WHS an introduction

Photo by Yoppy via Flickr

Wobbly hedgehog syndrome is a neurodegenerative disease which affects the brain and spinal cord of African pygmy and European hedgehogs.It has been reported that the disease may affect up to 10% of African Pygmy Hedgehogs in the USA. Research has shown that patterns occurr in defined family lines, thereby suggesting this disease is heritable. The first signs of Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome can appear between the ages of 1 to 36 months. The average age of onset is 18 months and it affects both males and females without bias. Within 18 months of the first signs of the disease, most hedgehogs are paralysed and can no longer move. To date all treatments have proved to be unsucessful in curing this disease or even slowing down its progress.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome may include:

  • falling consistently to one side
  • tremors
  • exopthalmos (bulging eye)
  • scoliosis (abnormal spine curvature)
  • seizures
  • muscle atrophy (muscle wasting)
  • dysphagia (problem with swallowing)
  • wasting
  • ascending paresis (slight or partial paralysis)
  • tetraparesis (paralysis in all four limbs)
  • self-mutilation (rare).

These signs and symptoms are not unique to WHS. They may also be signs of other common hedgehog diseases such degenerative disc disease, brain tumor, or septic meningoencephalitis.

WHS and MS (Multiple Sclerosis)

WHS affects hedgehogs in the same way that MS affects humans, in that it slowly degrades muscle control. The first signs of Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome is a “wobble” when the hedgehog tries to stand still. In time the animal will lose control of all its muscles from the rear to the front of its body. There is no cure for Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome. Some treatments for MS in humans have had similar results in hedgehogs. These have included high vitamin E diets. Vitamin E conceals the effects of WHS (as it does MS) but does not slow it down. Over time the hedgehog will form a resistance to vitamin E and the effects of the disease will continue.

The cause or causes of both WHS and MS are unknown.