Monday, October 20, 2008

Hair loss in guinea pigs

This one's for Soccergirl and any other fan of guinea pigs. Hair loss can be associated with a number of disease processes in guinea pigs. My major differentials would be ectoparasites (eg mites), dermatophytosis (aka ringworm) or dietary deficiency (guinea pigs, like humans, require exogenous vitamin C as they don't produce their own, and a diet deficient in vitamin C can lead to "scurvy"). My rule of thumb with a sick guinea pig is always supplement vitamin C. This is found in highest levels in fresh foods like parsley. One of my gps suffered from hair loss due to scurvy when I rescued him and I simply treated him with an excellent plane of nutrition: timothy hay, fresh pellets (the vitamin C content in dry food depletes over time) and fresh vegies (parsley, corn on the cob, bok choy, dutch carrots, beans etc). Aim to give 100mg/kg vitamin C until the condition resolves. My colleague David Vella (see link on this site) has a great gp care sheet which discusses dietary requirements.

Ringworm can be treated with medication but often washing in a medicated shampoo helps. Remember this is a "zoonotic" disease so can be transmitted to humans.

GPs are prone to mites (hay mites, sarcoptes or scabies mites and demodex mites) and these should be treated by a veterinarian as most products (at least here in Australia) are not registered for use in gps so all use is considered "off label" and determining the accurate dose can be tricky. Female gps may have symmetrical areas of alopaecia (hair loss) over their flanks if they have ovarian cysts - treatment involves ovariohysterectomy. Diffuse hair loss may be a sign of liver disease.

Barbering or fur-biting can occur where cage mates chew on each other.


  1. Thanks for writing a post on that! Cinnamon is a male gp and the vet said it's a problem with the glands (that gps use to mark their terriotry). I still haven't taken the other gp Nutmeg to the vet's. By the way the gp that's my icon is Spice. Spice is two years old and weighs 4 pounds!

  2. My pleasure :) The males have greasy scent glands near the base of the spine which are normally covered with hair but they can get clogged up and dirty, and get a secondary infection. You can gently clean this with a gp friendly shampoo. A tip with guinea pigs - when you take one to the vet take them all, even if the appointment is for one animal. Two reasons: 1) they prefer being together, hate being separated and its nice to have a friend along for the ride; 2) gps are "herd" animals so husbandry or health problems that affect one animal often affect others and when I am presented with one gp I quite often find myself wishing the client had bought his or her cage mate along so I could check them out. I'm not sure about the pounds to kgs conversion but my boars weigh about 1.3kg (Dr Phil weighs 1.7kg and he's a dog!!!)

  3. Cinnamon had been with Spice cause I thought they would be friends but all they did is chatter. Chatter in a get away from me this is my territory way. And then came the really bad smell!


Add comments here: