Ringworm Infection in Guinea Pigs

PetMD Editorial
July 22, 2010
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Microsporum Fungal Disease in Guinea Pigs

Ringworm infection is a common infection in guinea pigs. Contrary to its name, this infection is not due to a parasitic worm, but to a microsporum species of fungus, typically the Trichophyton mentagrophytes fungus, also clinically referred to as ringworm. The ringworm infection is characterized by bald patches that commonly start at the head. Patches may first appear on the face around the eyes, nose and ears, and from there the infection can spread to the back. A guinea pig can acquire ringworm infection from another guinea pig or from contaminated objects such as bedding.

Ringworm infection will usually resolve on its own if you are taking good care of your guinea pig and keeping its cage or tank clean and sanitary. However, ringworm is highly contagious to humans and other animals. Therefore, caution is essential while handling an infected guinea pig.

Symptoms and Types

The primary sign of ringworm infection is bald patches, usually starting at the head. Irritation and itching may also be seen in infected guinea pigs. The bald patches will generally have crusty, flaky, red patches within them; when these patches appear on the face, it is usually around the eyes, nose, and ears.

Causes

Ringworm infection is a fungal disease caused mostly by the fungus Trichophyton mentagrophytes, and to a lesser extent by the fungi belonging to the microsporum species. It is highly communicable and can be acquired through contact with an infected guinea pig. Contaminated objects, such as bedding, are another source of ringworm infection

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian can make an initial diagnosis of ringworm infection by visually examining the red patches on the guinea pig's skin. The diagnostic tools used for diagnosis include ultraviolet light, which will show details of the skin infection, and sample skin scrapings taken for laboratory analysis.

Treatment

Treatment is a five- to six-week course of an oral antifungal medicine. If there are only one or two bald patches, or limited nonspreading spots of skin that appear red and flaky, they can usually be treated by applying an antifungal topical ointment that has been recommended by your veterinarian. The course of treatment generally lasts 7-10 days. Your veterinarian might also suggest the use of vitamin and mineral supplements to improve your guinea pig's health.

 

Living and Management

If you have multiple guinea pigs, you will need to separate the recovering guinea pig from the other guinea pigs by placing it in a different cage until it has fully cleared the infection -- unless all of the guinea pigs have been found to be infected. Both the cage the guinea pig is being placed in, as well as the old cage the guinea pig has been inhabiting will need to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before introducing the guinea pig into it.

Follow the treatment schedule as recommended by your veterinarian. Ringworm infection is highly contagious to humans and other animals. Therefore, when handling an infected guinea pig it is necessary to wear disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after handling. It is advised that children not handle the infected guinea pig or any of the cage materials until the infection has been fully cleared and the materials cleansed entirely. You will need to see your veterinarian again to make sure that the infection has fully cleared from the guinea pig's system, and to assess the condition of the skin.

Prevention

Taking steps to clean and sanitize cages regularly so as to avoid build up of contaminated material inside the cages can help reduce the incidences of ringworm infection in guinea pigs.