Skin diseases to look for in Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pig.

Guinea Pig.

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As small, vocal, funny and intelligent companions, guinea pigs appear in all sorts of colours and coat variations.

They are regular patients in our practice, and are frequently presented with skin or coat problems. These can have several causes.

Here are examples of the most common skin diseases.

The sarcoptic mite causes extreme itching by burrowing into the skin. This is very stressful for the guinea pig and can lead to self-mutilation and bacterial or fungal infections. The mite can also be transferred to owners. Lesions are found on thighs, hips and back, but can extend to the shoulders.

Lice feed on skin debris. Adults and their eggs are attached to hair. Infestation can lead to hairless spots, crusty skin and a rough coat.

Guinea pigs can get the same fleas as rabbits and cats. A bite can not only cause itching, but also lead to an allergic reaction, which will show as eczema. Check your pig if you find fleas on another furry friend.

All of these parasites are transmitted by direct contact. When your guinea pig is treated make sure their environment is also thoroughly cleaned. This includes hay, toys, and bedding.

Dermatophytosis, or ringworm, is frequently seen. Mainly caused by fungi, it usually becomes apparent when the host has an impaired immune system. Symptoms include hairless spots and crusty spots on face, forehead and ears.

The occasional fight can lead to abscesses under the skin. This is treated by draining and irrigating the abscess.

Bumblefoot, pododermatitis, is caused by unsuitable husbandry. Wire-bottom cages and abrasive bedding lead to sores, which develop into painful ulcers on the underside of the feet. In extreme cases, the infection can ascend to deeper tissue, like ligaments, tendons and bones. Overweight guinea pigs are at a higher risk so keep an eye on weight and provide soft, dry bedding.

Symmetrical hair loss over the hips of females can be due to ovarian cysts. Females sometimes show similar bald spots during late pregnancy.

Barbering by dominant cage mates or nursing pups, and self-barbering due to boredom must be distinguished from itching. Barbering caused by boredom can be improved by environmental enrichment.

A vitamin deficiency can also lead to a poor coat.

By Juliane Dreher, Vet.