On hedgehog cysts and finding an exotic vet

Ginger finally found a vet clinic that really gets hedgehogs.

When we walked into Cedar Pet Clinic in Lake Elmo, just outside St. Paul, Minnesota, I immediately noticed hedgehogs were included in picture frames on the walls.

It put me at ease a little bit considering I’d already been to two vet clinics that said they treat hedgehogs but, in reality, the vets didn’t know much about them. The first couldn’t even explain what hedgehogs should eat. The second was kind enough to refer me to Cedar Pet Clinic for the future.

Ginger had a small, blackish lump on her tummy. When we went into the exam room to wait for the vet, I saw the staff had set out a hedgehog fleece for her on the exam table. Hedgehogs love warm fleece material. She scurried around on the exam table while we waited for the vet.

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Ginger makes herself at home on the exam table at Cedar Pet Clinic in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.

When Dr. Charles Cosimini walked in, he was wearing a hedgehog tie! I told him all about Ginger’s lump and he gave me a cost for testing the lump before she went to the lab.

Thankfully, it was just a cyst, which completely drained away. However, Dr. Chuck saw a few round cells under the microscope, which is unusual for a cyst. They could be normal white blood cells that happened to be in the sample or an indication of a possible pre-malignant condition. We’ll have to keep an eye on the area.

It’s normal for cysts to regrow and they are not a problem unless they become infected or so large they interfere with activity. If Ginger’s cyst grows back, I will have it retested to confirm it is still noncancerous and has not turned into a tumor, considering her test results.

Unfortunately, cancer is common in hedgehogs. But I’m going for six years with Ginger, which is about 90 human years. Ginger is 2, or 30 in human years, right now. Most pet hedgehogs live for four to six years.

As Ginger came out from under her anesthesia, Dr. Chuck mentioned he had written a children’s book about his work with exotic pets: “A Hedgehog with a Sneeze.” He was excited to hear that Ginger is the star of my children’s book “The Spike Cream Woods.”

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Ginger comes out from under anesthesia after her lump was examined by her new vet Dr. Chuck, wearing a hedgehog tie with illustrations from his book “A Hedgehog with a Sneeze.”

I bought a copy of “A Hedgehog with a Sneeze” at the front desk. It tells silly stories of several exotic animals going to the vet. I found it clever that the hedgehog’s story addressed a real health issue that hedgehogs face — homes that are too chilly.

You can keep your hedgehog’s immune system in tip-top shape by ensuring your hedgehog’s room is kept at least at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If a hedgehog’s environment gets too chilly, they will attempt to hibernate.

Their body temperature begins to drop and they stay tightly rolled in a ball. African pygmy hedgehogs are not supposed to hibernate and they can die if not warmed up.
If your hedgehog attempts to hibernate, warm them up slowly by microwaving their favorite blanket and holding them close to your body in it. While hedgehogs can come out of hibernation attempts, it weakens their immune system.

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Ginger reads “A Hedgehog with a Sneeze” by Dr. Chuck.

Ginger attempted to hibernate this winter during Minnesota’s extreme temperatures when our heat turned up to max wasn’t enough. My husband Andrew and I invested in a new space heater to keep Ginger extra warm.

The best thing you can do for your hedgehog’s health and longevity is to keep them toasty warm.

Sara Marie Moore is author and photographer of “The Spike Cream Woods,” a photo-illustrated children’s book featuring her pet hedgehog Ginger in a fanciful ice cream forest. 

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