Fur Mites in Guinea Pigs

PetMD Editorial
Jul 21, 2010
2 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

Ectoparasitic Infestation in Guinea Pigs

Fur mite infestation is a commonly encountered skin problem in guinea pigs. Under normal conditions fur mites are present in small numbers and exist symbiotically, not bothering their host. However, their numbers can increase when a guinea pig is stressed, has decreased immunity due to other illnesses, and/or is unable to keep the mites reduced by normal grooming -- all of which can lead to excessive itching, irritation and other disorders of the skin.

Fur mite infestations can be minimized or prevented by making sure that your guinea pig's living quarters are clean and sanitary, minimizing your guinea pig's stress levels, and feeding your guinea pig a nutritional and balanced diet.

Symptoms and Types

Some may cause hair loss but do not seem to affect the skin, while others will burrow into the skin and may cause intense itching, hair loss, and skin inflammation. This latter type of fur mite usually infects the inner thighs, shoulders, and neck of the guinea pig. When the infestation is with the burrowing type of mite, the skin beneath the affected fur may be dry or oily and thickened or crusty.

In severely infested animals, the affected areas may become infected, which can cause the animal to lose weight, have low energy, or run around the cage in an agitated state. If left untreated, the animal may ultimately suffer from convulsions and death may result.

Causes

  • Infection from other guinea pigs
  • Infection from contaminated objects like bedding
  • Unclean living conditions
  • Stress
  • Lowered immunity due to illness

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian can diagnose fur mite infestation in your guinea pig either by examining your guinea pig's fur for visible signs of the mites or by looking taking skin scrapings from your guinea pig for microscopic laboratory analysis.

Treatment

Depending on the type of mite that is found to be infesting your guinea pig, and the severity of the infestation, your veterinarian may either prescribe a powder or spray to be applied to your guinea pig's skin, or a series of injections to treat the skin irritation and inflammation along with the mites.

Living and Management

Follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding the application of the prescribed medicated dusts and sprays, and take steps to regularly clean and disinfect your guinea pig's cages to remove the mites and their eggs, as the unhatched eggs can lead to re-infestation. Observe your guinea pig for any signs of stress or illness, and consult your veterinarian if the symptoms do not appear to be lessening.

Prevention

Fur mite infestations can often be minimized or prevented by making sure that living quarters are clean and sanitary, and by minimizing your guinea pig's stress levels.

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