If you own guinea pigs you are almost guaranteed to run into parasites at one time or another. If you show your cavies, prevention and treatment will be a major part of your husbandry.
- Cavy lice are host-specific. If your cavy has lice, they cannot transmit them to you or any other animals.
- Most cavies have lice and/or mites, it's just not noticeable when the infestations are minor.
- It is a generally held idea that most (if not all) cavies carry mites in a dormant state, and when the cavy is under stress (young cavies, old cavies, pregnant/nursing cavies, show cavies, sick cavies, traveling cavies) the mite infestation becomes apparent.
- Certain kinds of mites can transmit to humans, but those cases are very rare.
- The treatments are rather easy, and you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive treatments.
- As in all cases, prevention is easier than the cure! However, it is advisable only to treat cavies who obviously have an infestation (you don't want to keep treating them as a preventative measure or you might create some super-mite that is resistant to medication :P )
- If one of your cavies is showing symptoms, all your cavies have parasites and should all be treated at the same time to prevent a further spread.
This picture shows that the hair has been chewed. This could be from mites, lice, itchy skin, or a neighboring pig having fun chewing on their cage-mate's hair (happens a lot :).
STATIC or HAIR MITES
Appearance- If your guinea pig has teeny tiny dots, mainly on it's rump or belly, that look like someone took brown paint and flecked it on your guinea pig with a toothbrush, then your guinea pig has HAY or STATIC LICE. These bugs are pretty harmless, all they do is chew on the hair shaft and dead skin cells on your cavy. They are very small, but if you look at them under a microscope they look like spiders wrapped around the strands of hair (see photo above).
Treatment- You can buy a special guinea pig and rabbit mite dip, or you can use kitten flea dip or a mite spray made for cage birds. Don't use puppy or dog flea dip or spray, because it's too strong for your cavy to handle. The dip should be made of .07% or less pyrethrins. I bought a mite spray for my piggies for about seven dollars at Pet Co that was made for birds, and it has done a good job.
GUINEA PIG LICE
Appearance- White or yellow bugs crawling through your cavy's hair. If you see these, your cavy has lice. The lice are host-specific, meaning that they only parasitize cavies, and cannot spread to humans or other animals.
Treatment- Spray treatment only lasts for as long as the spray is in contact with the parasite. Many breeders use a single drop of FrontLine, Advantage or Revolution behind the ear (on the bald spot). This will take care of lice for a month. USE CAUTION with this method, as an overdose can be lethal; do NOT use more than a single drop (less for young or small animals) once a month. Revolution is the best kind to use.
Appearance - The cavy has a 'ring' of sores where the hair has fallen off, and the skin looks dry and flaky, usually on the face/head. Ringworm is actually a fungus, not a parasite, but because it sounds like a parasite I put it on this page. WARNING: Ringworm can and does spread from cavies to humans, so use caution while treating.
Treatment - There is a very good site with tons of information here
Guinea Pig Mites
Symptoms - Cavy mites cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are microscopic. However, there are several tell-tale signs that your cavy has mites.
- the back has hair loss, thickened skin, and usually a 'V' mark on the back (see photo)
- your cavy is very irritable when touched on the back, and they either squeal or turn around and try to itch it when you touch them
These are signs that your cavy has mites.
Treatment: Mites can be treated with Ivermectin. The kind that comes in a tube for horses is one of the most commonly used, Zimectrin paste 1.87% is one commonly used treatment (and is around $10 at a feed store). Contact a vet or knowledgable breeder for treatment/dosages.