The answer to this question is a resounding yes! Like any living creature, guinea pigs or cavies can get parasites such as lice.
If your guinea pig is scratching itself a lot, chances are that an infestation has already set in.
If not, there are some ways you can prevent these bloodsuckers from getting on your beloved pet.
The first thing you need to determine is whether your cavy has lice or mites. Contrary to popular belief, they are not the same.
Mites are arachnids just like spiders and ticks while lice are more insect-like and can be compared to ants.
Types of Guinea Pig Lice
The two kinds of lice you should be worried about are the sucking and the biting or chewing kind.
The former carry diseases and can cause rapid blood loss in your guinea pig in case of an infestation.
The latter on the other hand can make your pet’s life a living nightmare by making them scratch till they draw blood.
Both kinds of lice can prove quite painful for cavies if an infestation is not nipped in the bud.
However, the most common type you should worry about is the gliricola porcelli lice.
These are flat, light-colored and thin parasites that are about 1 mm in size and lack wings.
You can spot them easily in your pig’s fur right near the skin. If there are a lot of them they will also be visible around the cavy’s eyes.
Besides this, your pig can also get lice called trimenopon hispidium, a rare type that can cause fur loss, make your cavy’s coat rough to the touch and cause intense itching.
Irrespective of the type of lice your guinea pig has, chances are it got it from the others it shares a cage or enclosure with.
If you only have one, then the bedding may be infested or other things that are present in the cage.
In fact, you may the culprit as well.
While humans cannot get these lice, they can hang onto clothing and get transmitted to a guinea pig as it is cuddled.
Even though these parasites only have a 3-week lifespan, they can wreak havoc in that limited time.
It lays eggs on the fur of the host which hatches in 3 to 14 days.
The nymph that emerges goes through 3 stages of growth and when it is an adult, it mates resulting in more eggs.
In other words, there are always more lice to replace dead ones unless that cycle is interrupted!
Common Symptoms of Lice Infestation
While an infestation may not prove fatal, it can make ill or old cavies suffer. It can also be a sign of an underlying condition that you may be unaware of.
For example, your guinea pig may have a poor immune system or is not being fed enough or injured which prevents it from grooming itself.
All of these can result in an infestation that can compromise your cavy’s comfort.
If you think your guinea pig has lice check around its ears, head, neck and near its furry butt for crawling parasites.
Also check for hair loss, sores, scabs, scaly or thick skin. Use a small magnifying glass to make your search easier and spot eggs.
If you spot any, you should take your guinea pig to a groomer or a vet immediately to get treated.
The treatment will depend on the type of infestation your pig is suffering from. The vet may scrape some skin samples from your pet to determine this.
Don’t worry. The process is quite painless but just make sure that you take your pet to a qualified professional.
How to Prevent a Lice Infestation
As mentioned before guinea pigs usually get lice from infested bedding, clothing and from other cavies they live with.
In fact, they don’t have to live with infected cavies to get lice. Shelters, show rings, and breeding facilities can also carry parasites that can get onto your pet.
Preventing lice from getting into a treated guinea pig’s cage is easy.
Just wash and freeze the food and bedding you get from these facilities for 24 hours before placing them in the clean cage.
The cold will kill any parasites that are on there and your cavy will never be exposed to them.
You can also bring these lice into your home if you handle some other infested cavy beforehand.
Make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before touching your guinea pigs.
Plus, if you are introducing a new guinea pig into the herd that is free of parasites, wash it with anti-mange shampoo first to kill any it may have. Prevention is better than cure in this case.
The cage in which you keep your pets should also be cleaned regularly to prevent an infestation.
Do this every week and wipe it down before placing your pets back in. Plus, freeze and thaw the fresh bedding before placing it in the cage.
This will break the infestation cycle and keep your furry babies itch and disease-free.
Even if your cavies are healthy, they can still get lice if they are stressed out.
That’s because unhappy guinea pigs have weak immune systems which attract parasites.
Reduce their stress by:
- Giving them plenty of space to run around by getting a bigger cage or by letting them out in a safe area.
- Keeping the cage in a silent part of the house where other people and pets won’t bother them.
- Giving a lone guinea pig a companion. Make sure that it is not a dominating one or you will just make your pet unhappier.
If none of those things work, give your pet plenty of vitamin C to boost its immune system and it will fight off lice itself.
You can either add supplements to its water or feed. Some good sources of this include green, leafy vegetables, and citrus.
How Many Times Should You Give Your Guinea Pig A Bath?
While you should refrain from bathing an infested guinea pig, you can prevent an infestation with regular baths.
This small rodent usually keeps itself clean but if it gets a disease or gets overweight, that can be difficult.
With time, a cavy that is unable to groom itself can develop lice.
Whatever you do, don’t bathe them every day. It can pose a health risk or stress out your pet.
Here are some things you should consider if you are trying to figure out a bathing schedule:
The Length of the Coat
Long and short-haired guinea pigs have different bathing requirements.
The latter can groom themselves more thoroughly than the former and rarely need a bath.
However, long-haired breeds such as the gorgeous Peruvian guinea pig have luxurious tresses that can grow 20 inches in length.
They need to be groomed and brushed every day but with a brush, not water.
Give them a proper shampoo and blowout every 3 to 4 months to prevent matting especially around the rump.
Cavies that have fur that is not longer than 3 inches do not need baths but their tresses should be brushed every other day.
This will prevent their fur from matting and prevent lice.
The Guinea Pig’s Health
If your guinea pig is sick from a parasitic infection such as lice, giving it a bath may make its condition worse. In severe cases, a trip to the vet is a good idea.
They have the equipment, products, and skills to groom your sick cavy without stressing it out.
They can also train you in the grooming process so that you can continue the treatment at home.
Show guinea pigs such as the aforementioned Peruvian are bathed by trained groomers before events.
Besides a bath, this also includes a thorough brushing, nail clipping, and a thorough scrubbing of the cavy’s grease gland.
If you are part of a show club, the organizers will update you with the grooming requirements and recommendations for the show.
If you decide to bathe your cavy, you cannot use your own shampoo.
The chemicals present in it will do a number on its sensitive skin which can get itchy and dry.
Use special products that are made specifically for small rodents such as rabbits. These have moisturizing properties and will not strip moisture from its skin.
Plus, keep in mind that these small animals can get pneumonia very easily.
So make sure that you use warm rather than cold water to bathe them and towel dry immediately after the bath is done.
Air drying can lead to a respiratory infection.
In fact, do one better and warm your pet with your body by holding it close once it has been towel dried and is not dripping all over the place.
Blow driers can cause serious burns and the noise can stress out your guinea pig as well.
The bottom line is if you want to prevent lice from getting on your pet, you need to keep it clean and well-groomed.
Follow a set schedule so your pet can remain happy and stress-free.
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