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Disseminated histoplasmosis in an African pygmy hedgehog

Timothy A. SniderDepartment of Veterinary Pathobiology, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078.

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Priscilla H. JoynerDepartment of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078.

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Kenneth D. ClinkenbeardDepartment of Veterinary Pathobiology, Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078.

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Abstract

Case Description—A 2-year-old captive-bred sexually intact female African pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris) was evaluated because of vague signs of illness including inappetence, weakness, lethargy, and weight loss over a 20-day period.

Clinical Findings—Abnormalities detected via initial clinicopathologic analyses included anemia, thrombocytopenia, leukopenia, hypoproteinemia, and hypoglycemia. Results of a fecal flotation test were negative. Three weeks after the initial evaluation, splenomegaly was detected via palpation and ultrasonography.

Treatment and Outcome—The hedgehog was treated with broad-spectrum antibacterial agents, resulting in an initially favorable response. Fenbendazole was also administered against possible occult parasitic infestation. After 3 weeks of illness, the hedgehog's condition had worsened and supportive care and administration of additional antibacterial agents were instituted. The hedgehog died, and pathologic examinations revealed severe splenomegaly; granulomatous infiltrates were evident in multiple organs, and Histoplasma capsulatum yeasts were detected intralesionally.

Clinical Relevance—Histoplasmosis can develop in a wide range of mammalian species. African pygmy hedgehogs are becoming increasingly popular as exotic pets, and vague signs of illness and splenomegaly are often attributed to hemolymphatic malignancies, which are somewhat common in this species. Practitioners should be aware that similar clinical signs may be associated with histoplasmosis in these animals. Although the hedgehog of this report was confined indoors, it originated from an area where histoplasmosis was endemic; this indicates that the disease should be included as a differential diagnosis for hedgehogs that develop vague signs of illness and are known to originate from such geographic regions.

Abstract

Case Description—A 2-year-old captive-bred sexually intact female African pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris) was evaluated because of vague signs of illness including inappetence, weakness, lethargy, and weight loss over a 20-day period.

Clinical Findings—Abnormalities detected via initial clinicopathologic analyses included anemia, thrombocytopenia, leukopenia, hypoproteinemia, and hypoglycemia. Results of a fecal flotation test were negative. Three weeks after the initial evaluation, splenomegaly was detected via palpation and ultrasonography.

Treatment and Outcome—The hedgehog was treated with broad-spectrum antibacterial agents, resulting in an initially favorable response. Fenbendazole was also administered against possible occult parasitic infestation. After 3 weeks of illness, the hedgehog's condition had worsened and supportive care and administration of additional antibacterial agents were instituted. The hedgehog died, and pathologic examinations revealed severe splenomegaly; granulomatous infiltrates were evident in multiple organs, and Histoplasma capsulatum yeasts were detected intralesionally.

Clinical Relevance—Histoplasmosis can develop in a wide range of mammalian species. African pygmy hedgehogs are becoming increasingly popular as exotic pets, and vague signs of illness and splenomegaly are often attributed to hemolymphatic malignancies, which are somewhat common in this species. Practitioners should be aware that similar clinical signs may be associated with histoplasmosis in these animals. Although the hedgehog of this report was confined indoors, it originated from an area where histoplasmosis was endemic; this indicates that the disease should be included as a differential diagnosis for hedgehogs that develop vague signs of illness and are known to originate from such geographic regions.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Joyner's present address is Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, One Wild Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15206.

Address correspondence to Dr. Snider.