Imagine your little guinea pig’s once beautiful coat is starting to fall out. You can see bald patches of dry, swollen, or inflamed skin.
You try cleaning your pet and scouring the enclosure, hoping this will take care of that guinea pig hair loss once and for all. It only seems to have gotten worse, and now you might even come down with an itchy rash yourself.
What will you do? Can that breathtaking cavy fur ever be restored to its former glory?
I’ll cover all the various reasons why your guinea pig is losing fur and also give you advice on the course of treatment which should be administered by your vet.
Why is my guinea pig missing a patch of fur?
Your once beautiful Guinea is riddled with patches of bald, discolored skin. Your precious girl or handsome boy seems anxious and agitated when he isn’t sluggish and depressed.
What on Earth led to this terrible situation? Why is your Guinea Pig missing a patch of fur?
Guinea pigs can lose fur due to mites, fungal infections, lice, fleas, or pregnancy. Even stress can cause hair loss.
Not only will you want to know what causes the hair loss, you’ll probably also want to know what you can do to stop it and how you can prevent such skin issues in the future.
Guinea Pig Mites (Mange)
A severe mite infestation can easily lead to itching and inflammation along the back end of your Guinea Pig. This depends on the type of mites living on your little one; some won’t cause any symptoms.
The thighs, neck, and shoulders are normally impacted by the type of mites that cause extreme itching. The skin at the affected area can be either thick and crusty, dry, or oily.
“The clinical signs are dramatic: intense pruritus, widespread alopecia, and hyperkeratosis.”Donelly, Thomas. DAVBP
Let’s break that down so you can better understand what’s going on with your little piggy.
Pruritus: Itchy, irritated skin
Alopecia: Hair loss, partial or complete lack of hair
Hyperkeratosis: Excess production of Keratin, causes growths to form (usually on footpads)
If not treated, these areas can develop open wounds and secondary infections. This can cause extreme anxiety (running around the cage), weight loss, lethargy, and even eventual death (if left untreated).
Alopecia (hair loss) will develop naturally to some extent in all Guinea Pics, resulting from a decrease in maternal skin growth due to fetal development.
You also might see some Guinea Pig hair loss during nursing.
Guinea Pig Fungal Infection (Ringworm)
The fungus Trichophyton mentagrophytes is most often your cause here, most usually leading to bald patches that frequently start at the head. The patches can appear around your pet’s eyes, nose and ears when on the face, and can spread to the back.
The patches of bald skin will normally have red crusty or flaky patches inside them. Guinea Pigs can either catch Ringworm from other Guinea Pigs, or contaminated objects in their environment.
These flaky red patches can also develop secondary infections that can become inflamed or filled with pus. Ringworm can go away on its own if kept clean but should be treated by a veterinarian.
The disease can be spread to susceptible animals which is especially important if you have two guinea pigs or other pets.
Stress through overcrowding, environmental changes, or a poor diet can also be part of the equation.
Ringworm is just as contagious to other humans as it is to other animals. Always wear gloves.
Lice-Related Fur Loss
A case of lice won’t show any signs or symptoms normally, but bad cases might lead to itching, skin inflammation around the ears and neck, and hair loss.
While lice should be treated by a veterinarian, it’s pretty simple to avoid.
To help prevent lice, simply keep your Guinea’s cage clean and tidy. Lice can be a problem with cats and dogs also but is normally seen in ‘dirtier’ environments.
Guinea Pig Barbering
Guinea Pigs can chew and claw at either their own fur or that of other Guineas, usually resulting from conflicts between other Guineas. This is what we call Barbering.
Hair can be lost in patches, sometimes with evidence of bite or scratch marks and skin inflammation. No need to worry; preventing this is also simple.
Separate your Guineas from one another for the time being if you’ve witnessed any issues, doing your best to limit any stress or anxiety (if the other is causing it).
However, solitary confinement in itself can lead to stress or depression in some cases, so you’ll need to use your judgment. Changing an environment can also cause stress.
Guinea pigs are very sensitive animals and may not eat or even drink regularly for some time if any change in their environment occurs.
This includes their cage, companion, diet, and general daily routine.
Guinea Pig Fleas
Unlike dogs or cat, guinea pigs aren’t as susceptible to fleas as other animals (they actually have that in common with us).
However, they aren’t immune to fleas either.
In fact, fleas from your other pets can just as easily make a home out of that comfortable piggy.
Fleas can lead to itching, scratching, biting, and fur loss. All that itching and biting can lead to open sores and secondary infections, which can be worse than the fleas themselves.
Large flea infestations can consume a large amount of blood, which can be dangerous for such small animals.
Veterinary attention is necessary if that’s the case.
Use a treatment prescribed by your vet.
Many flea treatments for larger animals utilize various types of pesticides that will be dangerous to such small animals. Bathing your furry fellow is a good idea, and treat all piglets at once if at all possible.
Guinea pigs are plagued by lots of skin issues:
- Pyoderma: Skin disorder producing pus
- Dermatophytosis: Hair, nail, or skin infection caused by a fungus
- Neoplasia: Unusual tissue growth (i.e. hyperkeratosis)
How do you know if your guinea pig has mites?
Guineas might not show any signs at all with early infections, or not at all in general. There isn’t just one type of mite, and your pet’s reaction will depend on the type of parasite you are dealing with.
- Impacted skin can become thick, sometimes yellowish and crusted.
- You might see Guinea Pig hair loss around the problem area.
- Your pet might end up with a secondary skin infection (leading to a new set of problems).
- Eventual lethargy with weight loss and depression are common.
Your little piglet should be handled daily, to check for anything unusual. General signs and symptoms of illness in Guinea Pigs usually aren’t difficult to notice for the observant handler.
- Loss of appetite
- Anxiety or lethargy
- Weight loss
- Hunched posture
- Abnormal walk or a limp (lameness)
- Unusually skinny or abnormally large belly
- Hair coat consistency changes (hair loss)
- Difficulty breathing
How can I stop my guinea pig from losing hair?
The answer is very simple; treat the problem (not the symptoms).
Don’t think about curing your guinea pig’s hair loss, but about taking care of the problem that is causing that hair loss if it’s anything other than seasonal shedding.
Ask yourself “What is causing my Guinea to lose patches of fur?” You can’t treat a problem well until you know what caused it.
You can probably take care of that barbering behavior yourself, by separating your animals into different enclosures. If that doesn’t work, you might want to contact a veterinarian or any one of the other sources like the breeder or your pet’s groomer.
When it comes to lice, you will want to first take your little one to see a vet, ensuring the problem isn’t worse than you know.
Other than that, always keep her environment (and yours) clean.
Regular veterinary checkups are important, if just to catch any problems early and ensure nothing small becomes worse than it is.
A rule of thumb is: Any guinea pig hair loss not directly behind the ears should be investigated further.
Being overly cautious is always the best way to go instead of regretting not acting sooner afterwards.
Guinea Pig Hair Loss Treatment
How do you treat hair loss in guinea pigs? Go with the same solution above, treat the problem/cause directly.
If you have bacterial infections, those will need to be treated at the same time. The DVM might start your little one on a round of antibiotics.
Both mange and fungal infections in Guinea Pigs are often easily treated with specialized shampoos.
How do you treat lice?
By the time you notice a problem, it may be a good idea to contact the veterinarian. You’ll want to also clean/sanitize your Guinea’s environment (careful about harsh chemicals).
Treatments for other parasites.
In general, you want to contact a veterinarian for any treatments. This is often more important for the bacterial infections that might arise from open sores.
After your vet has attended to any harmful infection or wounds, the parasite that caused them will be focused on.
Does Guinea Pig hair grow back?
In most cases, your guinea pig’s hair will re-grow and those bald spots disappear once the guinea pig hair loss is treated. Eliminate the problem, and there is nothing keeping that healthy hair from re-growing.
As long as there aren’t any existing, chronic health issues, the cause of the guinea pig hair loss is taken care of, and the skin isn’t damaged (i.e. scarring), the hair should grow back.