Hedgehog Mani-Pedis





Introduction: Hedgehog Mani-Pedis

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One of the most essential and important parts of hedgehog ownership is nail trimming.

Hedgehog nails grow fast and need to be trimmed every 2-4 weeks (every hedgehog is different) otherwise you risk serious vet bills. Hedgehog nails curl under and if not trimmed, the nail will curl into their skin and cause serious problems with their feet. Once the nail is embedded in your hedgehog's skin, it usually takes a vet to remove it.

When hedgehog nails get too long (and they get pretty long, especially in the back) it can make it uncomfortable for your hedgehog to walk and run in their wheel.

Nail trimming is typically a one person job, I usually do it by myself with no trouble. Occasionally, and depending on your hedgehog's temperment, it can be a two-person job. One person to hold, the other to trim.

Step 1: Getting Hedgie Ready

Since it's likely you're going to do your hedgie's nails during their normal nap time (Cas usually wakes up on his own when all the lights are out/after 11pm) it's a good idea to give them a few minutes to wake up so you're not jolting their system (I know I wouldn't be too thrilled being put in water if I was barely awake). Letting your hedgie wake up first also makes for a nicer hedgie.

When I decided to make an Instructible out of trimming Cas's nails he was already napping on the couch in his sleep bag (which is usually one of our hoodies, he likes pockets). So I put the bag on my lap and started talking to him. It was about 8:30 pm, not super early, so he didn't mind and woke right up.

In the 3rd and 4th picture you can see one of Cas's paws and his nails. Front paws don't get as long as back ones, but they do have a higher chance of curling under and no one wants that.

Step 2: Prep

Sometimes when I'm waiting for Cas to wake up, I'll let him run around the bathroom floor while I'm prepping the sink. I use a clean sink for baths and nail trimming, replacing the regular stopper with a plug so the water doesn't drain too fast (and it helps with getting poo out of the sink mid-bath, your hedgehog will go to the bathroom during this process).

I've owned hedgehogs on and off since I was 17 and cuticle nail clippers like the one pictured are by far the easiest and safest tool to use to trim your hedgehogs nails. Using regular small toe nail clippers you risk getting skin or a hedgie toe caught and cut.

Hedgehogs wiggle around so much, you really have to pay extra careful attention to the position of the nail clipper. It can also help to have a second pair of hands.

If I'm just doing nails, I let the water get medium-warm, not too hot, not too cold, and only fill it a couple of inches. Just enough to soak Cas's feet. This is basically a foot bath and a very useful if your hedgie tends to get dirty feet from running. Cas doesn't seem to have the dirty boots problem too often, but the water does help make nails softer and easier to trim.

Step 3: A Note About Baths...

Hedgehogs do not need full baths unless they are disgustingly gross, I mean like covered in poop. Baths dry out hedgie skin and hedgie's already have issues with dry skin so you really don't want to add to it.

If you must give your hedgehog an actual bath, I suggest getting Aveeno Oatmeal Soothing Bath Treatment to mix in the water and a hedgehog-designated toothbrush for cleaning feet and quills. The oatmeal is supposed to be soothing to hedgies. It's also very nice for hedgies going through quilling.

Diligent cleaning of your hedgehogs cage and wheel will negate the need for baths more than a couple times a year.

Step 4: "Before" Nails

These are some "before" pictures of Cas's nails. All-in-all, not too bad since it's been probably 3 weeks since I last did his nails.

Step 5: Trimming: Back Nails

After a minute or so of soaking, I usually start with the back nails since they are the easiest. I do this while Cas is still in the water because he (and most hedgehogs) are less likely to pay attention to me (therefore reducing the risk of bites) and more likely investigating their tub.

Gently, but firmly grab one a back foot. Hedgehog nails are fairly clear until you get to the quick which is pink/red (blood), so like with your other pets, you want to avoid the pink part of their nail and trim just above it. If you trim too close to the pink, it'll likely bleed and upset your hedgie. Pet stores sell a few products which is basically a powder that you pour over a bleeding quick to make it stop, I usually see it in the bird aisle.

Don't pull, tug, overextend, or force your hedgie's foot. They will pull and it's usually a good idea to just let go and try again.

The last photo is what Cas was doing while I was trimming his back paws (husband helped with photos).

Step 6: Trimming: the Front

Some hedgehogs will let you trim their front nails in the rub just as you did the back, others won't. Cas seems to go back and forth. Tonight it seemed easier to pop him out of the bath and onto a small towel where he could not only dry his belly, but would make it easier to manuever his front paws so I'm not grabbing them like with his back.

I've trimmed the nails of at least 10 different hedgehogs (used to do rescue), Cas is by far the easiest customer I've ever had. Today's session took less than 10 minutes.

Step 7: Trimmed Nails!

These photos show Cas's nails after trimming. Some nails I probably could have gone shorter on, but it's not worth bugging your hedgehog more than you have to. The goal here isn't for nicely manicured nails, it's about preventing health problems. Some nails will grow faster than others, some nails will curl (watch out for pinky nails on all 4 paws).

After baths/nail trimming, I wrap Cas up in a dry towel or hoodie and keep him as warm as possible while he dries off. I also give him a treat, usually freeze dried mealworms, as a reward. I'm hoping that giving mealworms only after baths/nails will positively reinforce good bathtime behaviors. I'm also careful not to trim Cas's nails every time he gets a bath.

Hedgehogs can become accustomed to baths/trimmings and eventually relax, which makes the job so much easier. Cas is still pretty young, but every time I do his nails it does seem to get easier. I've experienced hedgehogs that were so neurotic it would take me 45 minutes to get 3 out of 4 paws done.

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Awww... He's just so cute! =) Great Instructable too. It's very important for people to know the special needs of animals and how to care for their pets properly. It's a sad thing to see a little one who is not being taken care of, as I'm sure you know from doing rescue work.

Do other hedgehogs hate it for being so fabulous?

Just curious. How do hedgies keep their nails short when they're in the wild?

2 replies

By continually digging in soil and gravel for food and shelter.

African Pygmy Hedgehogs are not found in the wild. The other types that are, I assume either they don't have the same problems or their nails rub down from whatever ground they walk on (pebbles and such).

For pretty much any animal nails that get clipped too close or get caught on something and break off under the skin--anything powdery will help get them clotted--corn starch; flour; agar; alum; baby powder. Apply a good sized blob or dip the paw in the powdery stuff and gently wrap a piece of toilet tissue over it for a few minutes. Very gentle pressure might be needed.

You can also get and have in your Animal First Aid Kit a Styptic Pencil (drugstores) but this can be hard to get on tiny nails and I have heard it can sting.

If the nails are whit-ish or clear using a light to help see the pink part of the nail can help; the light will shine thru and help guide your trim. For black nails--go as close to the end of the nail and if you need to work back in tiny increments.

You can also use a file for a lot of nail trim work or quick clean up of a broken or jagged nail--if the critter pulls this can cause the edge to be jagged.

For larger animals (goats; sheep!) use a MICRO PLANE --so much easier and safer than the commonly used "hoof clippers". You can buy these in the hardware store--no need to spend $$$ on one for cooking for the barn. And the above tech for dealing with damaged and bleeding nails works for hooves too!

Great read! I'm sure you could use these techniques on other animals, not just hedgehogs. Cas is super adorable by the way.

Also is there a particular sex I should be looking for? I know with monkey's you want to get the opposite sex of yourself. They Bond Better.

Thanks so much for the information. I've always been fascinated with hedgies. And I would love to have one of my own. I've looked online and find a whole range of prices. Sometimes even free. which leaves me wondering why free? If you can help me out with finding a healthy happy hedge at a. fair price. It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Tammy ☺

2 replies

Where do you live? I might be able to point you in the direction of a reputable breeder.

You should look for a breeder, specifically one that does learning sessions and allows you to look before you buy. You should also expect to pay at least $200. Hedgehogs are not something you want to skimp or look for a deal on. Breeding is everything and you never want to get from a pet store.

You can! There are a handful of cities and states where they are illegal or have specific regulations, but in most places they are allowed.

There are more types of hedgehogs, the white ones are less illegal and can be purchased from some pet-shops. These will have no flees and parasites than one you can get from outside.

2 replies

African Pygmy Hedgehogs (what I have) are the only legal hedgehog species in the U.S. There are other species available in different countries, but they don't necessarily make good pets.

Sex makes absolutely no difference in behavior or temperament. You can't tell the difference between boys and girls really.

Thanks for a great contribution for an unusual pet! I wish the water bath distraction worked on rabbits --those guys are tough to trim!