Priest Lake Veterinary Hospital

2445 Morris Gentry Blvd
Nashville, TN 37013-2073



Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome



Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS) is a neurological disease that emerged in the 1990s, primarily affecting pet hedgehogs. Also known as progressive paresis/paralysis, this degenerative syndrome results from changes in the protective tissues (myelin) around nerves in the brain and spinal cord, as well as the degeneration of neurons within these areas. It is observed in around 10% of pet African hedgehogs in North America and has been reported in European hedgehogs. While most cases manifest in hedgehogs under 2 years old, the condition can affect hedgehogs of any age. The exact cause of WHS is unknown, but some studies suggest a genetic component.

Clinical signs of WHS include initial symptoms such as loss of balance, falling over, or hind leg lameness. Hedgehog owners may observe coordination difficulties, stumbling, or wobbling. Over time, these signs progress, leading to more severe symptoms like tremors, seizures, muscle atrophy, self-mutilation, temperature regulation problems, and loss of mobility. The majority of cases exhibit signs starting in the hind legs and advancing upwards. Weight loss is common, with appetite loss occurring in the terminal stages. Typically, hedgehogs with WHS become completely paralyzed within 15 months after the onset of symptoms.

Diagnosis of WHS can only be confirmed through postmortem examination of brain and spinal cord tissues. However, a presumptive diagnosis can be made based on the hedgehog's history and clinical signs.

Living with a WHS diagnosis involves providing supportive care, including hand feeding, until humane euthanasia is deemed necessary. Unfortunately, there are no effective treatments for WHS. Supportive care may involve physical therapy and assistance with walking. Some owners opt for humane euthanasia when the hedgehog's mobility significantly declines or when the overall quality of life is compromised.


Owners are advised to:

  • Regularly follow up with their veterinarian.
  • Monitor signs of disease progression and consult the veterinarian as needed.
  • Provide supportive care for the hedgehog.
  • Contact the breeder or pet store to inquire about the prevalence of WHS in the hedgehog's relatives.

It's crucial not to give up too soon, as supportive care can extend the hedgehog's quality of life for months. Signs to watch for include increased difficulty walking, muscle wasting, falling over, tripping, foreleg lameness, and difficulty eating. Owners should contact their veterinarian if these signs worsen, as they may indicate disease progression or another treatable condition.

If you suspect that your hedgehog is suffering from Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome (WHS), it is crucial to seek professional veterinary care. Visiting a qualified exotic vet in Nashville is highly recommended. Exotic vets are well aware of the unique healthcare needs of non-traditional pets, including hedgehogs.

When you observe signs such as increased difficulty walking, muscle wasting, falling over, tripping, foreleg lameness, or difficulty eating, it's important to contact your exotic veterinarian in Nashville promptly. A Nashville exotic vet with experience in hedgehog care can conduct a thorough examination, perform diagnostics such as bloodwork, radiographs or even advanced imaging, consider the hedgehog's history and clinical signs, and provide guidance on the best course of action.

Don't hesitate to reach out to Priest Lake Veterinary Hospital if you have concerns or questions about your hedgehog's health, especially if you suspect Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome.