Guinea pigs, sometimes called cavies, are capable of carrying a disease that can make humans very sick, according to "The Guinea Pig Handbook." That's because they sometimes become infected with a tiny mite that causes mange. Sarcoptic mange, a type of mange, is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be shared by both animals and humans. So it is important to ensure that any signs of mange are treated immediately.
What is Mange?
Mange is a skin disease characterized by itching, hair loss, scabbing, reddened skin and rashes.
Since guinea pigs are handled by children so frequently and passed from child to child, it is important they be healthy. A human infected with mange will experience a rash of red bumps, similar to those of mosquito bites. In your pet, sarcoptic mange causes intense itching.
Healthy guinea pigs can get mange when their immune systems are compromised. Prone to mange in their "senior years," as they get older their bodies cannot fight off illnesses. The addition of other guinea pigs causes stress, as does overcrowding, dirty living conditions or medical conditions other than mange, writes Julie Mancini in her book, "Guinea Pigs-Animal Planet Health Care Series."
Prevention of an outbreak of mange is better than having to treat it later. You can prevent mange in your guinea pig by ensuring that she gets a high-quality food and a diet that has a variety of all of the nutrients that guinea pigs need to stay healthy. Keeping her environment clean is also important. Don't let the habitat become soiled by feces and urine or the leavings of uneaten food. Finally, do not stress your guinea pig. If your pet is constantly being handled by small children, or is exposed to larger animals she may be afraid of, she will become over-stressed and this may compromise her immune system
Topical treatments include lavender oil sometimes mixed with neem oil to make a combination that is used on a variety of skin problems in companion animals, including guinea pigs. Products available at health food stores, homeopathic websites and pet supply stores that contain lavender are recommended for use in calming the skin. Other products applied topically and used in combination with oral supplements or dietary changes are beneficial, says Dr. Lorraine Kassarjian, because getting rid of the mites is important, but preventing new infestations is also critical. Look for shampoos, creams, lotions and oils that contain Aloe vera, echinacea and calendula.
Herbs and Supplements
Adding supplements and vitamins can help your guinea pig maintain good health. Vitamin E, at least 5 mg per pound given every day, will help keep his skin supple and healthy. Vitamin C, 10 mg two to three times a day, will help his immune system, and a few drops of fish oil on his food or in his water given one to two times a day is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are effective in itch control. Flaxseed and pumpkin seed are also beneficial as itch relievers.
Garlic and Sulphur
Garlic contains a sulphur that naturally repels mites. You can squeeze a clove of garlic into a teaspoon along with a few drops of flaxseed or fish oil, and apply the solution topically right to the affected area. Garlic also has been found to have antibiotic properties, so it will aid in keeping at bay any opportunistic secondary infections. In Guinea pigs that show a strong allergic reaction to garlic, use a tea made from licorice root instead.