from your hedgehog, as most pet hedgehogs don’t carry any zoonotic disease, which is a disease that can be transmitted from an animal to a human.
Ringworm in Hedgehogs as Pets
The most common disease that humans can get from hedgehogs as pets is ringworm. This is a fungal infection that is commonly associated with other animals, including cats. It causes a red, ring-like rash on the areas where the hedgehog comes into contact with the human skin. It can take a week or a bit longer for the ring to appear due to the prolonged incubation phase of the ringworm. Throughout the incubation and manifestation phases, the area may itch and feel irritated.
Salmonella in Hedgehogs as Pets
Contracting salmonella from hedgehogs as pets is possible. This is most commonly associated with failure to keep the pet hedgehog and its cage clean. If you wash your hedgehog on a regular basis and keep its cage clean, you probably won’t have a problem.
Risk Factors of Zoonotic Diseases in Hedgehogs as Pets
The instance of contracting a disease from hedgehogs as pets is increased for people with weak immune systems. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with immune deficiencies, and those going through treatments for diseases like cancer are some of the people who should take extra precautions when handling pet hedgehogs and they shouldn’t be the person to change the hedgehog’s bedding.
Prevention of Zoonotic Diseases in Hedgehogs as Pets
In most cases, simply using common sense when handling your pet hedgehog can help to prevent the transmission of zoonotic disease. Don’t put your hedgehog near your mouth and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling hedgehogs as pets or cleaning cages.
Caution When Choosing Hedgehogs as Pets
The incidence of zoonotic disease transmission from hedgehogs as pets is tremendously increased when the hedgehog is purchased from a breeder who doesn’t properly care for his or her animals. For this reason, it is vitally important that you check out the breeder and the breeding facility before purchasing a pet hedgehog. In the United States, there are numerous pet hedgehog breeders who are licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture, which means that an inspector has thoroughly vetted the breeder and the facility. In most cases, this license must be renewed annually.
Other Considerations Associated with Hedgehogs as Pets
Because hedgehogs as pets and in the wild eat live food, such as mice, it is possible to contract zoologic diseases from your hedgehog’s food. Wearing gloves or using tongs when you feed your hedgehog live foods can help to prevent the transmission of these diseases. Additionally, you should only buy your hedgehog’s food from a reputable pet supply store, as it is possible for your hedgehog to contract diseases such as Giardia from infected food.