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Guinea Pig With Head Tilt And Mites

The diagnosis and treatment of a guinea pig with head tilt and mites.

By Jerry Murray, DVM
Posted: October 5, 2011, 5 a.m. EDT

portrait of a guinea pig on white background
© Gina Cioli/BowTie
Although head tilt is a rare ailment in guinea pigs, mites are not.

A recent case of mine involved a middle-aged, male guinea pig. He had a severe head tilt to his left side. He was unable to hold his head in a normal position. He was even to the point of falling over and rolling over. This guinea pig had been unable to eat for the past several days. Head tilt is a common problem in rabbits, but a very rare condition for guinea pigs. In addition, the guinea pig had a skin mite problem.

In guinea pigs, a severe head tilt can be from an ear infection spreading to the middle ear and inner ear. This type of infection causes the head tilt (torticollis), which is often called “wry neck” in rabbits. It also causes the loss of equilibrium and nausea.

Infections of the middle and inner ear require long-term use of an antibiotic. Guinea pigs (and hamsters) are highly susceptible to side effects, including death, from many of the commonly use antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, penicillin, clindamycin and erythromycin. Fortunately they tolerate Baytril (enrofloxacin) very well. This guinea pig was started on Baytril orally with Baytril eardrops to be put into the ear. To help improve his appetite, this guinea pig was started on a critical care food that can be fed through a syringe. This helps prevent problems from developing with his digestive system while not eating normally.

Parasites of the skin are very common in guinea pigs. Guinea pigs commonly have mites and lice. Occasionally, guinea pigs also have fleas, especially if there are dogs and/or cats in the same house. Skin mites can cause serious problems in guinea pigs, including seizures and even death in severe cases. Fortunately skin mites are easy to treat with either ivermectin or Revolution. In this case Revolution was chosen to treat the guinea pig’s mites.  

See all of Dr. Murray's columns>>

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