Guinea Pig Mites / Mange Mites (Trixacarus caviae)
Mange mites (a.k.a. guinea pig mites) are microscopic mites that burrow deep under the skin of a guinea pig. This species specific parasite, known as Trixacarus caviae, causes unbearable irritation and can be life-threatening. As part of the arachnid family, the mite is transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal. Once it has attached itself to its host, it will not leave unless the host dies or the mite itself is brushed off. Without a host, the mite will die within two or three weeks. The eggs, which are laid in the burrows of the skin, may survive freely for an extensive amount of time.
Symptoms: Relentless biting, itching, and scratching can result in thinning and/or patchy hair loss. Eventually, open sores may be seen, causing serious pain to the cavy. As the sores grow larger, they are likely to cause severe dehydration, leading to extreme discomfort, and in some cases, death. Note: Often, hair loss from a mite infestation will occur in a V-shaped pattern over the guinea pig’s back.
It is important to note that a guinea pig suffering from guinea pig mites may become unenthusiastic and reluctant to any interaction. The most problematic cases occur in younger animals, or those who are older and ill. Stress and poor environmental conditions may be an indication of a future mite infestation.
Treatment: Take your guinea pig to a veterinarian right away if a guinea pig mite infestation is suspected. Ivermectin is the treatment of choice. It does not kill the eggs, and it must be administered by injection, orally, or topically in several doses. It is usually placed on the skin found directly behind the ears. The dosage is weight specific and is not safe to use with guinea pigs that weigh less than twelve ounces. Two or more doses spaced seven to ten days apart are required. This drug is safe to use on pregnant cavies.
Other remedies: Diazepam may be used to control itching, while steroids grant temporary relief. The nails should be cut in order to minimize any further damage to the skin. It is important to keep stress levels to a minimum while the guinea pig is recovering from a mite infestation. Try to keep interaction with other guinea pigs or small children to a minimum in order to lessen stresses on the guinea pig. If the guinea pig is kept in a cage, washing the cage thoroughly with hot water and soap is recommended to be sure any residual guinea pig mites are wiped out. Dispose of any old bedding and replace it with bedding from an unopened package. Be sure that anything the guinea pig regularly comes into contact with is either washed down or replaced.
Final Notes: Guinea pig mites cause intense pain in infected guinea pigs and can even lead to death if left untreated. It is very important to take your guinea pig to the veterinarian immediately if your guinea pig displays symptoms of guinea pig mites. Do not attempt to treat a guinea pig mite infestation with flea and tick powders or shampoos. These will not get rid of the mites, and can potentially cause more harm and stress to the guinea pig.