Guinea pigs have very sensitive skin, and they often suffer from a variety of skin problems. In fact, it’s the most common reason why guinea pig owners seek veterinary assistance. And while a guinea pig with dry skin might not be an immediate red flag, it might be.
“Skin problems” may not sound serious, but some conditions can actually kill guinea pigs. So it’s crucial to identify the problem and seek appropriate treatment.
In this article, we’ll go over the multiple reasons why your guinea pig might have dry skin, as well as what to do about it.
Guinea Pig Dry Skin Causes
- Fungal Infection – Fungal infections are often found in guinea pigs and usually affect the skin’s upper layers, resulting in dry, flaky patches or scabbing. The most widespread examples are Ringworm and Fungal Foot.
- Parasites – Mites and lice are the main skin parasites among guinea pigs, both resulting in itching, hair loss, and dry skin. These creatures live in the fur, feeding on skin debris and laying eggs around the hair shafts. Mites are hard to spot but can be identified by their tiny eggs, which look like dust particles. Lice are much larger and are usually visible to the naked eye.
- Diet – Guinea pigs need to have enough vitamin C and green vegetables in their diet. If these are lacking, dry skin and conditions such as scurvy can become an issue.
Guinea Pig Dry Skin Treatments
For fungal infections, the best course of action is to get anti-fungal medication from your vet. This usually comes as a topical cream, a shampoo, or oral medicine. It is also possible to treat mild fungal infections using coconut oil.
If your guinea pig is suffering from mites or lice, both can be treated with shampoos specially formulated to remove guinea pig parasites. If these do not work, your vet may recommend an oral medicine.
Dry skin caused by dietary issues can be easily remedied through daily provisioning of leafy vegetables or foods that are rich in vitamin C.
Common Dry Skin Spots In Guinea Pigs & What They Mean
Dry skin often occurs behind guinea pigs’ ears, with fungal infections being the primary cause. Symptoms may include hair loss, scaly skin, or the appearance of white, powdery ‘blooms’.
As this is an area where your guinea pig can easily scratch, it’s important to treat the issue as soon as possible to avoid secondary infections. Try applying small amounts of coconut oil to the affected areas first.
If this does not remedy the issue, your vet may recommend anti-fungal medication.
On The Nose
Dry skin on or around your guinea pig’s nose is usually a sign of a fungal infection, especially if the affected area appears to be red and scabby. Ringworm usually occurs around the nose area and can be easily treated over a few weeks using anti-fungal cream or oral medicine.
Your vet can prescribe both, but it can be helpful to supplement these treatments by increasing the amount of vitamins and minerals in your guinea pig’s diet.
On The Feet
If you notice that the pads on the bottom of your guinea pig’s feet are dry and flaky, they may be suffering from a condition known as ‘fungal feet’.
This is similar to Athlete’s Foot in humans and can result in cracked skin, sore patches, and swollen toes in more severe cases.
The best approach is to apply anti-fungal cream directly to the feet several times a week. This can be accompanied by bathing your guinea pig (check our full guide) using an anti-fungal shampoo.
Around The Eyes
Dry skin around a guinea pig’s eyes is usually caused by a fungal infection or mites. Scaling of the skin and hair loss may occur around the affected area. If there are no apparent signs of mites – such as the appearance of dust-like eggs – fungus is likely to be the issue.
Try gently washing around your guinea pig’s eyes regularly and combine this with the application of either anti-fungal cream or shampoo.
With either product, be very careful not to get any in their eyes. If the problem does not go away, or you suspect mites to be the cause, treat the area with an anti-parasitic shampoo containing Ivermectin.
Around The Nipples
Dry, crusty skin around a guinea pig’s nipples could be a sign of ovarian cysts. This only affects females and tends to develop with age, with small cysts forming on the ovaries.
Other symptoms include hair loss on the sides or rear of the body and a noticeable swelling in the abdominal region. If you notice these symptoms, you should take your guinea pig to the vet as soon as possible.
Your vet may suggest draining the cysts using a needle or spaying your guinea pig to completely remove the ovaries.
Dry Skin Patches
Patches of dry skin on your guinea pig’s body are usually an indication of a fungal infection or parasites.
Fungal infections often begin on the face and can spread quickly, forming scabs and areas of scaly skin. You can treat these infections with anti-fungal creams or shampoos that are formulated specifically for guinea pigs.
Parasites (mites or lice) are more common on a guinea pig’s body rather than their face. Small eggs or 1mm worm-like creatures may be visible, and the best treatment is regular bathing with anti-parasitic shampoo.
Hopefully you’ve identified why your guinea pig has dry skin. Either way, whether it’s just a simple deficiency in their diet, or an infection, the best course of action is always to consult your vet.