Why Can’t Hedgehogs Have Milk?

There are plenty of old wives’ tales about hedgehogs, and not all of them are true. So, if you heard from someone that feeding your spiky pet cow’s milk and bread is alright, we beg to differ.

Hedgehogs have a sweet tooth, but sadly, they are lactose intolerant! Meaning: They CANNOT have milk.

According to studies, hedgehogs search gardens for food as a supplement apart from their natural diet.

So, if you are putting out small snacks to feed them, you can rest easy that if you are gone for a day or two, they won’t be waiting for their daily meal.

Hedgehogs eat based on seasonal availability. Their diet usually comprises beetles, earthworms, slugs, caterpillars, earwigs, millipedes, etc.

They are insectivorous and rarely omnivorous, eating a variety of baby rodents, frogs, carrion, bird’s eggs, and baby birds in the latter category.

They do munch on the occasional fallen fruit, such as berries.

Why Can’t Hedgehogs Drink Milk?

28% to 35% of a hedgehog’s diet is made up of protein. This is why most owners assume that milk will be a great addition to it.

It contains important minerals and vitamins, acting as a nutritious supplement. However, is giving them milk a good idea?

NO! As mentioned earlier, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. Their little body does not produce lactase, an enzyme needed to break down sugars (lactose) found in milk.

As a result, hedgehogs cannot milk. Even consuming a small amount can cause an upset stomach, general discomfort, bloating, and diarrhea in hedgehogs.

So, feeding milk to hedgehogs is not a good idea.

You are probably wondering how hoglets (baby hedgehogs) have their share of milk growing up, right?

The milk hoglets drink from their mothers comes from a natural source. They consume it for a few weeks and then sow their oats in the wild.

In a way, hedgehogs drink milk at some point in their life but only their mother’s milk. When they become insectivorous, their body changes, and that’s when any other type of milk becomes dangerous.

If you are thinking about giving adult hedgehogs their milk, that presents a whole set of new problems you should avoid.

All in all, most milks are off-limits. Water is the best option if you are set on giving them a beverage.

Is Dairy-Free Milk Safe for Hedgehogs?

No! Even if the milk does not contain lactose, such as almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, etc., it is unsuitable for their diet.

By this point, you might be ready to argue that since lactose is out of the equation and the milk contains only minerals and vitamins, why is it unsafe for hedgehogs?

Well, for the latter reason.

Yes, you are denying your hedgehog something nutritious and delicious, but it is unsafe for them. Like other animals, hedgehogs, too, have specific needs.

These are much less than human beings. Meaning: The milk needs to be balanced according to the hedgehog’s diet requirements.

If you simply pour out a cup into their bowl, there’s a risk of developing vitamin toxicity.

Nut milk manufacturers add synthetic minerals and vitamins to their products. This is called fortification; in some places, they are bound by law to do so.

Some of the vitamins added to milk include A, B2, B12, E, and D2. Calcium is one of the minerals added in high amounts to provide a major health benefit, such as strong bones.

The onslaught of these vitamins and minerals is dangerous for a hedgehog’s small body. Their body cannot get rid of them, leading to severe health consequences.

If we set aside vitamin toxicity, dairy-free milk is still not a good option for hedgehogs because it is quite low in protein.

If you find a baby hedgehog in your garden abandoned by its mother, you will need to feed it milk to ensure it grows strong and healthy.

In this case, you can opt for a milk substitute called Esbilac. It contains pre and probiotics for healthy digestion and immunity. One of the best things about this milk is that it can be given post-surgery.

Can Milk Kill Hedgehogs?

Finally, a question that you have probably been waiting for to be answered, right? A hedgehog measures between 4 inches to 12 inches.

Because of their small size, they are unable to digest milk properly. This is why milk in any form is dangerous, even if you are giving your hedgehog a taste of cheese.

Pets like cats and dogs can be given a variety of foods. However, for hedgehogs, milk becomes dangerous as it changes your spiky pet’s disposition.

It causes diarrhea, which leads to dehydration and then an upset stomach. As a result, your hedgehog is unable to eat anything. Eventually, it starts to fight for its life and dies.

You can give your hedgehog juice for an energy boost, but only freshly squeezed. Store-bought juice contains too much sugar, which can lead to diarrhea.

What Kind of Milk Is Safe for Hedgehogs?

Adult hedgehogs don’t need milk. We have already established that cow’s milk is a big NO. A safe alternative is goat’s milk, which does not contain a high amount of lactose. As for hoglets, you can give them cat milk.

Since cats are lactose intolerant, their milk is completely safe for baby hedgehogs. You don’t have to worry about digestive issues, which can still occur when oat or goat milk is consumed.

Remember: Milk is not at all safe for hedgehogs. If consumed in any other form, such as cheese or cream, it can lead to severe stomach problems and, in some cases, even death.

Final Thoughts

Hedgehogs will scarf down a combination of meat-based, cat or dog food, or dry kitten food, whichever is easy for them to take into their mouth. Remember:

They will get their daily fill of food from worms and insects in the wild. You can also opt for store-bought hedgehog food specifically made for pets.

The healthier the hedgehog’s diet, the longer it will live. So, design a balanced meal to avoid adding milk or any other dairy product to it.

Those plant-based milk, such as oat milk, is a good alternative; it should only be given on special occasions as a treat. Make sure it does not contain extra flavoring or sugar.

If you fear your abandoned hedgehog might not survive without milk, you can experiment with formula milk. Don’t forget to dilute it with water.

Formula milk contains the right amount of nutrients and vitamins that will strengthen their immune system. Wean them off completely after thirty days.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some common questions people have about hedgehogs and milk:

Can hedgehogs drink milk?

No, hedgehogs cannot drink milk. They are lactose intolerant, which means they cannot digest the lactose (sugars) found in milk. Consuming milk can lead to an upset stomach, diarrhea, bloating, and general discomfort.

What should I feed my hedgehog instead of milk?

Hedgehogs are insectivores and require a diet high in protein. You can feed your hedgehog a variety of insects, such as crickets, mealworms, and waxworms.

You can also provide them with high-quality, low-fat cat food. Fresh fruits and vegetables can also be offered as treats in moderation.

Can I give my hedgehog cheese?

No, hedgehogs should not be given cheese. Cheese is high in fat and can cause digestive issues. It is best to stick to a diet high in protein and low in fat.

What about yogurt?

While yogurt is lower in lactose than milk, it is still not recommended to give to hedgehogs. The high-fat content can cause digestive issues and lead to obesity. It is best to stick to a diet high in protein and low in fat.

Can I give my hedgehog almond milk or soy milk?

No, almond milk and soy milk are not suitable for hedgehogs. They do not provide the necessary nutrients and can cause digestive issues. It is best to stick to a diet high in protein and low in fat.

What should I do if my hedgehog accidentally consumes milk?

If your hedgehog accidentally consumes milk, monitor them for any signs of digestive distress and contact your veterinarian if necessary. Symptoms can include diarrhea, bloating, and discomfort.

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