© I-5 Publishing Skin problems in guinea pigs can be caused numerous issues, including ectoparasites, malnutrition and cancer.
Q: We rescued two guinea pigs. Harvey, who is 4ish, has some sort of skin affliction that has caused substantial hair loss and some sort of white buildup on his skin that is not dander and very itchy. I have tried giving him a bath and applying cortisone. This brought temporary relief but has not solved the problem. Do you have any advice?
A: Skin problems in guinea pigs are very common. There are many reasons for these issues and usually you cannot differentiate the cause of these skin problems by just looking at the skin. A physical examination is needed of the skin, abdomen and the rest of the body. Veterinarians sometimes take a scalpel blade and drag it gently across the skin to remove the very top layer of skin, hair and debris. We then look at the material under a microscope. As we do that, we look for parasites such as lice and mites and we can also check for unusual cell types.
The best advice I have for your situation is to visit your veterinarian and let him or her examine your guinea pig for the cause of the hair loss and white buildup on the skin. Some of the diseases that your veterinarian may be looking for include ectoparasites. These little organisms love to chew on the hair and skin, and they leave white debris, which is what may be seeing. Those organisms usually cause problems when you first bring your guinea pig into your home but in some cases, these ectoparasites may not become obvious until years later.
Another concern with skin problems is nutrition; lack of proper skin nutrients can cause disease. In guinea pigs, one component to the diet that we need to worry about every day is vitamin C. Vitamin C is responsible for so many important functions that without enough vitamin C, almost anything can happen to a guinea pig, including a poor hair coat.
As guinea pigs age, geriatric diseases like cancer are more of a worry. Different types of cancer can cause the hair loss you are seeing. Some of these cancers are benign and can be treated easily. Others are much more serious and treatment is much more involved.
For all of these reasons, the best thing is to visit your veterinarian as soon as you can to have a diagnosis made so you can get some comfort to your guinea pig.
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