The best method to naturally treat guinea pig mites is to use neem oil combined with vitamin C. Neem oil needs to be diluted with a carrier oil like olive or almond to make it less irritating on the skin.
A guinea pig is a great pet for everyone. When I was a kid, my family owned four! Although guinea pigs are sweet and friendly (great for kids), you’ll need to remember that they require a lot of maintenance. This includes cage cleaning, food prep, and skincare, which is the subject of this article.
If the skin of guinea pigs is not properly cared for, it can become infected with mites, causing serious problems!
What Causes Guinea Pig Mites?
Mites are small parasitic insects that can be found on many types of house pets, including dogs and cats. Because of the pain they cause in animals and the vigilance they require to get rid of them completely, they can be a nuisance both to the pet and its owner.
The two main types of mites found on guinea pigs are trixacarus caviae (also known as mange) and chirodiscoides caviae (also called static lice because that’s what they appear to be at first glance).
Both are spread by proximity to an infested animal or by living in contaminated hay.
Mites can affect a guinea pig of any age or sex, according to VCA Hospitals (Hess & Axelson).
Signs Your Guinea Pig Has a Mite Infestation
Please remember that infested guinea pigs may be asymptomatic at first (they may show no symptoms of infestation), but the longer you wait to treat them, the more severe the problem will become.
Also, remember that mites can’t be seen by the naked eye. However, they still cause pain and discomfort to your piggie and may even live on your pig’s body for months, causing flareups in times of stress or sickness.
Hay mites are the least harmless, but they are still a pain in the butt to remove. Their eggs look like tiny white bumps (about 5 mm) firmly attached to the base of the hair follicle. They usually appear on the back legs or rear end and may cause itching. Since the parasites do not burrow under the skin, they rarely cause extreme skin irritation and are not life-threatening.
Mange, on the other hand, is the most harmful mite. They burrow under the animal’s skin and cause intense itching and pain.
Extended periods of constant itching break open the skin to create lesions, like bald patches, dandruff-like flaking, and open sores, leading to infection.
If left untreated, this condition can cause seizures and death. Death can also occur because guinea pigs become dehydrated from their sores and are unable to eat because of the stress from the ordeal.
Note, however, that these symptoms are less severe in animals with consistent grooming routines and normal immune responses. They are more severe in very young, very old, pregnant, and animals exposed to poor environmental conditions.
Piggies infested with the parasite may be resistant to handling, exhibit skin pain, become lethargic and depressed, and lose significant weight.
Using Natural Methods to Get Rid of Guinea Pig Mites
It’s important to note that you most likely cannot get rid of guinea pig mites using 100% natural methods. A few things can significantly reduce the infestation, but to completely clear the infestation, a visit to the vet is required.
With that said, here are two natural methods that work great when combined with medication from the vet.
If you want to go the natural route, one helpful option is to use neem oil, which has traditionally been used as an insect repellent.
It contains triterpenes, chemical compounds that address inflammation in plants and animals. It is safe when topically applied to animals, but it should never be ingested.
The effectiveness of treatment depends on how much you use, how often you apply it, and the sensitivity of the guinea pig you apply it to. Be sure to talk to your vet about these specific factors.
Neem oil also has a strong odor, but it can be diluted with a carrier oil like olive or almond to lessen the smell and make it less irritating to a piggie’s skin.
Vitamin C Supplementation
Above all, always give your pig a well-balanced, healthy diet and include a vitamin C supplement, as guinea pigs cannot produce it themselves.
Vitamin C is needed for maintaining skin health, especially the healing of wounds, and it boosts the nervous system for fighting off diseases.
Remember that any herbal or “natural” remedy cannot be used by itself to completely resolve the problem. You should rely on the medications described below to cure the underlying issues of infestation.
If Natural Methods Don’t Work
Infested guinea pigs must be quarantined immediately, away from other pets and people. While treating your pig, remove contaminated bedding and thoroughly clean areas where infested pigs have been present.
For hay mites, you might need to scrape the skin to remove eggs. However, this is not always an effective method since it may not remove all the eggs and does not address the itching directly.
Take your piggie to the vet as soon as possible. The most common and effective treatment they will prescribe is ivermectin, which can be administered via injection, orally or topically. This usually requires 2 to 3 doses given 7 to 10 days apart; one dose will not kill the mites right away. However, it does relieve dandruff-like symptoms within a few hours.
The dosage depends on the size and weight of your piggie, so be sure to know what that is, and seek a knowledgeable professional to determine the rest. It has been shown to be safe for use on pregnant pigs. It is safe to use on young pigs who have reached at least 12 ounces (340 g) in weight.
For an alternative, you can get selamectin, sold under the name Revolution or Stronghold. This is a newer topical treatment that owners appreciate for convenience, as it only requires once-a-month dosing. It is not as effective as ivermectin for mange, but this small study shows some promise.
Your vet may also prescribe topical treatments to address the itching and sores. Please check the ingredients label to determine their safety for use on live animals.
How to Prevent Mites Going Forward
To prevent the maturation of eggs and kill adult mites, continue to treat your animal for the recommended time and be on the lookout for further infestations.
Continue to keep areas where infested pigs have frequented clean and refresh hay bedding often. Remember that the eggs and mites will not survive without a host.
Guinea pigs are very sensitive to their surroundings, so always provide a low-stress living environment. High stress can make symptoms associated with scratching worse.
By following treatment instructions correctly, mites can be killed quickly, and the problem can be solved within a few weeks.
If you are concerned about mites from your piggie affecting other humans in your household, know that both types of mites are not zoonotic. This means it is not easily transferred to other species. On rare occasions, though, mild itching may occur in those with sensitive skin, but this has not been shown to pose a serious risk to overall health. Still, if this happens, contact your family physician.
I hope this article was helpful to you. It can be a lot of work to treat this condition, but with proper vigilance and early prevention, your piggie will be OK. Good luck!