Hair loss is one of the most common concerns among a lot of guinea pig owners. Often guinea pig parents wonder why is their guinea pig missing a patch of fur? While light to medium shedding is quite natural, an abnormal loss associated with flaky skin, rough skin crust, dandruff, inflammation, or an open sore in the skin can be a significant concern.
Guinea pigs lose patches of fur due to Parasitic or Bacterial Infections(lice, fleas, mites, and fungus), Urinary Tract Infection(UTI), dental problems, and hormonal imbalances. Other causes include Dominance behavior, Overgrooming, Pregnancy, etc.
In many cases, hair loss is accompanied by other symptoms like crusty skins, severe itching, constant licking, etc.
Fortunately, most of these health conditions can be treated with proper medication and regular care from the owner.
Early detection of the problem is one of the primary keys to effective treatment. Some of these medical conditions can get the worst overtime that makes treatment quite difficult.
Thus, if you notice any unusual behavior in your guinea pigs, then make sure you pay immediate attention to them.
Why do guinea pigs lose their fur?
Hair loss in guinea pigs can either be natural or due to underlying health conditions. Sometimes guinea pigs only lose their hair partially, while other times, they lose a complete patch of their hair.
All guinea pigs shed their fur throughout the year. While they do shed heavily during spring as the summer begins.
During this time, their coat might feel light as they shed extra fur to prepare for the summer heat. However, a slow or sudden loss in a patch of hair could be a sign of a problem.
Paying close attention to the pattern of hair loss accompanied by other symptoms can help you determine the actual cause.
Studying other symptoms can help you determine whether the loss is happening as a natural transformation, or there is an underlying medical condition causing the sudden hair loss in your guinea pigs.
What is normal shedding in guinea pigs?
Healthy guinea pigs usually shed heavily during spring or just before the summer season to get rid of excess hair so that they can remain nice and cool in the summer month.
While light shedding continues throughout the year, the amount of fur the guinea pig loses varies from guinea pig to guinea pig.
The long-hair breed usually shed more often and more heavily than the short-haired breed. The usual shedding process might take anywhere between 4-6 weeks depending upon the breed.
Some guinea pigs might lose their fur in a clump during the substantial shedding period resulting in bald patches.
However, for patchy hair loss like this, it is essential to make sure that there are no underlying health conditions or they are not pulling out there own fur due to boredom & stress.
Health conditions like bacterial or parasitic infection can also lead to hair loss in guinea pigs. Still, they’re always accompanied by symptoms like crustiness in the skin, itchiness, redness, and open sores.
Please note that natural shedding is seasonal in guinea pigs. If they lose excessive hair throughout the year then a trip to the vet is crucial.
You can also refer to our guide on guinea pig shedding for more information and tips to minimize the same.
Excessive shedding in guinea pigs
The coat of your guinea pigs is one of the significant indicators of their health.
Conditions that cause an abnormal loss in hair can range from mild to life-threatening in some cases.
If your guinea pig’s fur loss is associated with some medical conditions, then timely and proper treatment can be beneficial.
Proper medical care can return your guinea pig’s health to normal. Some of the medical conditions are contagious, so you must be cautious about the same.
What can cause hair loss in guinea pigs?
Any type of fur loss that is accompanied by other symptoms can be a major concern for the owners. Some of the common signs that accompany hair loss are:
- Dry and flaky skin
- Dandruff and lice in the coat
- Red or itchy skin
- Inflammation or open sores
Most of these fur loss is often caused by one of these factors:
|Bacterial or Parasitic Infection||a) Mange Mites|
b) Rabbit Ear Mites
c) Fur Mites
d) Burrowing Mange Mites
e) Ringworm Fungus
f) Rat Mites
|Urinary Tract Infections||– Urine Burn( Hair loss due to constant leakage of urine)|
|Other Health Issues||a) Bumblefoot|
c) Guinea Pig Dominance Behavior
f) Hormone imbalance
g) Tumor or Cancer(rare)
1) Bacterial infection
Guinea pigs who are kept outside their house or the ones that live in warm and humid climate are more prone to bacterial infection.
Since they can’t remain dry for long, the moisture accumulates in their fur, especially in the lower back and back area where guinea pigs can’t afford self groom.
Thus, the coat becomes smelly, crumbly, and severely prone to flystrike. The best way to avoid flystrike is to keep guinea pigs indoor in a well-prepared habitat.
Make sure you use good quality super absorbent beddings and keep them dry. You must check for moisture or skin irritation in their skin regularly to avoid flystrike.
Flystrike is a condition that can happen all of a sudden, and the flies will lay eggs on your guinea pigs fur(affected area), which may develop into maggots that feed on your guinea pigs.
To avoid such circumstances, you must visit a vet immediately if you find any signs of skin irritation or bacterial infection in your guinea pigs.
Your vet will provide you with proper guidance on how to treat the wound and care for the affected area.
2) Sarcoptic mange
Sarcoptic mange also knows as “Trixacarus Caviae Mites” is a contagious disease in guinea pigs. It usually starts at the ends of the eyelids, nose, toes, etc. and spreads throughout the body.
These mites can cause severe clinical signs as they cause extreme itchiness in guinea pigs. The itchiness can go up to an extreme level where your guinea pigs might even go into seizures and die eventually.
Mange mites usually give off a musky smell, particularly around the area covering ears and eyes.
As the itchiness grows, your guinea pigs will scratch the skin continuously, leading to a loss of patches of hair around the affected area.
If left untreated, it can lead to bacterial or fungal infection as well, which further adds to the threat of your guinea pig’s life.
However, the good news is these parasites are not so difficult to treat, and early detection and timely treatment from an experienced medical professional can help you eliminate it in no time. At least you will see positive results with a week or so.
3) Rabbit ear mites
Rabbit ear mites (Psoroptes cuniculi), also called Ear Canker, are one of the most debilitating and painful mites infestations for our guinea pigs.
These mites were early detected on rabbits, but soon it was found that it can attack our guinea pigs as well. Some of the common signs of these mites include:
- Extreme irritation in the skin
- Scratching and shaking their head
- Scabs around the ear canals
- Reddish-brown color or dirty ear wax
- Hairloss around the ears
These mites are large enough to be seen from our naked eyes. Round to Oval in shape, these mites cannot burrow into the skin.
However, they will chew and pierce the skin, causing inflammation and multiple layers of crusty and inflamed skin.
In the long-term, these mites can lead to hair loss and other infections that can damage the ears and nervous system around it.
All the pets living with the infected one should be separated and treated as well.
Your vet may prescribe some painkillers to reduce pain and irritation. The primary treatment includes three treatments of ivermectin( injections or orally) once every 18 days.
It is then followed by the application of ivermectin around the ears and affected area of your guinea pigs.
4) Fur mites
Fur mites or Chirodiscoides Caviae has more subtle symptoms than that of Rabbit ear mites and Mange mites.
These mites can cause some itchiness but are relatively harmless even in more significant numbers.
These mites are also known as “Static Lice” that are usually found firmly attached to the base of the hairs, typically located on the hindquarters of your guinea pigs.
Fur mites often occur as the flakes in the skin that resembles dandruff.
However, as the infestations get severe, your guinea pigs might lose small patches of hair in their body.
The identification of these mites can be a challenge as they show no acute symptoms.
However, appropriate treatment of these mites with proper medication prescribed by a vet (Selamectin) often clears the problem from the root itself.
5) Rat Mites
If you are housing your guinea pigs outside in a hutch or other enclosure, then there is a probability that your guinea pigs might get infected by rat mites.
The tropical rat mites are known as (Ornithonyssus Bacoti ) are found in a temperate and tropical climate.
Guinea pigs are not the primary host of these mites; however, it can get transmitted from other mammals like pigeons and rats in the area.
Tropical mites infestation can be painful and extremely itchy. Guinea pig’s mites lose hair around the severely infected area.
The only way to get rid of these mites is proper medical treatment. The veterinarian will prescribe ivermectin or selamectin for getting rid of these mites.
However, they may come back if the primary host i.e., rats, pigeons, or any other mammal causing the transmission, is not eliminated from the area.
6) Burrowing Mange Mite
The burrowing mange mites that are known as Sellnick Mite is rare among guinea pigs.
However, once infested, it can lead to serious medical conditions, including severe itching and inflammation.
The symptoms of the mites usually take three to five weeks to appear; however, they can still be transmitted from one guinea pig to others in that period.
Some of the common symptoms of these mites include:
- Extreme itching
- Biting the infected area
- Scratching the area continuously
- Hairloss &
- Seizures in some extreme cases.
If you suspect anyone of your guinea pigs has these mites, then you need to treat all of them.
Separate them as soon as possible and fix an appointment with the vet immediately.
Both ivermectin and selamectin (Revolution) [Use Under Vet’s Guidance] are effective in treating these kinds of mites.
Following the vet instruction carefully is essential for getting rid of these kinds of parasites.
Ringworm infection is one of the most common problems diagnosed in guinea pigs.
Ringworm takes its name from the red circular patch on the skin with a clearing middle.
One of the early signs of ringworm is the red patch on the skin with fur loss surrounding the area. It is more like a bald or patchy loss with distinct edges.
These patches first begin occurring around the face area like nose, ears, and mouth, and then they will move towards the back portion.
Ringworms are usually transmitted from the contact of one guinea pig to another or via soiled beddings.
The ringworm fungus can lead to slight irritation in the skin of our guinea pigs, followed by tiny, raised, red spots.
It requires immediate vet assistance and treatment as per their directive.
The vet may prescribe medication with miconazole or ketoconazole-containing creams for smaller infection.
They may also prescribe a shampoo for a quick rinse to comfort your guinea pigs. You must clean and disinfect their living area as well to make sure the worms don’t strike back.
8) Urinary problems
If your guinea pigs are losing fur on particular areas like around their tailbone, between their hind legs, or around their belly area in the backside, then chances are your guinea pig is suffering from some kind of Urinary infections.
Urinary problems include Urinary tract infection, Bladder stones, and Bladder sludge.
These problems often lead to continuous leakage of urine. Urine is acidic, and constant contact with it can cause urine burn in the skin around those portions of the body.
If you suspect your guinea pig is suffering from a urinary infection, then take them to a vet immediately.
Your vet will prescribe some medication and ask you to keep their butt area clean.
You can also give them a bum bath every once in a while. However, it is recommended to follow the instructions of your vet correctly.
Bumblefoot is a common health issue in guinea pigs. It is mostly diagnosed among piggies housed in a wired bottom cage, hard or wet bedding area, etc.
Sometimes obese guinea pigs also suffer from such issues as their legs take a toll from increasing body weight.
If your guinea pig is suffering from bumblefoot, then the fur around their feet and legs might disappear in patches.
You need to visit a vet immediately for the treatment. Any major delay in treatment can increase the symptoms and may lead to a situation where the amputation of the affected leg might be the only option left.
To begin with, replace the bedding material with soft materials like fleece. Going for good quality fleece liners like guinea dad is the right choice.
Also, if your guinea pigs are obese, then try cutting down on treats and fruits to control their body weight. This can further contribute to improve the situation.
Do guinea pigs pull their hair out during pregnancy? Yes, they do. Guinea pigs exhibit their nesting behavior by pulling out their coat.
They will usually pull out fur from the belly area to line the nest with the fur. They will also use other items available in the cage-like toys and hay to line their nest.
However, sometimes guinea pigs exhibit such behavior when they are experiencing false pregnancies.
If your guinea pig is one of them, then you might need to get your guinea pigs sprayed and checked from the vet immediately.
Such signs may indicate possible health risks in the future.
11) Guinea pig dominance behavior
If you have introduced your guinea pigs recently or you have multiple male or dominant guinea pigs living in one cage, then there is a high chance that they will fight with each other in your absence.
While some mild dominance behavior is okay, severe fight in them can result in nipping and pulling out of each other fur.
This can lead to missing patches of hair in your guinea pigs.
Thus, make sure you spray or neuter the guinea pig before you keep them together or provide them with ample living space.
You can learn more about guinea pig dominance behavior and fight in general from our detailed article.
Overgrooming in guinea pigs is a bad sign. It usually means that your guinea pigs have some health concerns, or they are incredibly bored or stressed out.
In any case, you must look out for a reason and eliminate the same immediately. To reduce overgrooming, we must keep our guinea pigs occupied in something.
Try providing them with lots of new toys, hammocks, tree branches, chew toys, etc. You can also arrange a playpen or a run and let your guinea pigs into it for some exercise or floor time.
Also read: How to get rid of matted hair in guinea pigs?
If you feel your guinea pigs are stressed out by something, try eliminating things you introduced recently and notice if there is any change in their behavior.
Other pets in our house, including parrots, dogs, cats, or even rabbits, could be a reason for stress in your guinea pigs.
To learn more read our article:
- Do cats and guinea pigs get along?
- Can dogs and guinea pigs live together?
- Can guinea pigs chew on branches or trees? Which are the safe ones?
13) Hormonal imbalance
Hormonal imbalance is very rare in guinea pigs. However, this can also be a reason for hair loss in some guinea pigs.
It is recommended to visit a vet if your guinea pigs start losing hair without any other symptoms as well.
There is a possibility that something is wrong inside your guinea pig body that is causing the issue.
Your vet may need to do some testing, including a blood test, to determine the actual cause of hair loss in your guinea pigs.
How can I stop my guinea pig from losing hair?
Guinea pigs may shed some hair naturally, while other times, there can be a medical condition underlying for the same.
The first and foremost step is to look out for the reasons of hair loss in guinea pigs. Chances are your guinea pigs will be showing some other symptoms of diseases like itchy or inflamed skin, open sores, etc.
Once you have determined the underlying cause of hair loss, you can deal with it accordingly. Some tips to minimize hair loss are:
- If your guinea pig show any other sign of diseases then it is essential to take them to a vet for consultation and treatment of the same.
- Increase the intake of Vitamin C in your guinea pig’s diet. A lack of Vitamin C can also lead to hair loss in guinea pigs.
- If you have a long-haired guinea pig breed then you might need to brush them frequently or give them a bath every few months.
- Provide your guinea pigs with a large cage and ample toys to play with so they don’t get bored and fight with each other.
- Using good quality bedding and cleaning the cage regularly is also crucial to ensure your guinea pigs don’t suffer from infectious that causes hair loss in them.
Do guinea pigs lose hair as they get older?
No, guinea pigs don’t lose their hair due to old age. However, normal shedding or underlying health conditions can lead to hair loss in guinea pigs.
Can stress cause hair loss in guinea pigs?
Yes, extreme stress can cause hair loss in guinea pigs. In some cases, guinea pigs are seen pulling out their hair when they were stressed out.
Is it normal for guinea pigs to have bald spots behind their ears?
Yes, it is entirely natural to have bald spots behind your guinea pig ears.
Does guinea pig hair grow back?
Yes, guinea pig’s hair does grow back. If your guinea pigs have a patch of hair missing you might need to look for the cause and fix any medical condition for proper regrowth.