Hedgehog undergoes surgery to remove cancerous tumor

TAMPA, Fla. –  A 2-year-old African pygmy hedgehog is recuperating after undergoing surgery Thursday to remove a cancerous tumor from his jaw at BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Tampa.

The hedgehog, named Paco, was brought to BluePearl last week after his owner noticed the lower left side of his face was swollen. Doctors performed X-rays and a CT scan and confirmed the presence of a tumor.

“Hedgehogs are very susceptible to cancer,” said Dr. Julia Shakeri, who treats avian and exotic animals and has been overseeing Paco’s care. “Luckily for Paco, his owner spotted it quickly so that he could be treated.”



Dr. Nicole Salas, the board-certified veterinary surgeon who performed the procedure, said it was the first time she had operated on a hedgehog.

Although part of his lower jaw had to be removed to ensure the tumor was completely eliminated, Paco was alert and eating just an hour after surgery. Shakeri said she’s optimistic about his prognosis going forward.

“Everything went very smoothly,” she said. “He’s doing really well.”

Paco’s owner, Gabriella Pasquier, said she was relieved to hear her little hedgehog was on the mend. She said he’s very inquisitive and loves playing with paper towels and running on his exercise wheel.

“He’s super curious,” she said. “He loves to sniff everything. Plus, he’s completely adorable.”

Hedgehogs are becoming increasingly common as pets in the United States, according to Kristen Zorbini Bongard, public relations co-chair of the Hedgehog Welfare Society. They are also getting a higher profile because they attract a lot of attention on social media.



But because hedgehogs don’t typically display signs of illness, owners must be vigilant when it comes to their care. Doctors from BluePearl say hedgehogs should be examined at least once a year  to detect common diseases, such as dental disease, tumors and fatty liver syndrome.