Itching and Scratching and Flaking…. Oh My!
Don’t panic! Although a nuisance, mites are treatable and the varieties that are common on small pets such as guinea pigs rarely transfer to humans. However, they are highly contagious to other small pets and possibly your cat or dog, depending on what type of mite the infected animal is carrying.
These pests can live on the skin of a guinea pig or other small pet and lie dormant for some time before stress or illness gives them an opportunity to spread and cause problems. Affected skin will get thick and sometimes yellowish and crusty due to an enzyme secreted by the mite to break down the skin so they can feed. There may be hair loss and scabbing in the affected area. Secondary bacterial skin infections commonly occur from bacteria entering open wounds in the affected areas from scratching and rubbing against objects in the cage.
Keeping your pet’s cage clean and doing regular health checks, as well as quarantining new pets for up to 3 weeks to ensure proper health before introducing them to your established pets, can help prevent mites from infesting your animal.
If you notice your pet has any symptoms of mites, contact your veterinarian for advice. Also:
- In the meantime, do not bathe your pet as this can cause certain types of mites to dig deeper into the skin, making treatment harder and the treatment process longer.
- Do a thorough cleaning of your pet’s cage(s) along with any hides or toys that they use.
- Wash your hands and change your clothing before you touch or hold other pets in the home (though mites do not usually affect humans they will use you and your clothing as a means to travel to a new host).
- You can also freeze new bedding for an hour to help kill off any hitchhikers that are hiding in the bedding, but make sure the bedding doesn’t get wet and returns to room temperature before using it for your animal.
Though mites are unpleasant, if treated properly, they are not a death sentence. Do your research and work with your veterinarian to keep your pets pest free, happy and healthy!