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Helping Failure To Thrive Hedgehog Babies
Sometimes, usually in the winter, I notice an increase in the number of runt hedgehog babies that are born to our herd. In talking to other breeders, I have learned that this phenomena is not unique to our herd and that other breeders also sometimes see this increase.
With these runt babies, some are smaller than their siblings at birth and remain somewhat smaller until final adult size is achieved. As adults, some of those end up as large or larger than their siblings. The ones that really concern me are those who start out the same size as their siblings and simply fail to thrive.
Hedgehog babies who fall in that failure to thrive category most have either been born into large litters or have been fostered with slightly older litters. Our theory is that they have been pushed out of the way and have gotten enough milk to survive but not enough to thrive.
When babies are developing at the same rate as their siblings, just smaller, I will give them crushed up kibble to eat. This helps them to eat more because they do not have to work as hard for it. Tiny hedgehogs do not always have the jaw strength to chomp full size kibbles like a normally sized near-weanling can. I may also offer them kitten milk replacer or goat milk in a shallow dish.
When babies are both smaller and less developed, I consider them to be a failure to thrive baby. To help these brave little souls survive, I give supplemental feedings whenever possible. If the baby is too small to eat and drink on its own I use a syringe to hand feed. When they get to the point where they can eat some kibble I also start them with crushed up kibble and goat milk or kitten milk replacer in a low dish.
Some of these failure to thrive babies make a full recovery. Our most famous runt was named Tiny Tim and he was quite the trooper! The pictures on this page are of him. Tim and his sister Latte were born normal sized. They were rejected by their mother and placed with different foster litters.
Tim was fostered by a hedgehog who I knew to be an excellent mother, but she already had five babies of her own. Latte was fostered by a mom who had only two babies, but she was a first time mom.
Latte was a bit behind her foster siblings in size and growth rate but was clearly thriving. Tim, however, never seemed to grow much. When Tim was four weeks old I placed him with a foster family of newborns, since he was the same size as the newborn hoglets! At four weeks old, Tim should have weighed around 100 grams but was a super tiny 24 grams.
When Tim was seven weeks old I gave him a cage of his own and put him on Select Diet, a nutrient dense hedgehog food that is soft enough for him to chew. I gave him a shallow water dish and a shallow dish with kitten milk replacer. Tim ate his weight in Select Diet daily, but at first he did not gain any weight. I kept rooting for him and hoping he would be ok!
In the end, Tiny Tim grew up to be a normal sized sweetheart, who surprised me by becoming a very handsome chocolate white! Using the same techniques that helped Tim, I have been able to help most of my failure to thrive babies survive. Bravo to these tiny troopers, the spirit with which they fight to survive against all odds is truly amazing!
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