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Mange in Guinea Pigs - Symptoms & Treatment

 
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. June 29, 2021
Mange in Guinea Pigs - Symptoms & Treatment

Skin diseases are one of the most common health problems of guinea pigs. Of these skin diseases, sarcoptic mange is perhaps the most prevalent. Since the symptoms can be similar, many people think of mange as a bacterial infection. It is actually an infestation by parasites. Regardless, the condition causes a serious threat to the guinea pig's health and we need to be aware of what will happen if they develop mange.

At AnimalWised, we take a closer look at sarcoptic mange in guinea pigs. We explain the causes, symptoms and treatment of guinea pig mange so you can know what to expect if your guinea pig is affected.

You may also be interested in: Scabies (Mange) in Cats

What is sarcoptic mange in guinea pigs?

As stated in the introduction, mange in guinea pigs is due to a parasite. In this case, it is a parasitical mite which lives under the guinea pig's skin. Different mite species will affect different animals. The sarcoptic mange mite in guinea pigs is known as Trixacarus caviae. This mite almost exclusively affects the guinea pig and shouldn't infest another animal, i.e. if your guinea pig has mange it doesn't mean other animals in the house will too.

The guinea pig mange mite will burrow tunnels into the skin of the rodent. These tunnels are between the dermis and the epidermis. The distribution of this mite is worldwide and it can affect all breeds of guinea pig. The guinea pig's personal hygiene has no bearing on this mite infestation as the parasite is opportunistic. However, if we do not maintain the hygiene of their hutch, this can promote bacteria, fungi and parasites.

The female mange mite digs a channel into the skin of the guinea pig and will not leave without treatment. As it moves through the skin, it will deposit eggs. These eggs develop into larvae which either excavate a channel perpendicular to the one already made or will exit the skin. Each larva turns into a nymph and then an adult.

Every time the mite changes into the next stage, they will either excavate more tunnels or leave the skin. However, this will depend on the sex of the mite. Males will leave the host more than females. Females will remain, laying between 25 and 30 eggs on average. In an infested guinea pig, only about a third of the mites will be male.

Is mange in guinea pigs contagious?

The mites are transmitted by direct contact, so we must take preventive measures if we have other guinea pigs. It can also cause temporary infestations in humans, producing dermatitis. However, these are isolated cases, since the mites that produce scabies are species specific and have to finish their biological cycle in a specific host. They feed on lymph and epithelial cells and their life cycle is completed in around 4 or 6 weeks.

Symptoms of sarcoptic mange in guinea pigs

It might not be possible to see the early stages of mange in guinea pigs. However, once the infestation progresses, the animal will be seriously affected. It is a major cause of alopecia as the tunneling mites can cause the guinea pig's hair to fall out. This can also have secondary problems as the guinea pig tries to scratch the are. Bacterial infections can result and seriously threaten the cavy's health.

We have already mentioned one of them, but there are two main parasitic mites which can cause mange in guinea pigs. Below, we explain a little more about each, as well as their specific symptoms:

  • Chirodiscoides caviae: it is usually found in the hair and the infestation is less serious than that produced by Trixacarus mites. It usually produces subclinical infestations, i.e. the presence of the mite only causes clinical signs when the guinea pig's immune system is compromised ( for example, during pregnancy) or under certain environmental conditions (stress, temperature changes, etc.).
  • Trixacarus caviae: it causes the most dangerous type of mange in guinea pigs, resulting in severe itching, scaling, self-trauma, alopecia, thinning of the skin, erythema, papules, vesicles, weakness and changes in behavior.

The lesions produced by the burrowing mites are usually located on the neck, thighs or abdomen. In chronic conditions, the affected areas present hyperkeratosis (thickening of the outer layer of the skin). Severe conditions can occur in which seizures present.

The less frequent agents which cause guinea pig mange are Notoedres muris and Sarcoptes scabei. Of course, it must be mentioned that lice and fleas cause similar symptoms. This is one of the many reasons it is important to take the guinea pig to a veterinarian experienced in exotic animals.

Mange in Guinea Pigs - Symptoms & Treatment - Symptoms of sarcoptic mange in guinea pigs

Diagnosis and treatment of sarcoptic mange in guinea pigs

The veterinarian will have to rely on clinical signs and deep skin scraping to make a correct diagnosis of the disease. With the possibility of Chirodiscoides caviae mites being present in the hair, a sample will be made for examination under microscope to confirm it.

The mites will be observed through a microscope before we will be ready to establish a treatment. The treatment will require both medical administration as well as symptom management. Sometimes it is difficult to find the mites, so in suspected cases, animals with with compatible symptoms may be treated and the results monitored without officially confirming the diagnosis. This will be at the discrepancy of the veterinarian.

The symptom management measures that we must carry out will involve isolating the guinea pig from their companions, if they do not live alone. We will then thoroughly clean the hutch and completely replace the substrate. Although the mites cannot survive for long periods away from their host, they can easily last a few days and re-infest the animal.

The most effective medical treatment of guinea pig mange consists of:

  • Subcutaneous injection of Ivermectin with repetition at 15-day intervals
  • Selamectin in spot-on solution with repetition at 15-day intervals
  • Secondary infections treated with the appropriate antibiotic
  • Medicated shampoo administration
  • Review and control when indicated by veterinarian

If you want to learn more about keeping your guinea pig healthy and happy, take a look at our article on knowing whether your guinea pig is sick.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Mange in Guinea Pigs - Symptoms & Treatment, we recommend you visit our Parasitic diseases category.

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