Guinea Pigs/Skin Problem


Picture 1
Picture 1  
Picture 2
Picture 2  
I've got 2 guinea pigs living in one cage. One of them developed a skin condition on his back. Unfortunately in where I live, we don't have a very good vet who knows about guinea pigs. I have consulted a vet and I have been using his recommended medicine (batticon and madecassol) for almost 2 weeks now. I haven't seen any improvement.
I have attached the pictures. I would very highly appreciate if you could advise me on what the problem might be.
Thank you for your time & best wishes,

ANSWER: I'm looking at the pictures and am trying to figure out just which part of the back you're showing me. Judging by the hair features this appears to be a Peruvian, is that correct? Is your thumb at his rear or is this the top of the back? Because Peruvians' hair grows in circular rosettes it makes it difficult from a picture which end is which, unless of course I know which end has the head!

The reason for the question is that boars have what we call a grease gland on their rear just above the testicles. It normally just feels like a dimple. It will sometimes accumulate a greasy substance and the hair will often pull out quite easily. This is a normal thing in males. Apparently it secretes a rather nasty substance that the females find attractive. Unfortunately it also makes a mess of the coat, especially in the longhaired pigs.

Your pictures are very good and clear. What I'm not able to determine is whether there is swelling around this bald spot. Has it gotten larger or is it just staying the same size? It's difficult for me to tell if there's any pus forming underneath the bald spot. Because the hair is white the skin underneath is naturally pink in color, making the picture difficult to tell if what I'm seeing is abnormal redness or just the color of the skin.

If the two pigs living together are both boars it's possible this started from a bite. But bite wounds typically get full of pus and very inflamed. I can't tell if that's the case here. You might try some cortisone cream on it to see if that helps. It will show improvement within 3 days if it's going to work at all.

The rest of the coat that I see looks in very good condition. Would you be able to take a picture of the pig from a distance so I can see the entire body? It doesn't look like a fungal infection. If it were it would be spreading and getting worse.

Please try to send another picture so I can get a better idea of just where it is. I know this isn't really helping at this point but I can't just take a wild guess.  So please bear with me.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Right side
Right side  

Thanks a lot for taking the time to write such a detailed response.

Yes he is peruvian. The thumb on the previous picture was at the back. So, the skin problem is on his right. I have attached a new picture as you have requested.

I think within the last 2 weeks, it has gotten a bit bigger. There is some swelling on the spot. There is no pus though.

I think the antiseptic solution that I am using to clean it every night is clearing the redness that might appear on a larger surface. In the pictures, the pink you see is its natural skin color. However, on the edges there is some very minor redness that is not visible on the pictures. Also, one night I forgot to clean the spot at night. The next day, the redness was on a larger area.

Please let me know if there is anything that I can to be more helpful to you.

Thank you once again & best wishes,

Adams dip
Adams dip  
ANSWER: It's ironic that on the same day I got two nearly identical questions about what appears to be identical issues. I think you may be dealing with mites and what you're seeing is where he has chewed at a spot that itches and has caused this baldness.

For your pig I'm going to suggest a bit different approach, mostly because he is a Peruvian and their coats are different that the smooth coated pigs, even those with long hair such as a Silky.

Before you try anything for mites I'd like you to do this: put some vaseline on the spot heavily enough that it's covered well. Do this at night before you go to bed. If he's biting at it you'll see vaseline on his nose as well as spread around the area.

If that's the case you need to get a product called Adams Spray. You should be able to find it in your pet store or feed store if you happen to have one in your area. Just buy the small bottle. Mix it according to the instructions.

If you're not able to find that particular brand you can use another brand but make sure it is made of Pyrethrins. They are not a pesticide and are safe to use on a guinea pig.

Use comfortably warm water. The bathroom sink is an ideal vessel for this purpose. You don't want to large a container. Put the pig into the solution and pour the mixture over his entire body, making sure he's dripping wet. Obviously you want to keep it from his eyes and ears, but do your best to get him wet behind the neck as much as you can.

The secret is do not use a blow dryer or towel to dry him.  He needs to drip dry. You can put him in a small box with a towel underneath him. As the towel gets soaked, change it. When he's dry you can return him to the cage.

If there are mites you'll need to treat both pigs. Assuming that only one has got them is like assuming only one dog has fleas. Mites just happen. We don't really know where they always come from, but then fleas are to dogs much the same way.

One treatment should be enough. Hope fully this will end the problem and you'll see the hair starting to grow back within a week. And by the way he is a beautiful Peruvian. I love the breed and tried a couple of times to coat one out for show but that's a major labor of time and effort. I have deep admiration for those who are successful in keeping that dense coat long enough to be able to be a show winner.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks a lot again.

I will try the vaseline tonight.

But somehow I suspect that it is a skin problem. This particular guinea pig had some skin problems before. So, I assume he is prone to skin problems. Also, my other guinea pig in the same cage and my dog living in the house have not experienced the same problem within the last 2 weeks. What are the indications of eczema on a guinea pig? Can this be eczema?

Anyway.. I will try the vaseline and let you know about the results.

I usually cut his hair and comb often so the hair stays clean and he doesn't get hot. But, I havent done that for the last couple of weeks not to cause further stress that might be related to his skin problem.

Thank you & best wishes..

Bag Balm
Bag Balm  
Mites too are a skin problem. Guinea pigs are not usually susceptible to eczema like we humans are. Veterinarians will tell you that nearly all animals carry mites on their skin all the time, but only when their immunity is compromised for some reason, do the mites get out of control.

You may be right, this may not be mites. They type of mites that cavies get are what we call "species specific."  They will not get on any other creature. Lice are the same way, the difference is that mites burrow under the skin and lice crawl on it. The lice humans get (yuck) are specific to particular parts of the body. Head lice won't go to the rest of the body and the lice that get on 'other parts' don't go anywhere else. Vaseline smothers the mites. They can't breathe without the air coming from the skin.

Another possibility for your little guy is a small scratch or wound possibly caused by his buddy. But those typically fester up and look more angry than this does. If he's not scratching at it or trying to bite the spot it may be a wound rather than infection. Just on the outside chance that it's a fungal thing you can also try an antifungal cream on it. Those are available at any drug store.

Don't worry about what the package says about where it's to be used. When you look on the label you'll find they're all made of the same thing. But to sell more products at higher prices they label one for feet, one for female yeast infections, one for skin, etc. Just purchase the least expensive product. As consumers most people trust that if the box says this is for athlete's foot you can't use it anywhere else. Most people rarely read the labels.

I know you're apprehensive about what to do and I respect that. Most eczema will not stay isolated to one place, they travel and gradually take over a large area. The skin is flaky, reddened and itchy. The location of his spot appears from what I can see to be right in the range of his teeth if he wanted to scratch. That's why I'm leaning toward a mite issue. But I'm not trying to say I know for sure. Without a hands on inspection is very difficult to diagnose.

Could it be possible that he got a small scratch you didn't see when you combed him? Skin conditions are generally made more relieving with a bath. But of course you'll have to decide on your instincts what you feel about that right now.

So let's try the skin treatment before we jump into the mite issue. Even vaseline is soothing to sore skin. If you are able to purchase some Bag Balm that's a longtime used and effective treatment on guinea pigs for wounds, skin problems, etc. and has been a first choice of guinea pig breeders and exhibitors for as long as I can remember. I attached a picture so you can see what it is, in case you're not familiar with it.  

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As is sometimes the case, people in urgent need of information have a higher degree of expectation than those of us as experts are able to give. The experts on this site do their best to give the most accurate and responsible answers possible. We ask that you remember that it is not our intention nor place to criticize the professional advice given by your veterinarian, nor is it appropriate for us to comment on the correctness of a diagnosis made by a licensed physician. Our knowledge is experience based. Although many years of breeding and showing cavies gives me a wealth of experience it cannot change the fact that we as experts are not veterinarians and therefore may occasionally have to reject questions that appear to be asking us to criticize advice given by the licensed professional. Having raised and exhibited cavies for many years I have extensive experience in cavy care and husbandry. I currently have an active breeding program for pedigreed show animals but do not encourage backyard breeding for inexperienced owners. Although I don't encourage breeding for fun I'm always happy to answer any questions from an owner who is in sincere need of help. Pet owners wanting to breed should understand that even experienced breeders have litter losses. The mortality rate is high in cavies. The chance for losing both sow and pups is always present, even with experience. Although this is a site for experts to assist owners, there is no expert in any field who has all the answers. The wisest thing a good expert can know is their limitations. Not having an answer does not diminish one's ability or knowledge. It simply shows that we recognize our limitations and operate within them.


Raised and shown cavies for many years, having aquired my first cavies in the early 1970's as pets. My caviary currently handles 65 + animals in two different breeds and several varieties. Having been in the health care industry as a licensed nurse for 35 years I have hands on experience with care and needs in both humans and cavies. Member of American Rabbit Breeders Association and American Cavy Breeders Association.

Awarded Lifetime Membership in of one of the oldest cavy clubs in the United States, on whose Board I served as Sec/Treas for six years and currently serving as President. Also editor/publisher of the club's quarterly newsletter. We are strong supporters of our youth exhibitors, most of whom are 4H members who are working on cavy projects. Through these projects they become good responsible citizens. We deal with all aspects of showing, breeding, caring for and sharing experiences in the fancy. The cavy fancy is not a new one but in some areas is still relatively unknown. Our goal is to inspire interest in high quality, responsible breeding to improve the species, not just the reproduction of guinea pigs. Our job is to educate owners to help them make the right decisions and choices in the care of their cavies.

Graduate in nursing. Certified in emergency medicine.

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