Guinea pigs are very prone to skin problems which seem to occur more often in spring and autumn when the weather changes.  It is not uncommon for a guinea pig to have several different types of skin infection at the same time.  This is especially likely as itchy skin makes them scratch themselves increasing the risk of secondary bacterial or fungal infection.

It is important to get your guinea pig to a vet if it is clearly irritated and scratching due to a skin problem.

Mites and Lice

Creepy crawlies don’t just live in the coat of a guinea pig where you can see them wiggling around, they also burrow under the skin.  Mange (Sellnick) mites are very irritating and cause the guinea pig to scratch a lot.  Your vet can diagnose and treat this problem with Ivermectin.

With mange the hair thins into bald patches with a few hairs that look like they are split halfway down.  Spots and sore patches can often be seen where the guinea pig has scratched itself.

Running lice are more obvious as they can be seen running through the guinea pig’s coat, hence the name, but are normally less irritating.  Static lice are tiny lice which cling to the individual hairs, they don’t normally bother the guinea pig too much.

Fungal Infections

Guinea pigs can suffer from a number of fungal infections.  They can, and do, get ringworm which can be spread to humans and other animals.  Veterinary diagnosis and treatment are important, not just because of the risk of transmission to humans, but also because there is a risk that fungal problems in a guinea pigs could become systemic.

Diagnosis for ringworm can be made using a Wood’s lamp but not all mycoses show up so your vet may recommend culturing a hair or skin sample.

Fungal infections can make the coat look greasy.  The skin tends to look redder and there are often flakes of what look like cradle cap attached to the hair shafts.

Complications

A guinea pig infected with lice, mites and fungal organisms at the same time will need different treatment for each condition.  There is the risk that a guinea pig may be treated for one of these but still not get better because another type of infection is running concurrently.

When fungal disease becomes systemic it can cause the guinea pig to have a fit and can be fatal.  treatment is normally with Griseofulvin.  It is best to feed a little oil at the same time as this drug.  Udo’s oil or hemp oil contains a good spread of essential fatty acids which will aid the drug’s absorption.

Recommended pages on Guinea Lynx with excellent advice (including drug use) and photos

ParasitesFungalCheilitis