Did you know that hair loss is the most apparent sign of dermatological disease in rodents? Yes, if you didn’t know, a guinea pig is a rodent, just like a chinchilla. Noticing hair loss in your pet guinea pig can be scary, especially if you have more than one.
While there are many causes of alopecia in guinea pigs, we must address the common myths that come with it. First, ageing does not cause hair loss in guinea pigs, and some bald spots are typical – specifically those behind the ears.
When you notice alopecia in your guinea pig, it’s probably because they have an infection. Most of these infections are caused by improper care or old age. Fortunately, hair loss is something you can treat and try to prevent in the future.
This article will discuss some of the most common hair loss causes in guinea pigs and how to treat the condition.
1. Parasites Infection
The most common parasitic infection in guinea pigs is mites or mange mites. These inconvenient uninvited guests can be spread directly from another animal or indirectly from clothing tainted with the insects. It can also be caused by poor hygiene in their homestead.
You will know your guinea pig has mites if they are;
- Losing hair
- Itching a lot
- Having seizures
- Dandruff on their skin
When they itch, they can create wounds leading you to think that the scars are because the animals are fighting instead of mites. Because guinea pigs fight often, it might lead to the disease spreading to other animals.
How to treat parasites infection
The first thing you should do is consult your vet to tell you if the problem is severe. However, the most common way to treat a parasites infection is by using a medication called ivermectin. The medicine is applied through spraying and might require weekly treatment, depending on the severity.
Your vet will advise on how many times you should do the treatment. Note that the medicine is safe and can be used at home. Many owners think you can cure mange mites infection by bathing the animal. It’s essential to keep the animal clean as this will help avoid other pests like fleas and flies.
However, bathing will not fully treat the disease, and sometimes neither will one ivermectin treatment. That’s why you have to do multiple treatments to kill the mite’s eggs. Furthermore, bathing can lead to more irritation on the wounds caused by itching.
2. Fungal Infection
Fungal infections appear as ringworms and can quickly spread among other animals in your home. They usually appear on the face, and common symptoms include hair loss, dry skin and itching. Ringworms are caused by Trichophyton Imentagrophytes, which can also affect human beings, especially children.
Besides the ringworms appearing on the head and face, you will notice your guinea pig itching but not as much as they would with mites. Also, look out for bald spots on your animal.
How to treat fungal infection
Most vets will advise you to get a fungal cream for treatment. The most widely used fungal treatment creams for guinea pigs are Clotrimazole and miconazole. A vet can also recommend an anti-fungal shampoo or given oral medication to treat severe fungal infections.
Throughout the treatment process, as a pet owner, you should practice hygiene. Wash the animal frequently and ensure that their living space is also clean.
Barbering is when a guinea pig nibbles away at its fur or on another animal’s fur until a bald patch is created. Barbering is typical among guinea pigs when they are trying to assert their dominance over each other. Boredom, stress and itching due to infections can also cause barbering because the pigs start to fight each other.
How to prevent barbering
You can start by separating older pigs from the younger ones. This is because older pigs will fight and barber their fellow pigs to show dominance. You can also make their cage more spacious to avoid stress. Have them stay in a large space where they can find hiding spots and make it easier for you to maintain hygiene.
Changing your guinea pig’s diet is also a good idea to make them stop chewing their hair or give them chewable toys to nibble. You can also try applying some lemon or other bitter juice to make their fur unpleasant for other barber guinea pigs.
4. Ovarian Cysts
This is a condition that mainly affects female guinea pigs. The disease can attack both ovaries for pigs for up to five years. You will see swelling around the abdomen, and hair loss will occur around the same area on both sides. Your guinea pig will also have more hair around the face and body.
The hormonal imbalance is due to excess androgens in the body, thinning the hair and causing alopecia in the female guinea pigs. It’s usually difficult to recover the hair loss due to this condition, but it is possible with the proper treatment.
How to treat ovarian cysts
The go-to solution for this condition is spaying your guinea pig. Spaying is a form of invasive surgery where your pig will have its organs removed, or the cysts drained to provide relief. Doing a hair transplant will also require surgery, but the pig will need extra care after to heal.
Other treatment options include providing zinc supplements for two months and making your guinea pig lose weight to reduce the amount of androgens in the body to prevent thinning and losing hair. You can also give your pig some biotin to promote hair growth.
Note that a female guinea pig can lose hair during the late pregnancy stages, but it will grow back after delivery.
This condition affects a guinea pig’s soft tissue causing painful skin inflammation on the animal. The soft tissue might die, leading to a bacterial infection which can cause hair loss. Pododermatitis is typical among guinea pigs that are overweight or born with lame conditions. There is no age limit to this condition, so it can affect all pigs, including babies.
Pododermatitis is characterized by redness of feet and skin, swelling and painful skin inflammation. Look out for the guinea pigs that have trouble walking or standing. Bumblefoot is a common condition associated with pododermatitis that can also lead to soft tissue damage making the pig prone to bacterial infections.
The soft tissue inflammation will occur where the most pressure is applied on the pig’s body when sleeping. The disease’s leading causes include bad conditions of the pig’s environment, hard surfaces, and wet or urinated beddings.
How to treat pododermatitis
Ensure that your guinea pigs live in a space big enough for them to run around and exercise. This helps keep their weight under control. Keep the cage dry and litter-free to prevent the pig’s skin from infections.
Seclude any sick guinea pigs and monitor them closely to avoid spreading the disease to other pigs. Ensure you keep the ill pig’s environment clean and dry at all times. Give your pig vitamin C supplements as required to maintain a healthy diet and body.
Antibiotics can be given to pigs with infected feet with the instruction of your vet. Always cut overgrown nails to reduce pain and encourage movement. All wounds should be adequately treated and dressed to prevent the condition from worsening.
6. Scurvy Infection
Scurvy is a vitamin C deficiency characterized by hair loss, joint swelling, wobbliness, a rough haircoat and lameness. Note that these symptoms are pretty standard for other diseases in guinea pigs, so it can be challenging to narrow it down to Vitamin C. You might need a vet to diagnose your guinea pig so you can give the right treatment.
The treatment for vitamin C deficiency is administering supplements for two weeks. Many commercial guinea pig foods don’t have enough Vitamin C. The food can lose significant amounts of vitamin C content due to storage temperatures, dampness and light. Therefore it is essential to include many fresh leaves and vegetables daily in your guinea pig’s diet to keep them healthy.
Other Diseases That Can Cause Hair Loss
Other diseases that can cause hair loss include slobbers, abscesses, greasy seborrhea, and yersinia infection. Guinea pigs are exotic rodents that require a lot of care. Practice bathing and inspecting your guinea pig regularly to avoid skin infections and noticing any problems with the animals early.