Hedgehogs can eat almost anything, but some foods, such as dairy products, are not good for them. They are lactose intolerant so any dairy foods will cause painful digestive problems. There are also other foods which can be harmful too them.
What is lactose intolerance?
Dairy foods contain lactose. This is broken down by the digestive system and most people notice no symptoms. In those who are lactose intolerant, they do not break down the lactose and this sits in the digestive system and attracts bacteria.
While this isn’t a serious condition it can cause some very painful problems, including:
- Abdominal bloating and wind
- Stomach cramps and pain
If hedgehogs have a high amount of lactose, they can suffer a great deal.
Which foods should hedgehogs avoid?
Hedgehogs will eat anything if they like it, as they won’t know if it will harm them or not.
Lactose can be found in all dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, but also in other foods.
- Chocolate: Chocolate often contains milk, so it will have some lactose in it. While this may not be a large amount, you should never offer chocolate to a hedgehog. It is also high in sugar and fat, and these can cause other health problems.
- Bread: One of the ingredients in bread, is milk, so lactose will be present. Lactose isn’t the main reason why you should not feed hedgehogs bread. They need a high protein diet and bread has virtually no nutritional value for them. All it does, is fill them up, so they are not likely to forage for the foods they need.
- Breakfast cereal: These contain grains, so some may consider them a good choice. Grains, however, do not have the correct nutritional value for a hedgehog, so they are not a good choice of food. They also contain a small amount of lactose, so should be avoided.
Are other foods harmful to hedgehogs?
Avoiding dairy food will go a long way to making sure your hedgehogs are fed correctly, but there are other foods you should avoid.
Many people like to leave nuts out, and while they do contain protein, they can also be toxic and high in fat. Small pieces of nut can also be a choking hazard for a hedgehog.
- Oranges / lemons
Hedgehogs do like fruit, and in small quantities, fruit isn’t harmful. Most fruits contain sugar, so always limit these as a treat.
Some fruits, such as citrus fruits, can cause problems for a hedgehog. Citric acid can be harmful, so avoid oranges, lemons and pineapples.
- Fatty foods
Hedgehogs should have a low fat, high protein diet. If they are given too much fat, they cannot burn this off, and this will cause them health problems, similar to those experienced by humans and other animals.
If you feed them meat, choose low-fat, low-salt options such as turkey or chicken
Hedgehogs do like crunchy vegetables in moderation, but onions and garlic should be avoided. These are toxic to hedgehogs.
Frequently Asked Questions:
I’ve heard hedgehogs can eat cottage cheese. Why is this?
Cottage cheese is a dairy product and as such, could be harmful to a hedgehog. Some hedgies, however, do like it and tolerate it very well. The lactose content of dairy products will vary depending on how it is made, and although cottage cheese does contain lactose, it may be more tolerable as it has almost no whey proteins.
If you want to try a hedgehog with cottage cheese, use a plan variety and give it sparingly.
Hedgehogs are not aware that milk and dairy products will cause them pain, so never leave these out for them. The best diet is just plain water, and wet dog food, as long as it is a meaty flavour. This will give them all the nutrients they need, without causing them any pain.