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What Causes Guinea Pig Dandruff And How To Treat It?

Tim Rhodes
Written by Tim Rhodes Last Updated: November 14, 2021

A guinea pig is a tailless rodent, with lots of hair that are often kept as a pet, but like humans, guinea pigs also face dandruff problems.

Guinea pigs with hair are maintenance-free as they have a beautiful coats.

Guinea pigs are however prone to several medical conditions, which may include guinea pig dandruff.

Dandruff may cause the debris on the skin to appear as if it’s flaking off.

This type of medical condition can be referred to as a specific skin condition.

What Causes Guinea Pig Dandruff?

Following are the major causes of dandruff in guinea pigs:

  • external parasites
  • Lack of vitamin C
  • Lack of proper husbandry
  • Fungal Infection
  • Direct or indirect contact with infected guinea pig
  • Dry skin

How to treat guinea pig dandruff?

Veterinarians prescribe two to three treatments of topical, injectable, and/or oral medications.

Besides that, the following measures should also be taken:

  • Cleaning and removing parasites and eggs
  • Sterilization of the cages used
  • Washing the bedding material
  • Applying ointments
  • keeping infected guinea pigs away from uninfected guinea pigs

Infestation by External parasites

One cause of guinea pig dandruff is external parasites.

External parasites are those parasites that live outside the body.

Parasites also make their homes even in clean environments.

Mange mite

The most common type of parasite is the Trixacarus caviae (mange mite).

Trixacarus caviae are difficult to detect and cannot be seen by the human eye.

Fur mite

Guinea pig lice and Chirodiscoides Caviae (fur mite) as well.

Walking dandruff mites are also commonly known to appear on guinea pigs.

These parasites come from both direct and indirect contact.

This happens when contact is with guinea pigs that have mites and/or lice.

In other cases, it may be contacted through the used bedding of infected guinea pigs.

This happens when uninfected guinea pigs are placed on infected guinea pigs materials.

Mites are common small parasites found living on or in the skin of small animals.

Mange mites cause guinea pigs immense pain once they burrow in their skin.

This requires early treatment once identified.

This is because continuous burrowing of the skin can cause extreme and painful damage, at times even leading to death.

Guinea pigs can be infected in other ways.

Guinea pigs are usually infested by mites through hay and grass.

This is because the mites live within the hay and grass and then attach themselves to the guinea pigs.

Then they slowly begin to infect the guinea pig.

How to Identify External Parasites?

External parasites may not easily be identified.

To help diagnose it, the veterinarian may suggest skin scrapes or biopsies.

Through skin scrapes, parasites under the skin can be identified.

Parasites that spend their time on the outer surface are discovered using tape preps.

Mites are unidentifiable by the human eye hence cannot be seen and identified, but there are other ways through which they can be found.

Mites can cause skin irritation leading to skin breakout, which triggers constant scratching to the guinea pig and may also cause hair loss.

Another evident way that it can be identified is through the pain.

When a guinea pig is infected by mites the guinea pig can face immense pain when touched.

When affected by walking dandruff mite a guinea pig constantly scratches itself.

It may also fall over and start twitching like a seizure.

Mites also need to be treated early.

If it’s left untreated mites cause scabs and sores.

If the sores go for a prolonged time without getting treated they worsen.

The guinea pig becomes relatively weaker when infected by mites.

There are also variants of disease when it comes to guinea pigs.

This means that very young or old guinea show signs of infections of parasites quicker.

Sick or pregnant guinea pigs may also suffer more severe infestations.

How to Treat External Parasites?

There are different types of treatment administered to guinea pigs.

One such treatment is that which prevents infection.

Guinea pigs are required to receive mite prevention treatment, given by the vet every three months.

There is also a treatment called Fido’s Free Itch concentrate.

Fido’s Free Itch concentrate is used to treat the walking dandruff mite.

The shampoo is also used to treat the walking dandruff mite.

Mange mites are however treated using Ivermectin, Revolution, or Dectomax.

Precautions to be taken

Guinea pigs with mites shouldn’t be bathed because bathing can cause the mites to burrow deeper, which worsens the symptoms, like increased pain felt by the guinea pigs.

Hence it’s recommended to treat guinea pigs for mange mites first.

Then afterward get treatment for the walking dandruff mites.

This should be done before bathing the guinea pig.

The treatment procedure for external parasites

The following is the procedure to be followed during treatment:

First, treat with Ivermectin for four consecutive weeks and then Revolution behind each ear weekly for three weeks.

After the second treatment of the first step, betadine, paw ointment can be applied.

Neem oil or coconut oil can also be used on open sores to relieve discomfort.

Alternatively, an injection by the vet called Dectomax for two consecutive weeks.

There are other procedures to be followed after the second treatment of those stated above.

Until symptoms improve use Fido’s Free Itch concentrate or shampoo weekly.

Pain medication and antibiotics from the vet are needed for guinea pigs with severe cases.

This is usually after the guinea pig has gone for a prolonged time without treatment.

Guinea pigs may continuously scratch open wounds.

To prevent scratching bandaging may also be required.

Prevention of parasites from spreading

There are different ways to prevent the parasites like lice and mites from spreading.

One of these ways is to sanitize the environment after every treatment.

This means that the guinea pigs’ housing should be sanitized after receiving treatment.

Other things like bowls, fleece, bottles, and accessories, used by the guinea pig should also be washed with hot, soapy water.

At times, the full wash isn’t possible, in which case, wash the guinea pigs’ cage with vinegar or water solution.

Wooden items should be baked at low heat in the oven, to kill the eggs.

After the items are baked and washed, they should also be removed from the guinea pigs’ environment for several weeks.

When the items are removed from the guinea pigs’ environment, it ensures that the parasites or their eggs cannot find a host and without a host, parasites cannot survive.

Dandruff due to lack of vitamin C

Another cause of guinea pig dandruff is a lack of vitamin C in guinea pigs’ diet.

Guinea pigs are unable to synthesis vitamin C, causing a shortage of this vital vitamin in their bodies.

There are different types of guinea pig food, however, some of these foods tend to lose vitamin C, causing a shortage of the vitamin.

Guinea pig pellets are an example of such foods.

When the guinea pig pellets sit on the shelves for way too long, they tend to lose Vitamin C.

All the stated above cause a shortage of vitamin c in the body, also through guinea pig food.

How to Treat Vitamin C Deficiency in Guinea Pigs?

For the skin to return to health, extra Vitamin C is required daily.

There are however cases where there is enough added Vitamin C in the guinea pigs’ diet.

In such cases, it is unlikely that this may be the cause of dandruff.

Guinea pig pellets are also best for guinea pigs’ diet, as they have an added balance of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins, but guinea pigs should not be fed guinea pig pellets alone.

Another way is to add crushed vitamin C tablets to water.

However, there is a process that needs to be followed.

  1. First, measure the amount of water that the guinea pig will drink for the day.

Then afterward add the appropriate amount to supplement the water.

However, if the water bottle doesn’t reach the halfway mark there is a need to add more water.

  1. It’s recommended to cover the bottle in foil.

This is because vitamin C breaks down in sunlight and water and always remember to make the mixture daily.

  1. Remember to use water that has been standing for 24 hours.

Can Lack of Husbandry Cause Dandruff in Guinea Pigs?

Animal husbandry is a variety of job types in line with farm work.

These involve the care and breeding of different kinds of animals and also involve a variety of different tasks.

These daily tasks include cleaning animal stalls and pens, feeding the animals, taking care of the animal’s hygiene and health.

All these are what make up good husbandry.

When it comes to taking care of guinea pigs they require clean living conditions as stated.

Guinea pigs require the need to live in clean housing conditions, with proper humidity and clean bedding material.

When unfavorable living conditions are set for the guinea pigs, parasites may reproduce.

This is because they would have discovered a hotspot where they can breed.

The parasites may cause guinea pig dandruff.

Exposure to high temperatures, humidity, and drought may also lead to skin conditions.

How to ensure husbandry does not lead to guinea pig dandruff?

There are basic guidelines that need to be followed when housing guinea pigs.

The housing may be manufactured or it may be custom made.

It should be noted that the housing is spacious.

Bedding material should be washed regularly.

Cages that guinea pigs are housed in should also be washed down.

This may be done using vinegar or water solution and this should be done regularly.

Can Fungal Infection Cause Guinea Pig Dandruff?

Another common skin infection is a fungal infection.

It’s often confused with managed mites though they both require different types of treatments.

The fungal infection may cause guinea pig dandruff.

It may cause other known symptoms like hair loss and scratches.

A fungal infection may arise in the rainy weather and also in the summer due to high humidity.

Frequent changes from hot to rainy weather may also cause fungal infections.

Guinea pigs that are sick stressed, or elderly are more prone to fungal infection.

How To Identify Fungal Infection?

Unlike the other causes of guinea pig dandruff, fungal infection can be easily identified by dry and scaly skin on the ears, nose, and feet.

This can be with or without dandruff-like skin on the coat.

Hair loss is imminent once the hair-covered areas are affected, though it may occur slowly or quickly.

Common areas where it can be spotted are the nose, paws, ears, and backs of guinea pigs.

How to Treat Fungal Infection?

Fungal infections can become severe when not treated early.

The treatment depends on how severe the fungal infection is.

This is because fungal infection has several different types of treatment.

Treatment of Early stages of infection

If the fungal infection is discovered in the early stages it requires a cheap treatment.

Though the treatment is cheap, it’s also quite effective.

The treatment consists of coconut oil and ointment applied to the ears, feet, and nose.

Treatment of Severe infection spread to other areas

There are cases where the fungal infection has become severe or has spread to other areas.

The treatment will then consist of coconut oil and Betadine ointment.

The ointment will have to be applied twice daily, to combat the dry skin and itchiness.

Malaseb shampoo can also be used to combat fungal infections.

This process is done by bathing the guinea pigs twice a week in Malaseb shampoo.

Treatment of Infection spread over large areas

There are also cases where the fungal infection has spread over large areas.

This may require a visit to the vet, as the infection can be painful.

Another form of fungal removal is washing the bedding.

Sterilization is also quite important.

Hence guinea pig pet owners should sterilize guinea pig materials.

All this ensures that the fungal infection doesn’t spread.

Dry Skin as a cause of guinea pig dandruff

One cause of guinea pig dandruff is dry skin.

Some guinea pigs are born with sensitive skin.

This may be the cause of the flakey skin on the external skin of the guinea pig.

Can Dry Skin Cause Guinea Pig Dandruff?

The guinea pig may begin to scratch itself continuously.

Dry flakes on the skin of the guinea pig may appear.

How to treat dry skin in Guinea Pigs?

Dry skin on guinea pigs can be treated.

They can be treated through the application of ointments.

However, when the itchiness continues there is a need to see help from the vet.

Final Thoughts

The article entails the causes of guinea pig dandruff and how to treat it.

There are also ways on how to prevent it and also identify the guinea pig dandruff.

As some of the symptoms can be seen quite early, it should be noted that proper housing and clean bedding materials aid in prevention.

Also, guinea pigs should be given a proper diet that includes vitamin C as they cannot synthesis it.

Guinea pig pet owners should keep in mind that early treatment should be administered.

In conclusion, the guinea pig dandruff can be prevented by the pet owner, by following all the preventative measures as stated above.



Tim Rhodes
Tim Rhodes

Hi there! My name is Tim Rhodes and I'm a guinea pig enthusiast through thick and thin. My mission is to teach others useful tips and tricks about these cute creatures. When I'm not writing, I enjoy kickboxing and work as an animal trainer.

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Last update on 2023-05-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API