Guinea Pigs and Mites

Unfortunately, mites are a reality for guinea pigs. Your furry friend will probably get an infestation at least once in their lifetimes through no fault of their own. Catching and treating mites is vital to your guinea pig’s health and comfort.

What are Mites?

A mite is a tiny arthropod. They can survive in a variety of environments as well. Mites hatch from eggs and can live anywhere from a few days to a month, depending on their species. The kind of mite you need to be concerned about like living in the skin of live critters.

Guinea pigs tend to get one of two types of mites, static (Chirodiscoides caviae) and sarcoptic (Trixacarus caviae). The mites guinea pigs get do not like living on humans. Guinea pigs can get these mites from infected guinea pigs or contaminated bedding, and they are highly contagious. Mites do require veterinary care to remove.

Static mites are generally not life-threatening. Your guinea pig may show no clinical issues when infested. These mites tend to live on hairs near the shaft, which means they’re not creating more injuries.

Sarcoptic mites, on the other hand, are dangerous to guinea pigs. The mites burrow into the skin and cause extreme itchiness. With sufficient mites, the condition becomes mange. Weight loss, skin changes, and hair loss are all common.

Close up of a guinea pig

How are Mites Different than Lice?

The big difference between mites and lice is their classification. Mites are arthropods, which means adults have eight legs. Meanwhile, lice are insects. Additionally, lice tend to feed on blood, while mites may eat skin cells as well.

Consequences of Not Controlling Mites

Sarcoptic mites cause extreme itchiness. Your guinea pig will experience bald spots, skin buildup, crusty skin, and weight loss. When the infestation has progressed, your guinea pig may experience lethargy, debilitation, and depression. Guinea pigs have had seizures and died from mite infestations. Mites also increase the odds of secondary skin infections.

Those symptoms are genuinely unpleasant for your guinea pig. The itchiness is maddening, and your guinea pig will be unable to get relief. Additionally, unless caught early, your guinea pig can pass the mites to other animals in the house.

If one of the humans in your home has a mite allergy, an infestation is uncomfortable for them. While the mites that live on guinea pigs do not typically like living on humans, it can happen. Anytime that person is in contact with the infested guinea pig, they may also experience a reaction.

Pair of guinea pigs on grass

How to Treat Mites on Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs suspected of mite infestation should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as an appointment can be made. Ideally, you have a small animal veterinarian your guinea pig regularly sees anyway. It’s essential to visit the vet because many of the available mite treatments are toxic to guinea pigs, so you need to be sure about the products you use.

To begin, your veterinarian will examine your guinea pig. They may take a tape sample to look at under the microscope or swab affected skin for infection culture as well. This testing simply confirms the cause of the itching and rules out secondary diseases.

Severe cases may require hospitalization until your guinea pig is stable. There are no medications specifically designed for guinea pigs against mites, so your veterinarian will provide you with specific instructions on what you can use and in what dose. Make sure you write the plan down so you can follow it and help your guinea pig.

Your vet may also recommend some over the counter solutions to compliment prescriptions, like powders and creams. They may also recommend exterminators and professional cleaning. Mites can live in carpets and other fibers away from your guinea pig. You do not want one to survive and re-infest your guinea pig.

Your vet will want a follow-up visit to check your guinea pig’s progress. During this visit, your vet may alter the treatment plan. In some cases, getting rid of mites is a cycle, so be prepared to battle them more than once before your guinea pig is cleared.

This article is not meant as veterinary advice. Please consult a registered veterinarian if you believe your guinea pig has mites.

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