My Guinea Pig Has Mites - Symptoms, Types and Treatment
Mites are small-bodied arthropods that can parasitize a variety of animal species, including guinea pigs. Mites can cause serious skin problems in your guinea pig, and they can infest guinea pigs of all ages and genders. In most cases, guinea pigs infested with parasites remain asymptomatic. Clinical signs may only occur if the animal is immunocompromised.
In this AnimalWised article, we explain the symptoms, types and treatment of mites in guinea pigs.
What are mites?
Mites are small arthropods that belong to the arachnid subclass and are not visible to the naked eye. Some species have adapted to a parasitic life, settling on the skin of their hosts and causing a disease known as scabies. Some of them are able to dig tunnels in the epidermis, while others remain in hair follicles or on the surface of the skin or hair.
Guinea pigs, like other rodents, are particularly susceptible to infestation with external parasites, which include mites. For this reason, in this article, we describe the main characteristics of these parasites and the symptoms they cause in guinea pigs.
Types of mites in guinea pigs
Now that you know what mites are in guinea pigs, let us take a closer look at the types of mites that can infest guinea pigs.
- Trixacarus caviae: The lesions it causes are usually located on the neck, shoulder blades, abdomen and inner thighs. They can cause extreme clinical symptoms, as they cause intense itching.
- Chirodiscoides caviae: It is a hair mite specific to guinea pigs, typically found in the perianal region, on the flanks and on the trunk.
- Demodex caviae: is a mite specific to guinea pigs that parasitizes in hair follicles. The lesions it causes are most common on the head, limbs, and trunk.
Even though Trixacarus caviae is a host-specific pathogen, it has been described that the mite can cause pruritic papular dermatitis in humans.
Symptoms of mites in guinea pigs
An infestation of mites in guinea pigs does not usually cause symptoms. However, if an infected guinea pig is suffering from immunosuppression (lowered defenses), some clinical signs may occur. The symptoms that can be observed in mite parasitosis in guinea pigs are the following:
- Severe itching
- Hair loss
- Redness of the skin
- Crusty lesions
- Thickening of the skin
- Coarse hair
If proper treatment is not instituted, the lesions may become infected and lead to a skin infection known as superficial pyoderma. In some cases, the itching might be so severe that the guinea pig may even go into seizures and die.
It may be that your guinea pig is showing some of these symptoms without it being a parasitic disease. Read this other article to learn to determine if your guinea pig is sick.
How mites are spread in guinea pigs
Guinea pigs can become infested with mites in two ways:
- Through direct contact with other infested animals. Transmission from mothers to their offspring during lactation is particularly common.
- Through contact with contaminated objects or utensils, such as cages or beds.
However, as mentioned above, the majority of guinea pigs infested with mites remain clinically healthy and only develop symptoms when exposed to a situation that leads to immunosuppression. The factors that can trigger the onset of the disease are as follows:
- Poor nutrition
- Exposure to cold temperatures
- Other diseases
- Stressful situations
The animal can be protected from some of these factors if it is provided with the necessary care. Therefore, we recommend that you read our article on how to take care of a guinea pig.
Are mites in guinea pigs contagious to humans?
As we have already mentioned, the mite Trixacarus caviae is contagious to humans, especially to children, elderly or people with a weakened immune system.
Diagnosis of mites in guinea pigs
The only way to determine if a guinea pig has mites is to have them diagnosed by a veterinarian. The diagnosis of mites in guinea pigs is based on the following criteria:
- Clinical examination: Depending on the mite species that parasitizes the animal, different skin lesions with different body distribution can be observed.
- Skin scraping: A sample should be taken from the edge of the lesions and observed under the microscope.
- Adhesive tape: In this simple test, a piece of adhesive tape is placed on the animal's skin and then viewed under the microscope. This is an effective method for diagnosing parasites caused by superficial mites, such as Chirodiscoides caviae.
- Trichograma (examination of the hair): this involves taking a sample of hair and examining it under a microscope. It is usually performed to diagnose Demodex caviae.
How to treat mites in guinea pigs
To treat mites in guinea pigs, the first step is to eliminate (whenever possible) the cause of the animal's immunosuppression. To do this, you must:
- Review the animal's habitat, environmental conditions, feeding, etc. to identify and correct any faults.
- Perform a complete clinical examination to determine an appropriate treatment.
- Recognize recent changes such as new pets in the home, travel, habitat changes, etc., These factors can cause great stress to the animal.
Medications, which must always be prescribed by a veterinarian, are the second point of treatment. This treatment may include:
- Systemic antiparasitics: such as ivermectin, selamectin or doramectin are usually used subcutaneously for 7 days for antiparasitic treatment.
- Topical antiparasitics: Baths with topical antiparasitics should be given every 7 days for 4 weeks.
- Bromociclene: Application of bromociclene as a powder or in baths, every 2 weeks, is very effective for mild scabies.
- Diazepam: in case of itching or very severe itching, the administration of diazepam may be recommended to relieve the stress of the animal.
The last point of the treatment involves the disinfection of the environment. As we have already mentioned, infection can also occur through contaminated objects. Therefore, proper disinfection of the environment is essential to avoid constant re-infection of the animal.
Textiles that have been in contact with the parasitized animal (blankets, carpets, stuffed animals, etc.) should be washed at high temperature (60 ºC). All other surfaces should be vacuumed with a conventional vacuum cleaner.
After vacuuming, it is important to dispose of the vacuum cleaner filter, otherwise the mites could spread to other areas of the apartment.
If multiple guinea pigs are living together, it is critical to isolate those that are showing symptoms. In addition, seemingly healthy guinea pigs should be dewormed as a preventive measure, as they may be infected but not showing symptoms.
Finally, we must point out the importance of following proper biosecurity measures when handling guinea pigs infected with mites due to the risk of transmission to humans.
An adequate diet is the foundation of your guinea pig's defenses. Read this other article on forbidden food for guinea pigs to learn more.
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 My Guinea Pig Has Mites - Symptoms, Types and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Parasitic diseases category.
- Alvarez, M.L. (2016). Trixacarus caviae in guinea pig . Badajoz Veterinary; 49-51
- European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP). (2017). Control of parasitic and fungal diseases in small domestic mammals . Guide nº07