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Guinea Pig Mites: Outbreak and Treatment

Published: 4/1/2010 | Author: HappyCavy | Updated: 9/17/2017

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Photo of scene from Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and the HappyCavy guinea pigs

Outbreak: Guinea Pig Mites

No matter how well you take care of your guinea pig — no matter how often you change water or freshen up Timothy hay or scoop “beans” — your piggie is still a piggie ♥.  They are going to have some kind of weird, kinda gross, kinda icky health-related “challenges” at some point in their happy guinea pig lives.

Right now, the Humans find the HappyCavy Herd finds itself staring down one of the most common (if not most annoying) “Facts of Guinea Pig Life”:

Guinea pig fur mites

The list of gross-sounding parasites that live among us is long, exhausting, and disgusting.  And guinea pigs are definitely not immune from parasitic creepy crawlies; in fact, some bugs are known to especially enjoy the sweet, inviting scent of happy, healthy guinea pigs.  Lice and mites are the most common of these parasites…and believe us, you never want to see one of these bugs under a microscope, you will simply never have a good night’s sleep again.  (That’s a link to a microscopic photo of a louse. Double dare you to click on it!)

Like an obnoxious younger brother or sister, parasites that can hurt your guinea pig arrive in several different species.  The most common signs of parasite problems are:

  • hair loss
  • dandruff
  • excessive biting, itching, and/or scratching

There are also a few symptoms that you might not immediately think of, like:

  • loss of appetite or weight loss
  • drinking A LOT of water
  • laziness or a sudden change of mood
  • irritability
  • not wanting to be picked up (more than usual)

Guinea pigs have really different personalities, so sometimes it isn’t apparent what might be wrong with you pet if you notice these symptions and even if your cavy-friend has mites or lice.

How The Humans Found Out We Have Mites

It all began about a week ago when Human #1 saw that Bitsy was missing some hair from the middle of her back (not really missing, more like “cut off”).  It was a really small amount and it didn’t look like hair had been pulled out or that she had been in a fight.  (Hammy, Piglet, and Bitsy are really docile and good-natured pigs…never bit anyone and always “play nice”.)  So Human #1 Googled “barbering” and “guinea pig hair loss”, and thought it best to watch closely to see if barbering could be the reason for hair loss.

Then, several days later, Human #1 and #2 took Piglet outside to enjoy the warm Oregon weather for a romp in the grass.

Suddenly, it was spotted: WOW OMG!

Piglet had A LOT of dandruff; in the sunshine and with her black hair, the white flakes seemed to blanket her back. It entire sight was rather unnerving. And, being over-protective Humans, they freaked out. You see, the HappyCavy guinea pigs indoor-piggies and Piglet likes to sleep a lot, but The Humans were still unnerved to think that they hadn’t noticed Piglet’s dandruff before!

That’s when everyone knew something wasn’t right in HappyCavy Land at all. Hammy was examined and, sure enough, a small patch of her back hair was missing in a very faint V-like pattern. It wasn’t noticeable unless you pulled her thick hair back and looked closely…but there was definitely something not right.

A photo of the v shape that guinea pig mites make

V-shaped hair loss: a sign of guinea pig mites

The humans freaked out for a second time.

None of the HappyCavies were scratching or biting. Sometimes they would have a little itch when they ate timothy hay, but the itching wasn’t thought to be excessive. “Maybe they would scratch or itch their cute little noses twice or three times a week. But everyone scratches, right?” they thought.

It was noticed, however, that Piglet was getting a bit lazy (thought it was winter and that seemed to be her “norm”) and Bitsy was drinking more water than usual.  But once the Humans read that reluctance to be held and excessive drinking of water was a sign of mites, they knew they had a parasitic culprit on their hands.

Fortunately, the HappyCavies have been to the Family Vet and are undergoing treatment, which involves two doses of Ivermectic two weeks apart and twice weekly cage disinfecting with vinegar and hydrogen perodixe.

During mite treatment, the HappyCavies Home is stripped down to just the bottom fleece. The second level has been removed. No more pretty colored towels or cavy cozy.

Everything will be back to normal April 22nd with color and fun times and extra levels again for the pigs to enjoy their space.

~ xoxo Hammy *itch itch itch*

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About HappyCavy

HappyCavy is the Internet's only 4-webcam broadcast inside the lives of a female guinea pig herd from Portland, Oregon.

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  • Michelle Martin

    Hello there and so glad I found this… I purchased some beautiful baby boys this week who are around 5 weeks old?..6 lovely cuties…they have come with mite treatment. I then found two the owner wanted to get rid of who were under 1 …I weakened and felt sorry for them and got them as well. I have kept them apart in separate cages..but have discovered today the two big boys have mites.. found one on daughters Ipad after she was playing with them. Now have brought Mite spray to apply tomorrow and wanted to ask about cleaning the cage…You said bleach vinegar and hot water? does this work on Wooden cage as a lady at the Pet shop said most people just throw it away and start again as the mites can get into the wood? is this true? I will be washing there bedding every two days..what else can I do …

  • Hi, Michelle! I’m not sure if mites can get into wood, but if there are cracks and crevices for them to hide, I guess it’s possible. If the wood is smooth and/or stained, it’s more likely that mites wouldn’t get “in the wood”. For smooth and/or stained wood, cleaning it with a bleach/hot water mixture should work to sterilize it. (Of course, ensure that the bleach is thoroughly cleaned off and aired out before placing the guinea pigs back in the cage.)

    Washing the bedding with a little bleach every few days is also a good idea. If you haven’t taken at least one of the guinea pigs into the vet, you probably should do that to ensure the mite spray you found will work. A vet may also be able to prescribe a different treatment that will work if the mite spray doesn’t.

    Here are two links about mange and fur mites that give more info on how to treat them

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About This Guinea Pig Website

HappyCavy has been online since June 2009 with Hammy and Piglet. In October of 2009, a sweet, fuzzy cavy named Bitsy joined the webcam broadcasts.

Feebee and Buttercup were welcomed to the HappyCavy Forever Home as friends and co-conspirators in January 2011. Dot joined us on July 2012, and Winnie and Rosie were the most recent addition on February 8, 2015 and June 6, 2015, respectively. Learn more about the guinea pigs here.

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