Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guinea pigs and mites

I love this picture of our guinea pigs from last summer.  That is Chocolate milk, Twix and Speckle is the black one.  I am sure the post will not be something my regular readers (if there are any left) will be interested in but maybe someone Googled guinea pigs and mites and they found this blog and if so this is for you!

So our little guys got mites a few months ago.  I didn't know that was what they had because these are our first experience with guinea pigs.  They are all a year old now.  What they had was a scaley back.  Like they had some scabby dandruff.  No bugs present.  They were scratching much more than usual and were miserable.  Chocolate Milk was the worst.  Twix was mildly bothered.  Speckle was fine.  In fact Twix and Chocolate Milk did not want to be handled and Chocolate Milk looked like he had a seizure when we did try to brush his back.  So when I Googled mites, they had the symptoms.  Mites are a bug that burrow under their skin.  Now the only way that I read about how to treat them was go to the vet and get a certain medication. There is nothing over the counter you can use for it.  This past year our pups have cost us a fortune.  They had Parvo, we got them fixed, Dobby got sick after a run down the road, he got x-rays, Yoda has a bum leg.  The pups are killing me here.  But I was not going to let the 3 little pigs suffer.  I did read you could use a horse paste but give them very little.  Don't worry, nobody would sell me any and  I didn't feel good about doing that either.  I read about using bag balm on them. I tried that. Don't do it. What a mess.  Bag Balm is great stuff, But...  Slathering it on 3 guinea pigs is no fun for you or the little piggies. It has lanolin in it and it is wildly thick.  The little guys didn't like it and they moved very little while it was on them and they sure greased up the pen.  So I tried to wash it off of them.  More trauma.  Even using Dawn dishsoap did not degrease them all that much.  I am brainstorming how to fix this mess.  Cornstarch.  I powdered them up with cornstarch.  It is not toxic at all and it absorbed the oil.  They were a little powdery white and I just pet them a lot to work it in.  Then I left them alone.  They were greasy no more after a second powder session. There was a little improvement with the mite problem.  Most of the scaly stuff came off. Now with mites, they hatch again so I knew I wasn't done but I was not going to do bag balm again. 

When my girls had lice forever ago, we had no luck with all that toxic stuff to kill it.  The school nurse gave me a recipe to try with olive oil and several other oils. We got rid of them.  I also shared the recipe with several friends who went round and round with lice and after they used it, they were finally rid of them. So if olive oil can kill lice -- it is suppose to suffocate them -- it should work with mites that burrow under the skin.  So that is what I did next.  I oiled up the little guys with olive oil. I did NOT use any other essential oils on them. I don't know if they're safe for guinea pigs.  Olive oil is pretty much food. Besides, guinea pigs don't really lick themselves. I treated all 3.  DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN THE SUN if you try this.  I didn't do that don't worry.  I left the oil on them a couple of days. It was not nearly as bad as the bag balm. They were not as miserable with the olive oil either. Then after a couple days I put corn starch on them again. When their heads were still oily  after a couple days, I powdered them again.  Guess what?  No skin issues. Healthy hair all over their bodies now. Their mites are all gone. They did not have to suffer through another bath or have to have any nasty pesticide either. By the way, we don't use any cedar bedding. I'm sure that would have been a mess with it sticking all over them.  We have a C & C cage with washable fleece bedding.  The boys are pampered I tell you. 

The recipe for head lice (not guinea pig mites) was 1 cup Olive Oil, and a few drops of citronella oil, Tea Tree Oil and Cedarwood oil mixed together.  It really does work.  No pesticides and it also deep conditions hair if you have tried the other stuff first.

Edit- This blog post has had a lot of traffic. Since I've had several comments asking questions about the Olive Oil treatment, I figured I had better do a follow-up. The guinea pigs are 2 years old now. We have had NO MITES since my Olive Oil treatment. Using ONLY Olive Oil worked. Covering them in cornstarch afterwards gets rid of all the oil in their fur and skin. I'm sure it helps that we don't keep them in a cage with any bedding material in it but fleece. We wash their bedding in hot water as well. You could keep the guinea pigs in a laundry basket with old towels in it while you leave them covered in oil for a couple of days. The longer you leave it on, the better. Then you can wash the towels in hot water afterwards to get rid of any possible mites if there are any there. We left the boys in their cage and just changed the fleece bedding daily and did a thorough wipe down of the plastic. That was it. We are mite free. My guinea pigs do spend time in the grass outdoors quite often and we still have had no issues.

I hope this works for you as well as it worked for my 3 guinea pigs.


Hannah said...

Hi! I know this post was from this past summer, but maybe I'll get a reply. My guinea pig is now going through the mite infestation. I had been researching and found (more good than bad) posts about using Bag Balm on pigs. So I literally went out about an hour ago and bought some. I also just ordered some topical medicine for my pig. I just came across your blog, does the olive oil mixture really work? Did it keep them away? It would be amazing if I got a reply from you!!

Kim and family said...

I feel bad I didn't see this comment sooner to reply.:( That was the point of this post to help people out if they come across it.So for anyone else that reads it- Yes! It worked. It wasn't as awful as the bagbalm. Don't do bagbalm. Nightmare! I did the olive oil twice in a week just rubbed them all over except for their face with oil. After it sat on them for at least 24 hours then I sprinkled corn starch on them to absorb the oil. Did it again a few days later. The most infested one has a beautiful coat now and his fur was really thin before. It took awhile before I realized what was wrong since we haven't had guinea pigs before. They will be 2 this summer. :)

Anonymous said...

You really just put olive oil on them? Do I need to mix it with anything else?

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much I have 8 piggies and I am definitely going to try this thank you this is such a big help.

Kim and family said...

I only put Olive Oil on them and that was it. I was afraid anything else would be toxic. I haven't had any problems since. In fact they are even healthier now.

Just a reminder: Please don't leave them in the sun at all with oil on them.

Jeff Bennett said...

My family and I are so grateful for the suggestion of olive oil!

We have two guinea pigs. My 8-year old daughter reported on a Friday evening that Mollie's fur was thinning up top, behind her head. Then Mollie began scratching lower on her neck, both sides, so that the fur was thinning there too. From what I read online, "mange mites" seemed to fit. I liked what I read about Ivermectin applied topically as a treatment. When Monday came I called a couple of vets to see if I could buy some. The vet to which we take our cat has a small animal person a couple of times of week. When I got a call back from that practice the word was, "Yes we have the medication but you'll have to bring the guinea pig in because it's available by prescription only." That would be $42 for the office visit plus the cost of the medication. I find this irksome since even if I got the diagnosis wrong I wouldn't be harming the animal by applying Ivermectin.

I ordered the Ivermectin online (Amazon, for about $20) but by the time I heard back from the vet it was too late to have it ship the same day. We wouldn't get the medication until that Friday. Mollie's scratching was only getting worse; I'd seen some pretty rough pictures of GP's with mange mites online and didn't want her to get in that kind of distress. This was the only site where I'd read about using olive oil but seeing little downside to it, we decided to give it a try. We emptied the bedding so she wouldn't get a bunch of junk in her fur (we put an old beach towel in the cage instead) and while my 11-year old daughter held Mollie I applied the olive oil just at and around the places she'd been scratching. Eventually the olive worked its way all through her fur. (She looked kind of punk, like she'd moussed her fur or something. Stylin'!) Not a lot of relief initially so we put some more on her about eight hours later. By the next morning her scratching had diminished noticeably. She seemed much more comfortable.

The Ivermectin came that Friday. It's the pour-on version for cattle. You get enough for ten treatments of 550 lb animals. Since the dose for guinea pigs is one drop behind each ear (at that little area where there's naturally no fur) I figure we've got over 5,000 doses here!

We powdered Mollie in cornstarch to clear out the olive oil (worked like a charm) and then dosed Mollie amd her cagemate Nelly too with the Ivermectin, a drop behind each ear with a medicine syringe. (Eyedropper would have worked better maybe.) Though Nelly had no symptoms we figured we'd treat her as a precaution. (I'd read that an animal can carry the mites without symptoms.) We removed the towel (which we'd had to change out a couple of times) and put the regular bedding back in after sanitizing the cage with antiseptic wipes.

The protocol is to dose with the Ivermectin three times, once every seven days, completely replacing the bedding and sanitizing everything each time. (This ensures you're killing any new parasites that hatch.)

It could be that the olive oil treatment sufficed or maybe it took the Ivermectin; I can't say. But the last Ivermectin treatment was today and the regimen appears to have been successful. No excessive scratching and Mollie's fur has been growing in quite nicely. It will have been just three weeks ago tomorrow that we applied the olive oil and unless you know where to look, you'd never know Mollie had had mange mites. All's well that ends well; we're so very pleased.

I wanted to share our story in case it's of help to anyone else. I'm so glad to have read about the olive oil (and cornstarch to remove it) trick on this blog. Even though we'd committed to the Ivermectin before trying the olive oil, we're very glad to have been able to do something helpful immediately.

Kim and family said...

Thanks for sharing! It does help having another story here that tried the olive oil.

I was scared to try the high dose stuff on my own but I was having a hard time getting it anyway.

My guinea pigs are still doing well. No mites since.

erin_eliz said...

I know this post was a long time ago but do you think it would work on Guinea pig lice? My little guy has lice and I tried dawn which took care of the immediate problem but it traumatized my poor Guinea pig I don't want to repeat that for round two.

Jessica Kehn said...

Its so funny... When I was at the pet store I was looking for something for mites on our piggy.. Spider- Man and one of the girls in the store pulled me aside. I explained to her what i suspected and what was going on, I also told her I am unable to afford a vet and she looked at me and told me about using olive oil or mineral oil she said it suffocates the mites. I was skeptical and came across the bag balm. Boy am I glad I found this blog before I bought it!

Kim and family said...

I'm trying to keep tabs on the comments on this post. But it still takes me some time. I think the Olive Oil wouldn't hurt anything to try with the lice. I used it to kill lice on my kids hair. That's why I thought of using it on the guinea pigs in the first place.

Jessica, I'm glad you found this post before using the bag balm.

Olive Oil isn't as traumatic as a bath or the super thick bag balm. When you use the cornstarch later, it really isn't that bad either.

Anonymous said...

I know that this was posted a while ago but I think my guinea pig has mites. He is losing some weight, losing hair, drinking a lot of water and is all dandruffy/layer of dead skin on his body. He also has scabs and is really irritable/doesn't like to be touchesd at the moment. I've researched online of the syptoms that mites cause guinea pigs and he seems to match everything. I cannot afford to go to the vet to have him get a shot and I also read that an overdose of invermectin can kill you guinea pig. So I don't want to go to the vet. I just went to the store and bought some extra virgin olive oil for him after reading your post about it suffocating the mites and killing them. I want to put it on him on Thursday because that's his cage cleaning day. When I put it on him should I give him a bath before i apply it to him or not? Also he has a lot of cage accessories, should I bleach/put them in the freezer until he is showing signs of the being gone? And at the moment he is using kiln dried pine bedding. Should I switch to fleece until the mites are gone? I'm afraid that the bedding will stick to him with the olive oil on him, but also afraid that the fleece will allow the mites a place to stay until the olive oil removed. Lastly how long should I keep the olive oil on him? Two to three days? I was also wondering if coconut/vegetable oil would also work the same as olive oil? Thank you your input would be greatly appreciated!

Kim and family said...

I think I need to figure out how to get this blog to notify me when I get comments. You don't need to bath them. They don't like it anyway. I would put fleece in the pen and have a couple of them on hand so you can change it daily and wash them in hot water.
Leave the oil on for 2 days or more. 2 will probably work. 3 might be better in case they hatch. Then don't bath them, just use cornstarch to absorb the oil. They will look powdery for a few days but goes away if you keep petting them and massaging their fur.
Our brown and white one was as bad as yours sounds. He was dandruffy and scabby with thinning fur before I treated him and didn't like to be touched. Afterwards his fur grew in really healthy and he's still had no trouble with mites since.
Olive oil is much thicker than coconut and vegetable oil so the others might work but I believe olive oil is the best choice.
Go ahead a treat them a week later just to be sure. That is the best way to treat lice on kids as well.

Hope Allen said...

Im kind of confused are we talking bout olive oil u cook with....

Kim and family said...

Yes. But we aren't cooking guinea pigs. Just suffocating mites. :)

Anonymous said...

Our poor pigs have fur mites bad and the ivermectin injections were not as effective as we had hoped.

They JUST received their third shot in the third week and we are trying the olive oil. The pigs are not quite tame yet so oiling up their bellies and legs was a bit of a struggle. I have hopes that this will work!

About how much oil did you use per pig?

Anonymous said...

This last post_annonymous_was mine.

Update: follow up vet appt. NO MITES! we did two olive oil treatments. Oil stayed on for two days then corn starch and new bedding. After two days we repeated the process. The vet was surprised! She put their under the microscope and said the mites were gone. They did lose a bit of hair because all of the oil. Just a lil bath soon and we will be good as new!


Kim and family said...

That is Awesome and fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing. This made my day.

I don't check my blog as often as I use to. This one gets the most hits.

Jeffrey Dean Sr said...

Hi, we bought a guinea pig at Petco and about 7 days later he started showing signs of mange. We are trying the olive oil and the corn starch. If it doesn't work I will simply take him to a vet.

Anonymous said...

Can you explain how much oil and how you applied it? I tried one coat on both but how do you ensure that you have gotten all the way to skin all over? Thanks!

Kim and family said...

Sorry, I don't get notifications when people comment. I just rubbed the olive oil in until it went to the skin. One coat is enough and it doesn't take much. I think what happens is that the oil suffocates the bugs. I believe I left it on overnight the first time before I put the cornstarch on to absorb the oil. The next treatments I left it on for several hours before I absorbed the oil. One of them had mites much worse than the other two. It was best to treat them every couple days to be sure there were no new mite issues. Since my guinea pigs are on fleece instead of wood chip style bedding, it wasn't hard to leave them oily.