You are probably thinking there is no way your cute and cuddly cavy could possibly have parasites. After all, you clean the cage, replace bedding and hay and groom your guinea pig regularly. Unfortunately, no matter how well you look after your pet piggy, common parasites, such as mites, lice, and fleas can (and will) make themselves at home on your pet.
If left untreated, these pests can cause severe skin irritations, hair loss, seizures and, in extreme cases, even lead to death. In this article, we answer all your questions about these creepy-crawlies, from how to spot them, the best treatments available and how to prevent future infestations.
We finish off with your most frequently asked questions.
But before we jump straight in, let’s take a look at the types of parasites that are specific to guinea pigs, and of course, what the differences between lice and mites are.
Is There A Difference Between Lice and Mites?
Mites and lice are the most common parasites that affect guinea pigs, but there is a difference between them.
Guinea Pig Mites
When it comes to parasites, two types affect guinea pigs, namely static mites (Chirodiscoides caviae) and sarcoptic mange mites (Trixacarus caviae). The main difference between these two is that static mites live in your guinea pig’s hair, while the sarcoptic mite burrows under its skin.
While both will make your guinea pig itch, sarcoptic mites can cause mange, which is incredibly painful and can cause seizures. If left untreated, this condition can be fatal for guinea pigs with weak immune systems.
It is important to note that mites can’t be seen with the naked eye!
Guinea Pig Lice
A lice infestation or pediculosis is similar to mites in that it can cause itching and scratching. However, you will be able to spot these pests (and their eggs) on your pet. The three most common types are:
- Oval lice or Gyropus ovalis
- Slender lice or Gliricola porcelli
- Trimenopon hispidum
If you suspect your guinea pig has lice, you must treat it as soon as possible, as it can be passed from an infected cavy to another. It also spreads via contaminated bedding.
What Do Mites Look Like?
Because mites can’t be seen with the naked eye, you will have a hard time finding them on your guinea pig regardless of what they look like. The best way to tell if your piggy has an infestation it to look for associated symptoms. Carry on reading to find out what these are.
How Do Guinea Pigs Get Mites?
It is not unusual for guinea pigs to have a small number of parasites at any point in time. These pesky parasites are dormant and go unnoticed, but when a cavy can’t groom itself correctly, feels stressed or has a weakened immune system, the infestation can get out of hand quickly.
Once an infected guinea pig comes into contact with others, the infestation will spread. They can also spread indirectly through bedding, food and toys. It goes without saying that dirty hutches are breeding hotspots for these pests.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Mite Infestation?
A sure sign that your cavy has mites is continuous itching and scratching. But there are other tell-tale signs to look out for. These include:
- Excessive scratching or biting themselves
- Hair loss or bald spots
- Inflamed skin, sores or scabs
- Lethargy or change in behaviour
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
It is only in severe cases that your guinea pig will experience convulsions or seizures. We suggest getting your piggy to the vet as soon as possible to prevent this from happening.
How Do I Get Rid Of Mites On My Guinea Pig?
Mange mites are different from static mites, and so is the treatment. It is best to speak to a cavy-savvy vet. They will be able to identify what type of mite it is and treat the infestation accordingly.
Treating Static Mites
Once your vet has diagnosed static mites, he or she will recommend a spray or shampoo treatment. Do not buy over the counter products. These may contain toxic ingredients that are potentially life-threatening to guinea pigs.
Treating Mange Mites
Mange mites, without proper treatment, are extremely painful, and in some cases, even life-threatening. Your vet will prescribe a treatment with ivermectin or selamectin. Both of these can treat a mange mite infestation.
Your vet will administer ivermectin with an injection, orally or topically. Because injections can be painful for guinea pigs, we recommend topical or oral treatment. Speak to your vet about these options.
It is essential to keep in mind that ivermectin doesn’t kill the eggs, so more than one treatment is necessary. Selamectin, on the other hand, is more effective in killing mites and their eggs.
Depending on how severe the infestation is, your vet may also recommend de-worming medication. This can be administered orally or via injection.
Tip: Don’t bath your guinea pig until your veterinarian has diagnosed the problem. Mange mites will burrow deeper into the skin, causing your piggy even more pain.
How Do You Prevent Guinea Pig Mites?
There is nothing you can do to make your piggies 100% parasite-proof, but there are some measures you can take to keep infestations down.
1. Health checks
Because cavies are prone to mite infestations, you must do regular health checks. Use a fine-tooth comb and gently part the hair for signs of parasites.
2. Clean cages and bedding
You should do daily spot checks and remove soiled or wet bedding. Replace and wash bedding once a week, and do a deep clean monthly.
3. Feed your guinea pigs a balanced diet
Guinea pigs need a balanced diet to stay healthy. Ensure you are giving your pets good-quality pellets, plenty of hay and a variety of vegetables and fruit. You will also need to supplement their diet with vitamin C.
4. Keep your cavies happy
It is essential that your guinea pigs are happy and stress-free. The right sized hutch with plenty of space to run around and toys to keep them stimulated is vital. A guinea pig on its is more likely to become so stressed, so make sure yours has a pal.
5. Never introduce a new guinea pig without checking for mites
Mites can be spread from one guinea pig to another. Always check for any signs of parasites before introducing a new piggy to a hutch.
Frequently Asked Questions About Guinea Pig Mites
Take a look at our most frequently asked questions about guinea pig mites. This gives you all the information you need at a glance.
Can Guinea Pigs Get Mites From Hay?
Yes, guinea pigs can most definitely get mites from hay, as well as bedding, food and even toys. This is because the parasites can live for up to three weeks without a host. Unsuspecting cavies can quickly become infected if exposed to parasites in their hay or grass.
Can Mites Kill My Guinea Pig?
Static mites, while unpleasant, are more of a hindrance than life-threatening. But mange mites can most certainly kill a guinea pig if left untreated. These infestations are painful and cause intense itching, which can cause your guinea pig to have a seizure. This can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Can Humans Get Mites From Guinea Pigs?
You will be pleased to know that guinea pig mites (and lice) are species-specific, so there is very little chance of you or your family becoming infected. But take note, if you or a family member has sensitive skin, coming into contact with an infected piggy could cause an itchy rash.
We really hope you found this article helpful. Please get in touch if you have any questions or concerns about mites and your guinea pig. You can leave a comment below or leave a message on our Facebook page.