The Itchy Guinea Pig - What to Do!!!

Scratching in Guinea Pigs

This can be caused by:

  1. heavy infestations of lice (Glyricloa caviae & Gyropus caviae)
  2. fur mite infestation (Chirodiscoides caviae)
  3. mange mite infestation (Trixacarus cavioptes caviae - "selnick mite")

All three are transferred by direct contact, but resistant eggs may be carried on hay, clothing, feeding utensils etc.


These rarely disturb the cavy but often disturb the owner! The grey/white 1.5mm lice may be seen running through the coat but more often lice eggs will be seen stuck to the hairs, especially around the genitals and grease spot.

Treat with :

  • cat flea shampoo, 3 washes one week apart,
  • or Frontline spray,
  • or cat flea powder, 3 treatments, one week apart.

Fur Mites

Fur mite infestations will rarely cause any symptoms. If scratching is noted and no lice or skin irritation noted, treat as for lice above.

Mange Mite

These mites live in the skin, tunnelling and burrowing in the superficial skin layers. They cause intense itching and sometimes, especially in recently farrowed sows, raw sores. More often they cause scaly, scurfy skin with loss of undercoat - "moth-eaten" appearance.

These mites may be present without causing itching and then when the pig is stressed eg pregnancy, showing, weaning, fighting etc; the mites overcome the pig's resistance and cause disease. Normal washing of the hands with soap and water after handling cavies will prevent transfer of mites from one group to another, but infestations are easily acquired when introducing new guinea pigs from another group. Mites can be carried on clothes for a few hours, then die. Mite eggs are very resistant and can survive in hay etc for several days. In general direct contact between cavies is needed for mange to occur, but remember that mites can be present without causing disease.


This should ideally be given to all guinea pigs in a group at one time, whether they are showing symptoms or not.

Dose guinea pigs with sheep Ivomec at 0.25 ml per kg body weight. Wash in cat flea shampoo, rubbing in well on scaly areas. Leave shampoo on hair for 10 minutes, then rinse off well (2 rinses). For the third and final rinse use 2 tsp of sheep Ivomec in 2 litres of warm water, dip cavy in, and then dry without further rinsing.

This should be repeated weekly on affected guinea pigs until they have no further scabs or itchiness; usually 2-3 treatments but sometimes up to 6 in severe cases. Ivomec is safe in heavily pregnant sows, but it is too stressful to wash them - leave this until several days after they have farrowed.

Dawn Mills