Longevity | Hibernation & Estivation | Quilling | Signs of Good Health | Veterinary Care

Hibernation & Estivation

In the Wild

  • Some species of hedgehogs hibernate in the wild when the temperature becomes too cold.  They spend the warmer months building fat reserves to sustain them through their periods of in activity.
  • Other species of hedgehogs in the wild may go into a dormant period of activity called estivation when the weather is too hot and dry in the summer. 
In Captivity
  • Hedgehogs in captivity also can go into periods of partial-hibernation when the temperatures are too cool but it will not be a true hibernation.
  • These hibernation attempts for the pet hedgehog are very dangerous because your hedgehog is likely to simply waste away and die.
  • Estivation attempts are rare for pet hedgehogs but are equally as dangerous.
  • Hedgehogs living in captivity should be kept in a controlled environment to prevent hibernation or estivation.
Signs and Symptoms
  • The hedgehog is cool to the touch,
  • Hedgehogs may become lethargic to the point it may not unroll or they may not be able to roll up at all.
  • Wobbly on its feet if it does unroll.
  • Decrease in appetite or complete cessation of eating.
  • A decrease in ambient room temperature or a draft can cause your hedgehog to become too cool and start the hibernation or slow down process.
  • Hibernation can be induced at temperatures as low as 68˚F.
Immediate Treatment
  • It is very important to start to warm your hedgehog immediately but very slowly.
  • You can place your hedgehog under your shirt next to your body.  This method is probably the prickliest but the safest, and quickest.  You will know your hedgehog is warmed up and ready to go when it starts moving around and you can’t keep it in one place.
  • You can also warm your hedgehog on a heating pad or by wrapping it in towels warmed in the dryer.
  • NEVER LEAVE UNATTENDED WITH A HEATING PAD. Serious burns and death may result.
Veterinary Treatment
  • Once you have begun to warm up your hedgehog take your hedgehog to a vet to determine it is truly due to hibernation and not a life-threatening illness.
  •  Delay in care for many illnesses can results in death.
  • It is best to have an exotic vet lined up in advance so that when you need their assistance you will be able to get your hedgehog the care it needs more quickly.
  • Not all veterinarians treat hedgehogs and others may not take emergency cases.
Long Term Treatment
    • Once your hedgehog is warmed up and active again you will need to take extra precautions to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
    • Increase the room temperature if at all possible and monitor for fluctuations during the day and night.
    • Check for drafts in the room by lighting a candle and watching for a flicker in the flame.  Drafts may only be an issue with high winds if your cage is near a leaky window or drafts can occur from heating or cooling vents.
    • You can add heat to the cage by using a Snuggle Safe Disc (Puppy Warmer that is microwaveable and good for 12 hours), a reptile heating pad that adheres to the bottom of the cage, or a black or red heat bulb over the cage.
    • Avoid the human grade heating pads that turn off after a certain length of time and reptile heat rocks that can get way to hot to the touch.
    • The best way to monitor the daily high and low of the temperature in your hedgehog’s cage is a digital High/Low thermometer that can be purchased at stores such as Radio Shack. 
    • It is also important to maintain regular day and night light cycles.  Use a light during daylight hours if natural sunlight is not enough.