Mites (Trixacarus caviae)
The two most common types of mite in guinea pigs are hay mites and Trixacarus caviae mites. Static mites ( hay Mites) are parasites that run up and down guinea pigs’ hair shafts, whilst Trixacarus caviae mites are parasites that burrow under guinea pigs’ skin and cause the extremely painful condition known as sarcoptic mange. This page is about Trixacarus caviae mites.
Trixicarus Caviae is a tiny mite that can burrow under your guinea pigs skin and causes intense itching. If you look carefully, you may see small bumps just under the skin in the area of infestation. These will cause your guinea to scratch themselves. If your guinea pig has mites or sarcoptic mange, then it will likely have bald patches or shorter fur where it’s been scratching and biting its own skin in an attempt to get rid of these painful pests and in serious cases, seizures.
Severe infestations can be life-threatening so please get your guinea to the Vet for treatment ASAP if this is the case. It’s a very unpleasant condition for your pet, so it needs to be dealt with quickly and prevented from spreading to your other guinea pigs.
Guineas often carry mites all the time, with no symptoms at all, you would not know they are even present but when they get stressed ie; moving to a new home, a change is circumstances, pregnancy, illness, old age etc, the mites can start breeding and this is when they start causing problems. Mites are most common in the autumn and is often brought on by the stress caused when moving animals indoors for the winter.
If you have a small outbreak, you could treat this condition yourself with an ivermectin spot-on treatment, whilst in severe cases, it is always best to consult your vet.
While it may seem logical to bath a guinea pig with parasites, but bathing a guinea pig with mites can cause them to burrow deeper, increase irritation, and make treatment a lot more difficult. Unless a medicated shampoo is prescribed by your exotic vet, we recommend holding off on bathing a guinea pig suffering from mites until the little demons are under control and your guinea pig is feeling more comfortable.
Mite infestations are generally treated with ivermectin. Most Vets now recommend a "spot-on" product rather than injections which can be very painful for a guinea pig and are more likely to cause an allergic reaction. Ivermectin appears to be safe to be used on pregnant guinea pigs but is best not used on guinea pigs under 12 ounces (approx. 340 grams). A vet may also provide topical treatment for open sores and infection caused by scratching and for crusty skin and other complications related to the infestation.
Ivermectin will only work on parasites that are bloodsuckers (ie mange mites and not lice).
A good idea to help is to cut the nails back to minimize further damage from scratching.
When mites are properly diagnosed, all your guinea pigs will need treatment and their living quarters must be thoroughly cleaned.
Avoid future infestations by quarantining and treating new animals if suspected of being carriers and practising good husbandry. Some breeders will routinely treat new guinea pigs in quarantine (since they can carry mites while showing no signs) rather than risk reintroducing mange mites to a whole herd of guinea pigs.
Occasionally a vet will completely misdiagnose a mite infestation and treat for ringworm or other illness if the mite is not visible under the microscope at the time. Our advice is, if your guinea pig has bald patches, treat them with Ivermectin anyway.
Do bear in mind that guineas often get fungal and parasitic problems at the same time, so if in doubt treat for both.