Hedgehogs can be Hazardous to your Health

This post was written by admin3 on May 2, 2009
Posted Under: Exotic


Each year literally hundreds of millions exotic animals are imported into the USA and Europe. An animal can be happily living in a jungle in Asia, South America or Africa one day, and find itself in a cage in some little girl’s bedroom in less than a week. The main problem is that many of these animals are not subject to any form of quarantine or only minimal health screening before they are allowed into the country and then into our homes. These new owners are ignorant of the fact that their pets could damage the health of themselves and their families.

Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonotic diseases are those that can jump from animals to humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA says that zoonotic diseases account for around three-quarters of all emerging infectious diseases today.

Below are only some of the germs and diseases your hedgehog could infect you with.

In 2005 a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research study provided a list of zoonotic diseases that it had confirmed hedgehogs could carry, along with several potential infectious diseases. The confirmed diseases include Salmonella, Yersina, pseudotubercolosis, Mycobacterium marinum, Herpesvirus including human herpes simplex and Rabies. The potential diseases they can carry include Yersina pestis (also responsible for Bubonic plague) and hemorrhagic fever.


Salmonella is normally contracted from contaminated food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 1 in 20 of all infections are passed to people by exotic pets. For example they estimate that nearly eighty thousand Americans contract Salmonella from their pet reptiles every year.

In 1994 African Pygmy Hedgehogs were responsible for passing on a rare form of Salmonella (S. tilene), to a 10 month old girl who became the first ever confirmed case of this serotype in a human in the USA. The girl shared the house with about eighty hedgehogs the family used for breeding. It should be noted that the little girl never touched the hedgehogs herself. The infection was spread to her by a family member. The same serotype was later diagnosed in many other cases.


Despite its name ringworm or Tinea is not a worm but is actually a fungal skin infection. One source of ringworm is known to be pet and wild hedgehogs. Over the past few months HedgehogsAsPets.com has been covering a story where three people were infected with ringworm by two hoglets bought from the same breeder.

The story becomes even more disconcerting when it transpires that the person in question had somehow evaded Britain’s stringent quarantine regulations and managed to import several hedgehogs directly into the UK from Germany. Hedgehogs imported into the UK would normally be required to spend 6 months in government approved facilities.

What’s very strange about this case is that the breeder in question claims that the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) permitted her to quarantine her new imports at home, in a house that already contained, rats, snakes, lizards, sugar-gliders, hedgehogs and cats and dogs. Subsequently before it was learned that the German breeder’s herd was infected with ringworm, she had managed to spread the disease to the parents of the two hoglets that she later sold and infected three other people.

Along with the disease side of the story, it also exemplifies just what may occur when you purchase your pet from less than honest dealers or breeders. After six months, notwithstanding she has said she will refund part of their vet’s costs, she still hasn’t done so.

Reducing the risk of infection

To reduce the risk of infection simply go to this site and follow the advice they give there: http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/browse_by_animal.htm.

Buying your pet from a reputable breeder rather than a pet store or pet distributor, should also provide you with more guarantees about where the animal came from.

The actual risk of getting infected with some nasty disease by your pet is rather small, but owners should be made aware that the risk is a real one. The advice and information you’ll find on the CDC site will greatly reduce the risk of infection.

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