Greetings guinea pig lovers!
In this article I’ll be talking about mites in guinea pigs and how to treat and identify them.
What are Mites?
Mites are a type of parasite that are very small and can be very serious. I know, because my guinea pigs had them a few months ago! There are many kinds of mites. The most common types are fur mites and mange mites, mange mites being the more harmful version.
How Does a Guinea Pig Catch Mites?
Mites can be transferred through hay, grass, dirty bedding, or another guinea pig to name a few! One way to prevent mites is to make sure you buy your hay from a pet shop, and always keep your guinea pigs bedding clean! Even if you follow these tips, it is still possible for your Guineas to succumb to mites.
These mites are extremely painful and cause itching, hair loss and sores. They’re invisible to the naked eye and burrow under the skin, causing the guinea pig to scratch a lot, which irritates the skin and can make the condition worse. Mange mites can cause severe sickness and even death. In extreme cases mange mites can cause seizures. Symptoms are:
- Itching and scratching
- Hair loss
- Red skin and sores
- Flakes of dandruff and skin residue
If you see these symptoms in your guinea pigs, I would recommend you see a vet as soon as possible, and treat all the guinea pigs you have even if the others aren’t showing any symptoms. The most common treatments a vet will offer for your guinea pig will be either an injection of ‘Ivermectin’ or ‘Revolution’ (for puppies and kittens). I would like to say that each guinea pig is different and some treatments may not work as well as others, while those same remedies would work for another guinea pig. Don’t bath your guinea pig as this could cause the mites to burrow deeper into the skin, which you do not want!
When we brought our guinea pig, Peanuts, to the vet (Geronimo, our other Guinea, had already been treated), they gave him 2 injections of Ivermectin and Cortisone. The Cortisone stopped the itching for Peanuts, which stopped the scratching cycle, so that the Ivermectin could effectively kill the mange mites. Before this, we had tried every other treatment we could think of, including Revolution and a number of natural remedies to help soothe. They didn’t work on Peanuts, but Geronimo was cured easily by the Revolution, which goes to show that every guinea pig’s body works differently.
There are two types of fur mites, Static Lice (Chirodiscoides caviae), and walking dandruff (Cheyletiella parasitivorax). The static lice are relatively harmless and can be seen moving in the guinea pigs fur. They often form at the rear and look similar to small egg-like structures. The other type, walking dandruff are relatively big and range from white to yellow. They can grow up to 0.3mm. Walking dandruff mites dissolve skin by using digestive enzymes and consume it, which causes itchiness, loss of hair, inflammation, and scabs. The treatment is relatively similar to mange mites (Ivermectin or Revolution for puppies and kittens), except that the Ivermectin should be applied topically and not injected as it should be for mange mites. Similar to mange mites, I would recommend you ask the vet to inject Cortisone with whatever other treatment they’re using as it may help with the itching, giving your guinea pigs time to heal. Don’t bath your guinea pigs or give them shampoo as this may cause another outbreak due to anxiety.
Here are some home remedies that may help soothe your guinea pigs in their recovery from mites:
This is a commonly used treatment to help guinea pigs with mites, although better as a mite deterrent, diatomaceous earth has tiny razor sharp particles that, although harmless to guinea pigs, can prove an effective fur mite killer. This does not work on mange mites though as they burrow under the skin and won’t be affected by the diatomaceous earth.
The way to apply it is via the skin, and just rubbing it on your guinea pigs.
Colloidal silver can be used to flush dirt and debris out of any open sores, which will help against infection, but it will not cure the mites themselves. However, it should never be ingested as that can be harmful to your guinea pigs.
What to Do If Your Guinea Pig Has Mites
If you find out your guinea pig has mites, I would recommend you see a vet immediately as that should always be your first line of attack. I can’t recommend any singular “cure” for mites as it really does depend on the guinea pig! One treatment may work for one guinea pig and then not for another! I would say the best thing to do is to see your vet. Another important thing to make sure of is to cut your guinea pig’s nails regularly so that they don’t cause open sores when scratched. You also want to clean and disinfect all of their housing, toys and bedding to completely eradicate the mites. This is a big job!
Guinea pigs may scratch and bite their own skin in order to kill the mites, so a cortisone injection may be beneficial to help with the itching. In addition to this, never get your guinea pigs flea or mite medication from a pet store as they almost always have ingredients that are harmful or toxic to your guinea pigs!
An important thing to make sure of is to continue treatment of mites even when they appear to have gone, as the eggs may remain unharmed and you want to kill them as soon as they’ve hatched to stop the cycle! You don’t want your piggie to go through any more cycles of mites!
Good luck with getting rid of your cavies’ mites! Hope they are easy to treat and your piggies are happy and healthy once more!
So for the love of guinea pigs, thank you for reading and goodbye!