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My Hedgehogs' Story Part III

Last Updated: 11/4/06

Sonic's Cancer
Prickles' Problems

Sonic's Cancer

All good things come to an end. On 2/19/05, I noticed that Sonic's penis was out and enlarged. My first instinct was that this was not normal. I asked my mother for her opinion, and she thought it was normal (never having seen what normal was), and he was just "happy to see me" so I let it slide. Then, over the next week, I discovered he had stopped eating his mealworms. Finally, I had a 3 am epiphany if you will on 2/26/05 that something was direly wrong. I checked his penis that morning to find it was huge and bloody. I called four vets to find one who could see him right away. The emergency vet claiming it sees exotics said it would not see him as the doctor there doesn't feel "comfortable" with them. So, they really do not care about the animals needing help. Finally, my mother was nice enough to drive him a long ways away to a vet we had never been to. I did not go but left a list of symptoms, etc. I figured maybe he got an infection from CareFresh in his penile sheath or that he had a prolapsed penis. My mother called to say that the vet sedated him and was doing x-rays, thinking it was a kidney stone that had progressed. When I heard back and talked to the vet, she said the x-ray showed no problem, and she had cut him open to find a huge tumor. The tumor had progressed to grow into and push up the penis. It was unclear if the tumor had broken the skin itself but that was likely. Now, Sonic had lots of fat on him (he was overweight) and various bumps but I figured they were all just fat and his testes. It turns out I was wrong, and it was costing Sonic his life. I gave him Metacam, 0.05 mL once a day, liquid Baytril (10 mg?) 4 mL twice a day, and lactated ringers 20 mL a day. They gave him a shot of antibiotics and pain killer (buprenex) while there. I felt so guilty for not getting him checked out sooner. The vet cannot do anything for him. The tumor cannot be removed because they would have to take his penis too, and unlike with in other animals, they cannot make a shunt which I guess is what they do with dogs and cats. Sonic was dying. I took some last photos and weighed him a last time. He dropped from about 645 g to 555 g in one week. Previous to that, he was not showing real changes in weight. In the photo section, you can see photos of him including his penile condition on 2/26/05. Believe me, it is nothing about which to laugh.

Update 3/5/05: Sonic was getting better! He was extra huffy and putting up a good fight. By comparison, a week before that, he did not move much. He was not drinking on his own but ate a few bugs! His penis was looking better. A lot of the swelling went down and scabs came off showing more pink skin. Here they said he was dying right away but he was getting better! I asked another vet about Sonic's condition, and he said he has known male hedgehogs with ruptured penises that have lived for months like that! Plus, when I weighed him on 3/4/05, he was up to 560 grams so not only did he not lose more weight but put a little on!

Update 4/20/05: Vets do not know a thing! Sonic was still alive and functioning pretty much normally despite his open tumor. I kept him on Baytril to prevent infection and Metacam for pain. I took a photo on 4/16/05 which you can see in the photo section to see what things looked like then.

Sonic began to go downhill in June, slowly losing weight. Not until July did I realize the cause was not his abdominal tumor at all but a mouth tumor. A gumball-sized tumor grew in his bottom left jaw, making it difficult and most likely painful to eat. Sonic was going downhill fast. I gave him 10-15 mL of lactated ringers each night as well as MetaCam (for pain) and Baytril (for infection).

I thought it was just a matter of days but Sonic was not ready to go. On 7/9/05, when I cleaned his cage and put him in the carrier with mealworms like I did while cleaning, he ate them! Then, I weighed him to find that his loss of weight over the last few months had stopped. He had not lost any weight from the previous week. Some of that may be water weight (I weighed before that night's dose though). When I put him back in his cage, he started to eat! He was more feisty and had gone back to sleeping under his hat instead of in the open.

Sonic died on 7/15/05, sometime between 8 am and 5 pm. I will miss him. He lasted 5 months longer than the vet said he would. He was a brave fighter. He was almost four-years old.

As of 3/17/06, Prickles was still fine. She had no sign of any problems. Suddenly about August of 2006, she began putting on weight each week! I thought she might have cancer but I could not feel any tumors. She was just getting fat for some reason. She had trouble moving around but otherwise seemed fine. She went from 350 g on 6/10/06 up to 451 g as of 9/30/06. She had gained weight every week since 7/15/06. The biggest jump was up 21 g in one week from 9/6/06 to 9/16/06!!

I plotted Sonic's weight chart from when I had him. I weighed him every week. Here is Sonic's weight graph. You can see the weight loss when I first got him, huge drop in weight when his penis ruptured, and then how he put weight back on only to lose it again at the end when he got the mouth tumor.

Prickles' Problems

In August of 2006, something started to happen to Miss Prickles. She started to gain 10, 20, 30 grams a week! For two months, she became fatter and fatter and ate more and more. I should have taken her to the vet then but things were hectic, and I let it slide. As she grew fatter, she started to get bruises in her arm pits where the skin was over stretched. On 10/14/06, when I weighed her, for the first time recently, her weight went back down. She had stopped eating. Her entire underside was purple from ruptured blood vessels. I finally brought her to the vet on 10/17/06. When I picked her up to take her, I noticed she had liquid, green poop, a very bad sign (it continued later). Prickles let the vet feel her up and examine her. I had done the same when she first started gaining weight and did not feel any lumps (tumors). Neither did the vet. The fact that Prickles was black and blue did not bother the vet as much as the fact that Prickles did not ball up or put up a fight. The vet said Prickles is "not there" mentally. She had cataracts for about a year but the vet thought she could not see well. I would have to agree as I had helped her eat a few mealworms a few days before by hand feeding them to her. She could not seem to find them on her own. The vet noticed her eyes dark to the right about every five seconds, a sign of neurological damage. She also could move her legs but was moving them wrong. So, the vet's diagnosis was that she probably had a brain tumor. I deduce that somehow the tumor affected the part of the brain controlling eating and satiation, and that she had gone from eating very little to pigging out to the point that it ruptured her capillaries as she grew so fast. Then, she was eating very little but would take a mealworm by hand. In the few days before the vet visit, she was just laying there, kind of dazed. It would not be long before she was gone. I felt better knowing that the vet said that if I had brought her in sooner, it would not have mattered. The vet did not have a clue why she gained weight and was all bruised. If I had brought her a few months before when she was still behaving normally (just eating a lot), the vet would not have known what to do. The vet gave me prednisolone to give her to maybe lower the swelling in her brain and elsewhere and to increase appetite. I thought it was probably too little too late. I suggested MetaCam for pain but the vet said you cannot do both at the same time since it would cause gastrointestinal upset. Prickles' prednisolone dose was 0.15 mL twice a day for 3 days, then once a day for 3 days, and then 0.1 mL every two days. The concentration of the liquid we got is 15 mg/5 mL or 3000 ppm. As of the morning of 10/18/06, she was still alive.

She died on 10/18/06 between 12 and 4 pm.

I took two photos of Miss Prickles before burial of her stomach. I am posting them in hopes that someday someone may say that yes, they saw the same thing and knows what happened. After death, her sides would shake like jelly if I moved her just a little. I wonder if maybe she was retaining fluid instead of gaining fat. The photos show the bruising. WARNING: These are photos of a deceased animal and some may find them troubling. Please do not view the photos if you are bothered by such things.
Miss Prickles stomach view - head at top
Miss Prickles stomach view - head at left

I plotted Prickles' weight graph from when I had her. I weighed her every week. Here is her weight graph. You can see the initial weight loss when I first got her and just how much weight she gained at the end!

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