hair loss in guinea pigs

Guinea Pig Hair Loss

If you notice your guinea pig has some bald spots, you might become alarmed. Here are the most common causes and treatments.

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Causes of Guinea Pig Hair Loss

The most common reason for hair loss in guinea pigs is usually mites. If you take your guinea pig to a vet, the vet will want to do a skin scrape, but 90% of the time it comes up false negative. It’s a good idea to always treat with ivermectin first, unless you can tell that the cause is lice or fungus. Even then, you can add ivermectin to your treatment. It doesn’t hurt the guinea pigs and, most often, it will clear up the problem quickly.

Other causes include:

  • BarberingBarbering refers to the behavior where a guinea pig trims the hair of himself or another guinea pig by chewing or tearing it. A dominant guinea pig might be “picking” on a less dominant one, and pulling his hair out as a result. This usually between two males, or it might happen between an adult and a young one. There are usually bite marks and skin irritations or inflammation near the area of hair loss.
  • Self-barbering  Sometimes guinea pigs will trim their own hair. It could just be a nervous habit.  Sometimes it is related to discomfort or pain in an area of the body. 
  • Rubbing  Check to see if your guinea pig is rubbing against something frequently.  For example, there might be a small doorway that he has to get through to enter or leave an area.  Rubbing can cause hair loss.
  • Genetic Problems Sometimes hair loss is simply due to a genetic predisposition. You need to rule out all other causes first.
  • Metabolism Imbalances  Ovarian cysts can cause hormonal changes that lead to hair loss.  Enlarged adrenal glands also create hormonal imbalances that lead to hair loss. You will need to get him checked out by a veterinarian to determine the exact cause.
  • Pregnant or Nursing Pregnancy causes hormonal changes which can lead to hair thinning or hair loss. If the hair loss is due to pregnancy, the hair loss will usually be equal on both sides of the body.
  • Inadequate Diet If a guinea pig is suffering from Vitamin C deficiency, he can experience hair loss. Guinea pigs need a minimum of 10 mg of vitamin C/kg body weight daily for maintenance and at least 30 mg/kg body weight daily during pregnancy. Vegetables high in vitamin C include tomatoes, red or green peppers, asparagus, and spinach.
  • Natural symptom of Aging Sometimes guinea pig hair loss is just a natural part of aging.
  • Young guinea pigs have hair that thins out when they wean as their hair changes from infant fur to adult fur
  • Mange Mange is caused by the Trixacarus caviae mite. Treatment involves administering ivermectin. Mange is quite common in guinea pigs, and they can get it from other animals or from bedding that contains the mites.
  • Fur Mites Fur mites cause hair loss and itching. They usually don’t irritate the skin, however. Chirodiscoides caviae is the usual culprit. Fur mites are not common. (http://www.merckmanuals.com/vet/exotic_and_laboratory_animals/rodents/guinea_pigs.html)
  • Lice Sometimes guinea pigs are housed with infected animals at a pet store.  If you bring a new guinea pig home, it’s a good idea to keep him isolated from any other guinea pigs you have for a few days so you can observe and make sure he doesn’t have lice or mites that he can pass to other animals. You can see lice with a magnifying glass.
  • Fungal Infection A fungal infection starts at the nose and spreads over the facial area. It will have a bald area with a scaly ring on the skin. High temperature and humidity can contribute to a more severe infection.

Treatments

You might be able to find the cause of your guinea pig’s hair loss just by looking at him or his environment. Sometimes you will need to take him to a vet and get a thorough exam to find the cause. The treatment, of course, depends on what’s causing it.

  • Metabolic disorders Metabolic causes are often treated with medication or lifestyle changes.
  • Diet Your vet might prescribe a special diet for your guinea pig or give him some special dietary supplements.
  • Genetic There’s nothing you can do if it’s just a genetic condition.
  • Barbering due to conflict Separate the offending guinea pigs. Tend to any skin wounds so infection doesn’t set in.
  • Self-barbering remove things from his environment that might be causing stress.
  • Lice You will need to apply anti-lice treatments and thoroughly clean and disinfect the cage and living areas.
  • Fur Mites You will need to get medication from a veterinarian.
  • Fungal Infections Treatment usually consists of a five- to six-week course of an oral anti-fungal medicine or, if it’s small, just topical application of anti-fungal cream.
  • Mange Treatment is usually the administration of Ivermectin, either in paste form or liquid form. Consult a vet for proper dosages and instructions.

Prevention

  • Make sure your guinea pig is getting an adequate diet with enough Vitamin C.
  • Wean baby guinea pigs early, usually around two weeks old.
  • Feed long-stemmed hay.
  • Minimize stress
  • Make sure their cage and environment is always clean and sanitary
  • When getting a new guinea pig, check the condition of the place you’re getting him from.