Hedgehogs normally lose their quills (spines) during shedding periods. This is referred to as quilling and usually occurs when hedgehogs are babies and juveniles and large amounts of quills are shed.
The first quilling takes place at 2 months old. The baby hedgehog’s fine quills are dropped and the replacement quills are longer and thicker.
At 4 months old, hedgehogs experience their second quilling and will also lose a large amount of quills. The new quills push through the holes left by lost quills and the process can be uncomfortable. The second quilling has been compared to a baby’s teething.
During the hedgehog’s life, most about 90%, of quills will eventually fall out although not all at once in numbers, and will be replaced by new ones.
As a quill or spine tries to push its way out, it may encounter difficulty. Similar to having an ingrown hair, it can create problems such as redness, swelling, discharge, scabbing. You can help by cleaning the area using a cotton ball or clean cloth and warm water. You may be able to gently pull the spine through the skin. If the area appears to be infected, your vet will prescribe an antibiotic.
Your hedgehog’s behavior may change when losing quills. But don’t stop handling him/her, just don’t do so excessively.
Check the quills that drop off and make sure they have a bulb shape at the end. If a piece of quill remains in your hedgehog, it may have to be removed by hand.
Other reasons for excessive quill loss can be mites which are invisible to the human eye and must be seen through a microscope, inappropriate diet, stress, allergies and so on. Your exotic vet needs to examine your hedgehog to determine why this is occurring.