Cardiomyopathy in Captive African Hedgehogs (Atelerix albiventris)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2000
James T. Raymond, DVM, MS, DACVP; Michael M. Garner, DVM, DACVP
Northwest ZooPath, Snohomish, WA, USA


African hedgehogs are common in zoo collections and are also kept as private pets. Neoplastic disease, renal disease, and hepatic lipidosis are common problems in hedgehogs.1 Cardiomyopathy has not been previously reported in African hedgehogs. The purpose of this study was to investigate a series of cases of cardiomyopathy in captive African hedgehogs (Atelerix albiventris). During a 5-year period, 16 African hedgehogs, from 42 necropsy cases recorded at Northwest ZooPath, were diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. The incidence of cardiomyopathy in this study population was 38%. Fourteen of 16 hedgehogs with cardiomyopathy were male and all hedgehogs were adult (>1-year-old). Nine hedgehogs exhibited one or more of the following clinical signs prior to death: heart murmur, lethargy, icterus, moist rales, anorexia, dyspnea, dehydration, and weight loss. The remaining seven hedgehogs died without premonitory clinical signs.

Gross findings were cardiomegaly (six cases), hepatomegaly (five cases), pulmonary edema (five cases), pulmonary congestion (four cases), hydrothorax (three cases), pulmonary infarct (one case), renal infarcts (one case), and ascites (one case). Five cases showed no gross changes. Histologic lesions were found mainly within the left ventricular myocardium and consisted primarily of myodegeneration, myonecrosis, atrophy, hypertrophy, and disarray of myofibers. All hedgehogs with cardiomyopathy had myocardial fibrosis, myocardial edema, or both. Other common histopathologic findings were acute and chronic passive congestion of the lungs, and acute passive congestion of the liver.

Many hedgehogs with cardiomyopathy had associated lesions in other organs. Eighty-one percent of hedgehogs with cardiomyopathy had acute tubular necrosis that was believed to have been due to poor renal perfusion. Fifty percent of hedgehogs with cardiomyopathy had vascular thrombosis. Cardiomyopathy can cause an acquired hypercoagulopathy resulting in vascular thrombosis. Diets from seven institutions with affected hedgehogs were reviewed and all contained canned/dry commercial cat food as a primary constituent but no obvious nutritional deficiency was discovered.

Literature Cited

1.  Raymond JT, White MR. Necropsy and histopathologic findings in 14 African hedgehogs: A retrospective study. J Zoo Wildl Med. 199;30:273–277.


Speaker Information
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James T. Raymond, DVM, MS, DACVP
Northwest ZooPath
Snohomish, WA, USA

Smithsonian National Zoological Park
Washington, DC, USA

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