Flystrike is a potentially fatal condition which occurs when flies lay their eggs around a guinea pig’s anus. The eggs then hatch into maggots which mature and eat away at the surrounding flesh. In the summer, this whole process can take as little as a few hours, so it’s advisable that guinea pigs are checked at least twice a day. Symptoms to look out for include eggs and maggots around a guinea pig’s anus, wounds and skin loss. Pets suffering from obesity, dental problems, diarrhoea, arthritis and skin wounds are at high risk of flystrike as flies are attracted to guinea pigs suffering from dirty bottoms or wet fur. Guinea pigs living in dirty hutches are also susceptible, as flies like damp and smelly conditions.
If you think your pet has flystrike, remove the visible maggots with tweezers and call your vet immediately. Your vet will be able to clip away the fur and remove the remainder of the maggots. Guinea pigs with flystrike are often given antibiotics to help prevent infection and some vets also use anti-parasitic products to try and penetrate the skin and kill any remaining maggots.
There are several different species of mites, however the most common one to affect guinea pigs is Trixacarus caviae, which causes mange. Fur mites are also common and the rabbit ear mite, Psoroptes cuniculi, causes a condition known as canker.
Psoroptes cuniculi (ear mites)
Psoroptes cuniculi, or ear mites, invade the ear canal where they cause intense irritation which results in a discharge from one or both ears. Symptoms include scratching ears and soreness at the base. A grey-brown scaly crust often develops within the ear and, if left untreated, mites and discharge can be found on the cheeks and neck of the pet.
A variety of treatments are available to help treat guinea pigs infested with mites. For further information please contact your vet.
Although its name suggests otherwise, ringworm is in fact a fungal infection. It is important to remember that this is highly contagious – even to humans! Pets that are stressed, overcrowded, very old or young are often prone to catching ringworm.
Guinea pigs with ringworm will have circular, hairless, sore spots. These usually start on their face, but can spread down their body. Ringworm can be confused with mange. Your vet will be able to diagnose ringworm by either a lab test or with an ultraviolet light. He can then advise you on the best treatment. This will include thorough cleaning of their hutch and run.
Ringworm flourishes in damp conditions, so to avoid pets catching the infection keep their living quarters as clean and dry as possible.
Trixacarus caviae mites, also known as mange mites, are a common problem. You may notice your guinea pig scratching excessively, biting, suffering hair loss, and in a worse case scenario, suffering seizures. If you think your guinea pig is suffering from mange, take him to the vet immediately. Treatments are also available from pet stores.
Vitamin C deficiency
Guinea pigs are unique in that they can’t produce Vitamin C themselves and are reliant on Vitamin C in their diet. Symptoms of Vitamin C deficiency include loss of appetite, depression, lameness and sore joints, bleeding gums and bruising, ruffled fur and weight loss. To help prevent Vitamin C deficiency always feed your pet a complete food for guinea pigs. For further information or for diet recommendations, contact your vet.