Dogs and hedgehogs. Do they get along, or can pairing them together result in stressed animals or serious problems, including injury? Here is all that you need to know.
So, do hedgehogs get along with dogs? Overall, hedgehogs are non-aggressive and, coupled with their superb defense mechanism, can co-exist with nearly every other household pet, including dogs. However, it is essential to remember that any situation in which predator and prey come together carries a risk. Therefore, you should continuously monitor any interactions between a hedgehog and your dog and never leave them unattended.
Dogs are social creatures that thrive in the company of others.
In fact, they are more than capable of living successfully with a variety of other pets, including rabbits, ferrets, and even cats.
However, this success is somewhat dependent on an individual’s temperament.
Conversely, hedgehogs are solitary animals, so you will need to watch any ‘meetings’ closely to ensure your hedgehog does not become too stressed.
Although it is unlikely that a hedgehog and a dog will become best friends, you can facilitate a happy co-existence by making sure any introductions are done slowly and carefully.
Let us now explore it all further!
Can Hedgehogs And Dogs Live Together?
Hedgehogs and dogs can live together successfully, but it does take time and patience. Dogs are generally somewhat bouncy and excitable when investigating novel items in their environment; however, this type of reaction is likely to freak your hedgehog out!
When threatened or distressed, a hedgehog will curl itself into a ball to protect its delicate skin from attack.
Its pointy spines also act as a nifty deterrent for a predator!
It’s more than likely that your hedgehog will perform this behavior during its first interaction with your dog but keeping everyone as calm as possible is a good starting point.
There are around 400 breeds of dogs worldwide, each with their own unique traits and personalities, so it is crucial to really think carefully about whether your dog is the most suitable fit for a hedgehog companion.
Problems usually arise with gun dog breeds as their natural instinct is to chase smaller prey animals.
This can be lessened with training, but do be aware that this is a built-in instinct that can kick in at any time, even in the most well-trained dogs.
As long as your dog remains calm, your hedgehog should soon get used to its new four-legged friend, but it is important to remember that, as solitary creatures, they can get stressed out very easily.
The safest option is to keep interactions to a minimum and be sure to separate the animals immediately if there are any signs of aggression or distress.
Signs in your hedgehog that may indicate stress include pacing or yawning and twitching or shaking of the head.
If your hedgehog has been under stress for an extended period of time, then you may start seeing more extreme symptoms such as hair loss and decreased appetite.
You can always seek the advice of an exotics vet if you are concerned.
As prey animals, they can easily experience anxiety if anything in their environment changes, so you must allow them as much time as they need to ‘settle in’; this is especially important when introducing them to predator animals such as dogs or cats.
Other factors like noise levels and excessive movements should be kept to a minimum.
Would A Dog Kill A Hedgehog?
Dogs do sometimes attack hedgehogs, but it very much depends on individual temperament and how well they have been trained. It is important to always bear in mind that an attack from a dog, especially a larger breed, can cause severe trauma and injury to a hedgehog – even death in extreme cases.
Most dogs will probably approach a hedgehog with nothing more than curiosity, but the possibility of an attack is always there – dogs are predators, after all.
Especially with dogs that have a high predator drive or those that are highly territorial.
Adult hedgehogs will usually be sufficiently protected by their spines; however, younger hedgehogs are more vulnerable.
Saying that, the stress caused to an adult hedgehog by an attack can be just as detrimental in its’ own right.
It is worth bearing in mind that native hedgehogs are now a protected species in some countries (such as the UK), so if you know you have a dog prone to attacking hedgehogs, you will need to keep a close eye on it when out for walks.
And here is why this is crucial.
In the 1950s, there were over 30 million hedgehogs roaming the British countryside; now, there are estimated to be less than one million left.
Dogs play a part in this decline because they can disturb nests and injure young hoglets.
Litters are usually born around June/July; however, many hedgehogs can give birth to a second litter in the autumn, so be warier around these times.
Can A Hedgehog Hurt My Dog?
Although they are not considered to be particularly aggressive animals, hedgehogs will protect themselves if cornered by a dog, so always watch any interactions closely.
Hedgehogs are famous for their quills or spines, which cover their entire dorsal surface aside from their face.
When threatened, hedgehogs can raise their quills using a series of muscles.
This not only makes them appear large and more formidable but also acts as a defense mechanism which can prove quite painful to any over-eager predator!
In total, a hedgehog can have between 5000 and 7000 quills!
No surprise that these could harm or cause damage to a dog.
If your dog does receive injuries from your hedgehog, you can bathe the wounds in sterile water (you can achieve this by boiling water and then allowing it to cool) and a little bit of sea salt as this has antiseptic properties.
Do watch your hedgehog closely for any signs of stress, as they are pretty good at expressing their feelings!
You may have heard a hedgehog hissing on occasion, which is generally considered to be a sign of displeasure.
However, it does have a number of different causes ranging from fear to pain caused by an underlying illness or injury.
Hedgehogs also commonly hiss when they are quilling, which is a process they go through that involves replacing old quills for new ones.
This occurs at least twice in a hedgehog’s lifetime, usually at around five weeks old and then again at 16 weeks old, to ensure all the ‘baby quills’ are replaced with more robust adult ones.
The whole process can be quite uncomfortable for your hedgehog, so be sure to minimize any handling or introductions during this time.
Whatever the reason, hissing is considered to be a negative vocalization, so you will need to identify the cause and act appropriately.
Hedgehogs can also bite if they feel threatened; however, these aren’t considered to be overly harmful.
Something you do need to be aware of though is the potential for your hedgehog to pass infections onto either you or your dog.
Hedgehogs are known to be ‘disease-ridden’ and carry a number of pathogens, including Salmonella, Mycobacteria, and fungal infections.
They are also magnets for fleas, but most of the fleas that infect your hedgehog are actually species-specific, which means they would be unable to survive on a different host for long.
Furthermore, hedgehogs are known to be able to deal with thousands of fleas with no ill effect, so you may not even notice they are there!
Although it is unlikely that your dog will be affected by these ‘hedgehog fleas,’ there is always a possibility that other flea species could be present, so it is good practice to take precautions wherever possible.
Perhaps the most concerning ailments that can be passed from hedgehog to dog are ringworm and mites as they are not host-specific, so be on the lookout for signs that your dog may need treatment.
The first sign of mites is usually intense scratching, whereas ringworm causes patches of hair loss and dry, scaly skin in dogs.
Best Practices For Owning A Hedgehog And A Dog As Pets
In order to own a hedgehog and a dog successfully, you need to understand the vast differences between them in terms of their behaviors and lifestyles.
Although hedgehogs can form bonds with their owners and other animals, they are naturally solitary, so this must be respected.
When you first get your hedgehog home, you will need to give it time to become accustomed to its new environment.
Bombarding a hedgehog with too many changes at once is likely to put it under stress.
For the first introduction between dog and hedgehog, it is best to introduce them in the evening when your hedgehog would naturally be more alert.
It may also be a good idea to ensure your dog is reasonably tired, i.e., after a long walk and has just been fed, so it is as calm as possible.
Keep initial introductions short and make sure there is a barrier between the two animals so they cannot touch but can still see each other.
Interacting with your dog (calmly) will take the focus off the hedgehog, to begin with, which allows your spiky friend to get used to the dog’s presence without feeling under threat from an attack.
Monitor your hedgehog closely during this time and keep an eye out for any of the signs of stress mentioned above.
It is also essential to assess your dog’s body language to determine how it is reacting to its’ new companion.
Positive signs include tail wagging and a relaxed posture.
Do not allow your dog to bark, as this may frighten your hedgehog.
During or immediately after, this interaction you can give both animals a treat, so they begin to build a positive association with the situation.
Do not rush this stage of the introduction, as it could have disastrous implications for one or both of your animals.
It will need to be repeated regularly until you are confident enough to move onto the next stage.
At this point, you can begin switching scents by placing one of your dog’s items near your hedgehog for it to sniff, such as a blanket, and do the same for your dog.
Finally, you can allow the animals to meet without a barrier between them.
Always separate them immediately if your dog displays any signs of aggression.
These include ears flat against the head, growling, lip-smacking, and raised hackles.
Hedgehogs and dogs can learn to tolerate and get along with one another.
That’s the good news.
But it typically does involve time, patience, careful and close interaction, and monitoring.
And you’re going to want to – both animals can actually cause quite a bit of damage to one another in different ways should things escalate.
Nevertheless, for the most part, it is usually possible to own both a pet hedgehog and a dog as pets.
So long as you do your research into their own specific needs.
Hedgehogs, for instance, have pretty specific needs to thrive in captivity, so introducing a dog will only complicate these further.
And remember, NEVER take a hedgehog from the wild to keep as a pet.
The captive environment would likely be too stressful and would not account for its’ particular welfare requirements.
Even without a dog!