Two different categories of mites infest guinea pigs -- fur mites and mange mites. Guinea pigs usually have a small number of fur mites on their bodies. One type, Chirodiscoides caviae, seldom causes a problem other than mild itching, even in relatively large numbers. While Chirodiscoides caviae is specific to guinea pigs, a fur mite that also infests rabbits can cause far more harm. Cheyletiella parasitivorax, the rabbit fur mite, causes the condition known as "walking dandruff" in its victims, in which tiny skin flakes appear to move on the animal. Symptoms of Cheyletiella parasitivorax include hair loss, scratching and lesions.
Mange mites -- trixacarus caviae, also known as the Sellnick mite -- can kill a guinea pig if not treated. Initial symptoms include hair loss and lesions, generally starting on the animal's back and moving forward onto the shoulders. Secondary bacterial infections often occur in the open sores. A mange mite infestation causes such terrible itching that the affected guinea pig may experience seizures. He stops eating, loses weight, becomes weak and may die.
While any guinea pig can develop mange once exposed to these mites, old, young and pregnant animals, or those living in stressful situations, are the most vulnerable.
- The dewormer ivermectin can kill mange mites on guinea pigs, as can the topical flea and tick preventive selamectin, marketed under the brand name Revolution and available only by prescription. These products eradicate both fur and manage mites. Your vet will determine the correct dosage for your pet, as overdosing can result in severe side effects or kill the animal.
- Your vet will prescribe antibiotics if a skin infection is present, and may provide you with topical ointment to aid in healing the lesions. If your guinea pig is seriously ill from mange mites, he might require hospitalization and intravenous fluid therapy until he recovers sufficiently to go home.
- It's important to treat every guinea pig in your household, not just those with obvious symptoms.
- You must thoroughly clean all of your pet's living quarters, and either disinfect or throw out brushes, toys, bowls and similar items.
For best results, find a veterinarian specializing in treating small animals or exotics.