Guinea Pigs/Guinea Pig Hair Loss
Hi, my name is Maeve and I have three lovely guinea pigs.
I've recently been having some trouble with one of my Guinea Pig, Pickles. A couple of months ago I noticed a sore looking bald spot on his behind. I took him to the vet just in case, and they diagnosed him with dry skin. He hadn't been showing any signs of illness, but they put him antibiotics just in case. After being on the medicine for the recommended 2 weeks, I saw no change in his state and assumed it was just dry skin. It has been a couple of months now and I had forgotten about his issue. Only recently I noticed he has lost all of the hair on his underside and a lot on his sides and behind. I did some research and many said he just needed more vitamins, so I've been giving him carrots and kale. Today while playing with him I noticed some nasty scabs on some of his bald spots. He just hasn't been acting quite right as well. I plan to call the vet tomorrow, but the area I live in is calling for an awful blizzard. I don't know if I can get him to a vet soon, and at this point I am slightly desperate and quite worried. Is there anything I can do for him?
I live in New England as well, so I understand. I'm north of you and we're hoping the storm doesn't reach us, but we're getting ready in case.
I don't think this is an issue with dry skin. With all due respect to your vet, antibiotics are rarely needed in guinea pigs unless you have a diagnosed infection. Even then, they do not tolerate any form of penicillin. I assume your vet knows this. I see all too often the indiscriminate prescribing of antibiotics because the vet is at a loss as to what they are treating. Overuse of antibiotics or unnecessary use is counterproductive to say the least.
There are two trains of thought on his condition. The first being the possibility of an allergic reaction to the bedding. The other is mites. Changing the bedding in the cage is an easy way to find out. If he gets no relief within two weeks, then go to plan B. Mites. However, in light of the severity of his hair loss, if it were my pig I would treat for mites first.
I think this very well may be a severe mite infestation. There are precious few cavy experienced vets in this country. Not because they don't learn a bit during their vet training, but there is little research done on guinea pigs because they just do not represent enough of a patient base to make it worthwhile. There's is lots known about rabbits, but not guinea pigs.
I assume he probably did a skin scraping, and if he did he said there was no evidence to assume it was mites. It has been my experience that rarely does a skin scraping show mites. Not the vet's fault, it's just the way it is. This information comes to me from a couple of friends who are both veterinarians and cavy breeders. Those kind of vets are few and far between.
Most animals with fur carry microscopic mites and they cause no problem. These mites (and lice which are less common, but seen in dirty caviaries) are "species specific. That means they will NOT get on humans, dogs, cats, etc. They're evolved to thrive on one species only. If there is a period of stress in the animal the mites can take control. In extreme cases it develops into alopecia, or baldness either total or partial as your pig has. The fix is easy and inexpensive.
The best thing for this severe stage is a dip that is used for puppies and kittens. Most breeders treat prophylactically with Ivermectin Horse Paste 1.87%. This is an "experience based" treatment that has been used for many years by breeders, but is seldom known to vets. But it works and has been used for nearly 20 yrs. Adams is formulated with Pyrethrins and Permethrins which are food based natural products and are safer in animals.
In this case however, you need to take action that will show faster results. Adams Dip is available at any pet store. Do not buy any other brand. I have tried, they don't work. Again, there will be nothing on the bottle that says it's okay for guinea pigs. But this is something we've all used for many years effectively.
While exhibiting pigs at a show if a judge sees evidence of mites or lice (which will also be cured by Adams) the have the pig removed from the show table and they spray the area the pig touched with Adams Spray. However, for your situation do not use spray. Do not get the dip that is also a shampoo, you just want to use the dip.
Mix the solution according to the label. The product has a very nice fragrance. You can use your small bathroom sink or a shoebox sized plastic container. Use lukewarm water. Hold the little guy in your hands and gently put him into the solution. It only needs to be about 2 or 3 inches deep. Using a cup you will pour the solution over his entire body, being careful not to get it in the eyes or ears. You want him dripping wet.
Here is the important part: Do not use a towel to dry him or a hair dryer. It is imperative that he drips dry. You can put him in a box or sit him in the bathtub on a towel and let him drip nearly completely dry. Repeat this treatment in two weeks. You should start seeing the hair begin to grow back in a week or so.
Just an FYI. Guinea pigs don't really require added vitamins other than Vit C. Kale and parsley are the highest in Vit C per oz. But that is not going to help baldness. The difference between cavy pellets and rabbit pellets is the addition of Vit C in cavy food. Rabbits produce their own Vit C. Cavies do not. But the reason for Vit C is to prevent scurvy, not baldness.
You may want to do a terminal cleaning of your cage or cages. If one pig has mites, they probably all do. You can treat the others with just one treatment if they've shown no evidence of balding. The most typical sign is usually a 'v' shaped cut in the hair on top of the back. That's where the mites will gravitate and the pig cannot reach them. They chew on both sides of the middle of the back, and the result is that 'v' shaped cut in the hair.
I hope this helps you. Please keep in touch and let me know if the problem is solved. Although the storm may keep us from driving, unless the power goes out we still have internet!