Treatment for guinea pig mites is usually straightforward and effective. It is, however, essential to get an accurate diagnosis from a veterinarian, because there are other conditions with similar symptoms. Two injections of an anti-parasitic drug — often separated by one or two weeks — is usually enough to kill the parasite. Extra doses may be required in more difficult cases. It’s also important to thoroughly clean the guinea pig’s cage once it has been treated for mites to prevent re-infection.
Guinea pig mites are a common problem, especially because the parasites can sometimes enter the hutch on the animal's food or hay. There is a misconception that only guinea pigs kept outside can suffer from mites, but the condition also can affect house pets. Symptoms of guinea pig mites include constant itching and irritation. If the condition isn’t treated quickly, then the constant scratching may result in hair loss and scabbed skin. Guinea pigs suffering from mites are often sensitive to the touch and may be difficult to pick up.
The first step in treating mites is to obtain a professional diagnosis. In its early stages, mites can cause symptoms similar to other conditions, such as ringworm, which also can cause itching. A veterinarian should be able to distinguish between mites and other parasites using various tests. Lice also can be mistaken for mites, although lice may not cause the same degree of itching.
Most cases of guinea pig mites are relatively easy to treat. The animal is usually injected with an anti-parasitic drug — often a drug known as ivermectin — that kills the parasites. To be effective, the treatment usually needs to be given at least twice with a gap of two weeks between the injections. In severe cases, extra injections may be required. Alternate forms of anti-parasitic drugs don’t require injection and may be applied directly to the skin.
It’s also important to clean the cage once the guinea pig has received treatment for mites. This prevents re-infection through mites that may be hiding in the hay or bedding of the hutch. As a general rule, bedding in a guinea pig cage should be replaced at least twice a week, and the cage should be thoroughly cleaned once a week. It is almost impossible to prevent guinea pigs from getting mites, because they are difficult to spot and can easily enter the cage, but regular cleaning will considerably reduce the chances.