What Happens When a Hedgehog Has a Heart Attack?

Hedgehogs, much like humans and other mammals, can suffer from heart disease and are susceptible to heart attacks.

These spiny mammals have captured the hearts of many people worldwide with their unique appearances and endearing behaviors, but there’s still a lot to learn about their health and diseases.

Heart health in hedgehogs, in particular, is an area of growing interest for researchers and veterinarians.

While it may be a surprising fact to many, understanding how cardiovascular problems manifest in hedgehogs, and what happens when a hedgehog has a heart attack, is an essential part of ensuring their proper care and protection.

This blog post will explore this topic further, shedding light on the signs, causes, and prevention of heart problems in hedgehogs.

Hedgehog Anatomy and Heart Function

Hedgehogs, just like other mammals, possess a four-chambered heart that includes two atria and two ventricles.

The structure and function of their heart are similar to that of humans and other mammals, making it essential for pumping blood throughout their bodies and supplying cells with the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive.

Also Read: – Why Do Hedgehogs Die Suddenly?

The right atrium receives deoxygenated blood from the body and pumps it into the right ventricle, which then sends the blood to the lungs for oxygenation.

The oxygenated blood returns to the left atrium and is pumped into the left ventricle, which subsequently sends the oxygen-rich blood out to the rest of the body.

Cardiac issues in hedgehogs, including heart attacks, typically stem from problems with the normal functioning of this system.

These could include heart muscle dysfunction (such as dilated cardiomyopathy), issues with heart valves, or blockages in the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle, similar to the issues that cause heart attacks in humans.

Understanding the basics of hedgehog anatomy, and specifically heart function, can be helpful in recognizing signs of potential heart disease and understanding the importance of measures to prevent cardiac issues in these unique creatures.

It’s important to remember that while hedgehogs share similar heart structures with other mammals, they have specific needs and sensitivities that should be considered when caring for them.

Regular veterinary check-ups and attentive care can help ensure your hedgehog’s heart stays healthy.

Causes of Heart Attack in Hedgehogs

While heart attacks are not common in hedgehogs compared to humans, they can still occur due to several reasons:

  • Age and Genetic Factors: Older hedgehogs are more prone to developing heart problems, and certain breeds may have genetic predispositions to heart disease.
  • Diet and Obesity: Just like in humans, a diet high in unhealthy fats and low in essential nutrients can lead to obesity, increasing the risk of heart disease in hedgehogs.
  • Lack of Exercise: Hedgehogs are naturally active creatures. In captivity, if they’re not provided with enough room to move or exercise equipment like wheels, they can become sedentary, leading to obesity and associated heart problems.
  • Stress: Prolonged or intense stress can contribute to heart problems in hedgehogs. Stressors might include a poor living environment, inappropriate handling, or insufficient socialization.
  • Infections and Illness: Certain bacterial or viral infections can affect a hedgehog’s heart, leading to inflammation or other damage that can result in a heart attack.

Prevention of heart disease in hedgehogs largely focuses on providing a balanced diet, ample opportunities for exercise, a stress-free environment, regular health checks, and early detection of any heart-related issues.

Also Read: – How To Tell if Baby Hedgehogs Are Dead?

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to detect signs of heart disease as early as possible.

If you notice changes in your hedgehog’s behavior, such as lethargy, decreased appetite, or difficulty breathing, it’s important to seek veterinary care promptly.

Symptoms of Heart Attack in Hedgehogs

A heart attack in a hedgehog can present with various symptoms, many of which are unfortunately non-specific and may overlap with other health conditions.

Nonetheless, here are some potential signs that a hedgehog might be experiencing a heart attack or heart disease:

  1. Lethargy: A hedgehog suffering from a heart condition may show signs of tiredness or decreased activity levels. They may be less active, especially during their usual active periods at night.
  2. Decreased Appetite or Weight Loss: Hedgehogs with heart problems may eat less than usual, leading to weight loss.
  3. Difficulty Breathing or Rapid Breathing: A hedgehog with heart disease might exhibit labored or rapid breathing. You might notice their sides heaving more than usual as they struggle to get enough oxygen.
  4. Weakness or Collapse: A hedgehog experiencing a heart attack may suddenly collapse or show signs of weakness, such as struggling to move or walk.
  5. Changes in Behavior: Behavioral changes, such as becoming more withdrawn or less responsive, might also indicate a heart issue.
  6. Swollen Abdomen: In some cases, heart disease can cause fluid build-up in the abdomen, causing it to look swollen or bloated.

These symptoms could be indicative of a heart problem, but they could also be symptoms of other health issues.

It’s crucial to consult a vet if you notice any changes in your hedgehog’s behavior, appearance, or habits. Early detection and treatment of heart disease can greatly improve a hedgehog’s prognosis.

Prevention of Heart Attack in Hedgehogs

Proper Diet and Exercise:

A balanced diet and regular exercise are crucial to maintain the heart health of a hedgehog. Offer a diet rich in protein, low in fat, and inclusive of a variety of fruits and vegetables to provide necessary nutrients.

Avoid overfeeding, as obesity can lead to heart disease. As hedgehogs are naturally active creatures, providing them with sufficient space to move around and explore is essential.

You could also provide an exercise wheel in their enclosure for extra physical activity. Remember, the wheel should be solid, not wire, to prevent injuries.

Reducing Stress:

Stress can negatively affect a hedgehog’s overall health, including heart health. To reduce stress, maintain a consistent daily routine, and provide a quiet, comfortable living environment.

Handling your hedgehog gently and regularly can also help them get used to human interaction, reducing stress levels. Additionally, providing them with hiding places or shelters can help them feel safe and secure.

Remember that regular veterinary check-ups are essential for early detection of any potential heart issues.

While heart disease is not entirely preventable, these steps can significantly reduce the risk and help ensure a long, healthy life for your hedgehog.


Heart attacks in hedgehogs, while relatively rare, can be a serious and life-threatening occurrence.

These unique, spiny creatures share a similar heart structure to humans and other mammals, and their hearts are vital for pumping oxygenated blood throughout their bodies.

Factors such as age, diet, lack of exercise, stress, and underlying health conditions can contribute to heart disease and potentially lead to a heart attack.

Signs that a hedgehog may be suffering from a heart attack or heart disease include lethargy, decreased appetite, weight loss, difficulty breathing, and changes in behavior.

It’s crucial to stay vigilant of these symptoms, as early detection can greatly enhance the prognosis for these small creatures.

Keeping your hedgehog’s heart healthy involves a combination of a proper diet, regular exercise, a stress-free environment, and regular vet check-ups.

By understanding the unique anatomy and health needs of hedgehogs, you can provide the best care possible for these endearing creatures and ensure they live a long, healthy, and happy life.

In conclusion, while heart disease in hedgehogs may be complex and somewhat challenging to understand, it is an area where ongoing education, awareness, and preventative measures can make a significant difference.

So, let’s keep our hedgehogs’ hearts healthy, one beat at a time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Signs of a hedgehog experiencing heart issues?

Hedgehogs experiencing heart issues may display symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty breathing.

If you notice any abnormal behavior or signs of distress in your hedgehog, it’s important to consult a veterinarian immediately.

Do hedgehogs suffer from heart disease?

Yes, hedgehogs can suffer from heart disease. While it may not be as common as other health problems, it’s essential to monitor your pet’s health and consult with a veterinarian for regular checkups.

What could cause a hedgehog to lay on its side?

A hedgehog may lay on its side due to a variety of reasons, including feeling comfortable or attempting to cool down.

However, if your hedgehog is continuously laying on its side and displaying signs of distress, such as labored breathing or lethargy, it could be experiencing health issues and should be seen by a veterinarian.

Are there common heart problems in hedgehogs?

While there isn’t enough data to confirm the prevalence of specific heart problems in hedgehogs, it’s known that they can suffer from heart disease and related conditions.

As hedgehog owners, it’s essential to keep an eye on our pet’s well-being and consult with a veterinarian for regular checkups and when any concerns arise.

How do hedgehogs display signs of illness?

Hedgehogs may display signs of illness through a lack of appetite, lethargy, unusual behavior, visible wounds, or discharge.

It’s crucial to monitor your hedgehog’s health and consult with a veterinarian if you suspect any issues. Always remember that hedgehogs might hide their illnesses, so staying vigilant is key.

Can a hedgehog’s health affect its movement?

Certainly, a hedgehog’s health can affect its movement. If a hedgehog is experiencing health issues, it may become lethargic and less active or show signs of discomfort when moving.

Ensuring our hedgehog has a clean living environment, proper nutrition, and regular exercise can contribute to their overall health and mobility.

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