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Guinea Pig With Recurring Mite Trouble

Why would a guinea pig keep getting mites if he’s been treated for them?

By Karen Rosenthal, DVM, DABVP
Posted: October 27, 2010, 5 a.m. EDT

Q: We adopted a guinea pig in April 2010. He’s roughly 4 years old. He started scratching, and we found out he had mites. We took him to the specialist vet and treated him in April (one dose). The mites came back, and we got the medicine for him again in June. That time we gave him half the amount in the package (it was more than needed for his weight). We gave the second half a week later. In September, he got mites again. He’s very irritable, biting or running away if he thinks you are going to pet him. His hair comes out in chunks if you give it the lightest pinch. Most of the problem is localized on his back, the area above his hind legs. His tummy is fine and around his face appears OK. His ears are a little scaly, like dry skin. Could he have ear mites and we aren’t treating the right area? What else should we do? He’s not losing weight at this point and has a healthy appetite.
 
A: Mites are a common problem in guinea pigs but not so easy to treat. Two key factors affect treating mites in guinea pigs. The first is to use an effective protocol of an anti-parasiticide that is safe for guinea pigs and the second is to effectively treating the guinea pig’s environment.

Guinea pigs can be very sensitive to certain medications and products used in the environment — the wrong combination can kill guinea pigs. The effective medication used on guinea pigs is usually used as a “spot-on” treatment put directly on the skin. To break the adult-larva-egg cycle, it is important to re-treat again in about 10 days. Some of the more heavy infestations require a third treatment.

Mite species can also live in the environment or have eggs in the environment. If the area that the guinea pig lives in is not properly treated, mites will come back onto your guinea pig.

Because some of the environmental treatments are dangerous to guinea pigs, I recommend removing and throwing out any material that it is feasible to replace. I tell owners to vacuum the guinea pig’s area and use soap and water to clean whatever cannot be thrown out. Those are safe ways to clean the environment.

If your guinea pig is treated effectively and the environment is properly disinfected from mites and their eggs, your guinea pig should then be mite-free and feel much better.

See all of Dr. Rosenthal's Critter Q&A articles>>

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Guinea Pig With Recurring Mite Trouble

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Reader Comments
This article says mites are bad, but gives precious little specific advice. It doesn't even mention the word vet., who can prescribe a regimen of internal meds which will kill mites as well as a myriad of internal parasites the gp's can a many do have, and while I quite agree that cleanliness is important, the importance of a bath and what to wash the GP with isn't mentioned. Also a quarantine needs to be maintained when any new pet is added to your household which needs to last 3 weeks and 3 treatments of the internal meds. Worst the article doesn't indicate which of the spot-on type meds might be dangerous. Since I am not a Rodentologist I cant name the necessary meds or specific protocols, so I suggest that piggy parents and prospective piggy parents should join an active guinea pig group, like the GPDD, a yahoo group, Guinea Lynx, and in Great Britain the Cambridge Cavy Trust where you can find tried and true piggy vet recommendations and communities of knowledgeable people who are avail 24/7 most of the time. If you have other pets fing groups and vets that are recommended and trusted with each kind of pet you have and keep in mind that a piggy or any other pocket pet doesn't translate to cheap care. They require expert care although by becoming knowledgeable you can minimize the need for this by learning how to give optimal care before you acquire the pet.
Sandra Oliver-Poore, Portland, OR
Posted: 1/18/2011 5:38:20 PM
This sounds as if there is a fungal element to the problem with the comments on dry scaly ears, very loose hair and the cavy's reluctance to be handled. Fungus these days is easily as common as mites as a cause skin problems in cavies, and needs persitent and regular treatment with the correct shampoo to clear completely. Cleaning the environment is even more important than if the cavy has skin mites, because fungal spores are airborne and can lodge in the timber of a wooden hutch, or anywhere not cleaned properly in other types of accomodation. Scrubbing the cage thoroughly and then spraying with a suitable antifungal disinfectant may need to be repeated several times. If the cavy is in a wooden hutch, painting the inside with gloss paint or a coat of varnish will aid cleaning and make it harder for the spores to find somewhere to lurk. It goes without saying that any other cavies living with the affected individual need to be treated at the same time, even if they are not showing symptoms. Fungal infections are often much slower to clear than a mite infestation, and shampooing may need to be repeated weekly for several weeks, and then every 5 to 6 weeks to prevent recurrence for some months afterwards.
Penny, Bognor Regis
Posted: 10/27/2010 11:11:03 PM
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