Guinea pigs are known for their soft, silky coats. When these pets start losing their hair, many owners wonder what can be done. Most causes of hair loss in guinea pigs can be treated, allowing the animal to regain its splendid coat of hair. Finding hair loss treatments for guinea pigs whenever possible ensures that your pet will continue to be comfortable and happy in your home.
Treatment for Barbering
Barbering, or hair chewing, commonly causes hair loss in guinea pigs. This occurs when the animal chews the hair off of other animals in the same habitat, and the behavior occurs because of the "pecking order" common in guinea pig groups. The dominant animal in the group will not have any of this hair loss, as it will be responsible for inflicting it on others. The only way to treat this type of hair loss in guinea pigs is to separate the animals, which most owners will do only in severe cases. Another option is to rearrange the habitat so the animals can escape from aggressive barbering.
Sometimes guinea pigs will over-groom themselves. In this case, the hair loss will only be visible in areas the guinea pig can reach. Self-barbering is a sign of stress, boredom or a poor environment. Evaluate the environment for safety and enough space and ensure that the animal has enough stimulation in his day, and you may see the bad habit clear up.
Treatment for Parasites
Guinea pigs commonly fall prey to two parasites: mites and lice. Severe hair loss accompanied by intense itching typically occurs during a mite infestation. Mites are common guinea pig parasites that live in the top layer of the skin. The vet diagnoses mites with skin scrapings viewed under a microscope. If an infestation is present, the vet will administer a series of injections of an anti-parasitic drug. Because mite infestations are so uncomfortable, owners of affected guinea pigs should swap wood bedding for shredded paper towels while the animal is receiving treatment for guinea pig mites.
Lice infestations can go unnoticed because they cause few symptoms. Heavy infestations will lead to some hair loss, although not to the extent that mite infestations cause. Treatment for lice infestation involves the use of a prescription insecticide shampoo after the veterinarian has confirmed the presence of lice. If you have more than one animal, your vet may tell you to treat all of them, because lice spreads easily from one guinea pig to another.
Treatment for Fungal Infections
Fungal infections also lead to hair loss, leaving behind bald spots with crusts or scabs over raised areas. Ringworm is a common fungal infection in guinea pigs. Only a vet can diagnose fungal infections. If a fungal infection is present, the vet will prescribe an antifungal medicated cream and shampoo. In severe cases, oral medication is necessary to clear up a fungal infection.
Non-Treatable Causes of Hair Loss
Sometimes hair loss in guinea pigs does not have a treatment. For instance, pregnant females or females that have been repeatedly bred may show signs of hair loss, which is hormonal. Sometimes the hair loss clears up, and sometimes it doesn't.
As a guinea pig ages, hair loss becomes more common, and again, there is little the owner can do for this. However, even if an untreatable cause is suspected, owners should have their guinea pigs seen by the vet to rule out parasitic or fungal infections.