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.