How to spot and how to treat guinea pig lice.
Have you noticed your guinea pig itching and scratching? Do they seem uncomfortable? Your guinea pig might have lice!
Lice are an external parasite that live by feeding off your pet. They can make your guinea pig itchy as they are constantly moving around and biting. They can also cause some health issues for your guinea pig if not treated. Luckily, they are pretty easy to get rid of!
This guide will take you through how to recognize and treat lice on your guinea pig.
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The Basics of Guinea Pig Lice
There are actually three different types of guinea pig lice, also called “running lice.” They all have pretty much the same symptoms and treatment though, so I’m not going to go into detail on the different types.
Lice are little parasites that live on your guinea pig. They bite your pet and need to live on their skin to survive. They do not suck a guinea pig’s blood, but instead just bite their skin. Unlike mites, they are usually visible in a piggy’s hair.
How Do I Know If My Guinea Pig Has Lice?
The first thing you’ll notice if your guinea pig has lice is extra scratching and itching. Your guinea pig may also start losing some patches of hair from itching and your pet could even scratch so much they start creating scabs or sores.
Unlike mites, you will be able to see lice moving around on your guinea pig. They often live around the head and shoulders the most, so that’s a good place to look. You may also see the eggs on your piggy – these will look like small white specks.
How Did My Guinea Pig Get Lice?
Guinea pigs get lice from coming in contact with them somewhere. They can get them from coming in contact with another guinea pig that has lice or with hay, bedding, shavings, or other items that have come into contact with them. Lice and their eggs can also be transferred on a person from handling an infested guinea pig to others.
Lice can’t live long off a guinea pig, so they won’t be spread through shavings, hay, or other items that come from a store and have never been in contact with guinea pigs. There has to be some type of recent contact with contaminated piggies.
How to Prevent Lice in Guinea Pigs
The only way to prevent your guinea pig from getting lice is to limit the chances of them coming in to contact with them.
Don’t take your guinea pigs around other piggies you are unfamiliar with and be sure to wash any bedding or items that you are using that have also been used with other guinea pigs. If you suspect a guinea pig has lice, make sure to quarantine them away from any others.
It’s also worth mentioning that any new guinea pigs you bring into your house should be quarantined and thoroughly health checked for at least a week. I nearly had a major lice outbreak in my pet room when I brought two new pigs in because I totally missed the lice on their first health inspection!
Can I Get Lice From My Guinea Pig?
Lice are species-specific, so they really need a guinea pig to survive. That means you don’t have to worry about them infesting you or your other pets.
If you have multiple cages of guinea pigs, you can spread the lice between them very easily. When I brought in rescue guinea pigs that ended up having a bad case of running lice, I actually treated my entire herd to ensure they didn’t end up spreading through the entire herd.
Treatment for Guinea Pig Lice
Treatment for lice in guinea pigs is actually pretty simple and it’s something you can do at home. Keep in mind that you may want to take your guinea pig to the vet anyway to make sure there aren’t any other health issues going on that were caused by the lice.
Lice will live on your guinea pig and will lay their eggs in the piggy’s hair. Because of this, it’s important to do multiple treatments to kill the living lice, but also to kill the eggs as they hatch as well.
Ivermectin For Guinea Pigs
If you are new to guinea pig ownership or have never used ivermectin before, it is probably best to have your vet provide it so you get the right dosage.
If you have used ivermectin before or are a little more experienced with guinea pig ownership, you can buy ivermectin over the counter and treat the lice yourself.
Feed stores sell injectable ivermectin solution for cattle that can be used. But do not inject it into your pet! Don’t ever inject anything into your pet without your vet directing you to and showing you how. You want to buy the 1% sterile solution version for cattle and swine.
What you’ll do instead is use an oral syringe (so a syringe without a needle!) and use that to put a small drop on the skin right behind your pet’s ear. Make sure it soaks in well before putting your guinea pig back in their cage so they can’t groom it off or ingest it.
You’ll need to do this treatment once a week for 3-4 weeks to make sure you kill the eggs as they hatch as well!
Final Thoughts on Guinea Pig Lice
If you think your guinea pig has lice, it can be a little overwhelming if you don’t know what to do! Luckily, lice on guinea pigs are easy to treat. Follow the steps above and your piggy will be feeling better in no time!