Lice Infestation in Guinea Pigs

PetMD Editorial
July 21, 2010
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Pediculosis in Guinea Pigs

Lice infestation, also called pediculosis, is a common ectoparasitic health issue in guinea pigs. Guinea pigs infested with lice infestation often only show symptoms of illness when they are under stress. When the guinea pig is stressed, the infestation can flare up, causing distress and discomfort to the guinea pig.

Lice are commonly seen around the neck and ears in guinea pigs. Apart from causing uneasiness and irritation to the guinea pig, lice infestation can also lead to loss of blood and subsequent anemia. Hence, lice infestation should be avoided and if it is present then proper steps should be taken to control and prevent reinfestation.

Symptoms and Types

Lice and their eggs (nits) may be seen on the skin and hair of the infested guinea pigs with a magnifying glass. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Intense itching
  • Restlessness
  • Weakness and anemia
  • Inflammation of the skin around the neck and ears

Causes

Guinea pigs catch lice from other guinea pigs or from objects that are contaminated, such as bedding.

Diagnosis

The physical symptoms of itching, inflammation of the skin, and restlessness are enough to suspect lice infestation. You may be able to make an initial diagnosis using a common magnifying glass that is made for the purpose of lice detection. These magnifiers can be bought from most pharmacies. If it appears that your guinea pig has a parasitic infection, you will still need to see your veterinarian to have a diagnosis confirmed.

The treatment may depend on the actual type of skin parasite that is affecting your guinea pig, so it is important that your veterinarian is able to take a skin scraping from your pet in order to identify whether it is actually adult lice or lice eggs on your guinea pig’s skin and hair.

Treatment

As with other cases of ectoparasitic infestations, lice infestation is treated with topical applications of parasiticides -- medicated dusts and spray that are designed to kill lice. In some cases, the medication may be in the form of a solution that can be administered orally through drinking water. Your veterinarian will advise you accordingly as to which route of administration is best, depending on the severity of the lice infestation.

If your guinea pig is suffering from anemia, or from any infection that might have occurred as a result of excessive itching and bacterial involvement, this will need to be treated as well.

Living and Management

Take steps to clean and disinfect your guinea pig's cage before reintroducing your pet into it. It may be practical to replace all of the old bedding with new bedding, to avoid reinfestation. Follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding the application of medicated dusts and sprays.

Prevention

Lice infestations can be minimized or prevented by making sure that living quarters are clean and sanitary, and by minimizing your guinea pig's stress levels. Routinely cleaning and disinfecting all cages where your guinea pigs are housed can either prevent an infestation in the first place, or make it easier to get control of an infestation should there be one. Taking steps to minimize your guinea pig's stress levels is also vital to preventing problems that can arise from ectoparasitic lice infestation, since stress often compromises an animal's ability to ward off both infections and infestations.