Hygiene is how well you keep your hedgehog and it's cage clean. You can have good (clean) hygiene or poor (dirty) hygiene. As Hedgehog owners we want to keep our prickly friends as healthy as possible, so we must practice good hygiene.
Poor hygiene often results in serious illness; respiratory infection, air way irritation, bacterial infections, urine scald and fungal infections are all diseases that can be caused caused by unsanitary conditions.
Both Body and Environmental Hygiene are important to keeping your hedgehog healthy.
Body hygiene = baths and nail trims. How clean your hedgehog is.
Environmental hygiene= How clean the hedgehog's cage is.
Remember: Your hygiene matters too. Always wash your hands before & after holding your hedgehog.Use hand sanitizer that is at least 70% alcohol if you cannot wash your hands right away, but do not skip washing your hands all together.
Be aware of cross contamination risks when handling items at the same time as handling your hedgehog. An example of a potential cross contamination would be;
If you have your hedgehog out exploring your room,
you take out the trash, you then handle your hedgehog after taking out the garbage.
There is a cross contamination risk of germs from the trash making their way to your hedgehog.
Cross contamination is not only a hazard to your hedgehog, it's a hazard to you!
Never putting your hands on your face or in your mouth while/after holding your hedgehog and changing your clothes if your hedgehog poops on you are some ways you can reduce cross contamination from your hedgehog to you.
Keeping your hedgehog and it's cage tidy are very important in preventing yourself from falling ill due to an illness you've contracted from your hedgehog.
The term universal precautions refers to certain steps that medical professionals and others take for infection-control.
In other words, universal precautions are the techniques that people use to reduce the risk of transmitting infectious diseases. The scientific basis of universal precautions is that individuals should treat any blood or bodily fluid as though it contains an infectious agent (Feces and Urine) https://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/community/environment/
Keeping a hedgehog's cage clean is not only important for the hedgehog's health, it is also very important for the owner of the hedgehog's health.
Hedgehogs (like all animals) can carry bacteria such as salmonella and e.coli in their digestive tracts. These germs exit the hedgehog's body when they defecate. The germs enter the outside environment when they hitch a ride in the feces, the bacteria then grows and effects the surrounding environment.
A dirty cage will be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. These germs can infect humans . It is very important to keep the hedgehog's cage clean and use universal precautions when handling hedgehog's and their belongings to prevent humans, hedgehogs and other pets from getting sick.
Loose bedding, such as wood shavings and shredded paper , have a greater surface area than cage liners or fleece. This greater surface area allows bacteria more room to grow and more ideal places to reproduce. Loose bedding holds moisture better than liners/fleece and often contain more bacteria or fungal spores.
if you use loose bedding, it is very important to clean the cage completely at least once weekly. The same is recommended for fleece and liners , but needs to be stressed more with loose bedding.
A lot of owners use loose bedding due to it's ability to look less messy and hold less odor than other substrates. Loose bedding seeming as if it is less messy is only an illusion.
A word on pine pellets. Pine pellets hold more bacteria and moisture than wood or paper bedding. It can also be uncomfortable for an animal to maneuver and sleep on. Therefore we can not recommend nor advise the use of pine pellet substrate.
At least weekly be sure to sanitize your hedgehog's cage.
Cage disinfecting procedure
1.) Remove all items from the cage. Throw away soiled bedding or wash fleece/liners
2.) Scrub the cage with a brush, using dish soap and warm water.
4.) Spray cage down with 1:9 bleach water solution.
5) Allow to air dry or wipe dry after 15 minutes.
6) Add fresh clean bedding to the cage.
7.) Add fresh clean decor to the cage.
Procedure for disinfecting solid cage decor-wheels/ hides
1.) Remove decor from cage.
2.) Scrub using a brush, dish soap and warm water.
4.) Spray down with a 1:9 bleach water solution.
5.) Allow to air dry or wipe dry after 15 minutes.
6) Put back in cage.
Vinegar for cleaning cages and decor
Vinegar is not a registered disinfectant. Some studies show that it does have SOME ability to inhibit bacteria and fungal growth, however this is not formally recognized. The EPA, CDC, and FDA do not acknowledge vinegar as a disinfectant.
Vinegar can be used by the average owner to deodorize cages and equipment, but it should not be used a methods of killing bacteria, fungus, or virus.
Disinfectants other than bleach
There are other approved disinfectants than can be used in place of bleach. Alkyl based products are very popular and efficient. Always follow packaging instructions and use personal protective equipment such as gloves, aprons and a mask if stated on the product lab