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Mites, what are they and what can be done?

Mites versus Lice No matter how hard you try chances are your cavy will be exposed to either one of these horrid parasites in the course of its lifetime. Mites and lice are far more prevalent than we'd like to believe.

Mites are small burrowing microscopic blood sucking creatures. They can be viewed by taking a small scraping of skin and peering at it under a dissection microscope. Mites, while being too small to see with the naked eye, are one of the largest problems in guinea pigs. You will also note they can be referred to as selnick, or mange mites.

The usual symptoms of mites include hair loss, particularly over the shoulders, neck and back, constant itching, squeaking while being handled, biting while touched, red irritated skin, lackluster and thinning coat, self-injuries from scratching, and can often (if infested enough) lead to convulsions. If a sow is pregnant, she might abort or reabsorb her litter, if a boar is in breeding, he might be so uncomfortable he cannot mate.

The most effective cure for mites is treatment with ivermectin. While this product is not USDA or FDA licensed with guinea pigs, it is widely used for treatment of mites. You can get ivermectin through your vet, or if you have a larger herd and this is not practical (again, you'll have to treat all the animals that have been exposed) head to the local feed or livestock supply store. There you can buy a tube of horse paste wormer (Zimecterin or any other ivermectin based wormer) or a bottle of injectable swine wormer (again, ivermectin should be the main ingredient, also called Ivomec). The dose of the wormer depends upon the weight of the animal. If you use the injectable form, you will need to refrigerate the wormer, and mix 1 part Ivermectin with 9 parts propylene glycol (you can get this at a pharmacy, it's what they use to mix up mediation. You may have to ask the pharmacist for this.) Mix well and give orally as follows:

Cavy Weight Ivermectin in propylene glycol
1 - 120 grams 0.04 cc
120-200 grams 0.06 cc
200-450 grams 0.08 cc
450-650 grams 0.12 cc
650-800 grams 0.16 cc
800-1000 grams 0.20 cc
1000-1200 grams 0.25 cc
1200-1400 grams 0.30 cc
1400-1700 grams 0.36 cc
1700 & up grams 0.40 cc
Conversions: 1 oz = 28.35 grams, 1 lb =453.6 grams, 2 lbs-907.2 grams

It's safe to treat a youngster at 3-4 weeks of age, but you want to avoid treating a heavily pregnant sow, one in her first month of pregnancy, or a sow who is nursing young. It is imperative that this treatment be repeated in 7-10 days from the initial treatment, in order to kill off nits that hatched in the interim. Oftentimes a third treatment 10 days after the second one can be helpful to ensure you are rid of the pests.

There is another form of mite called the rabbit fur mite. This results in a very thickened red itchy crusting on the head, face, tummy and inside of the legs. Three doses of ivermectin at 10 day intervals also helps to relieve the animal of this type of mite. While also a cold blooded blood sucking parasite, it is actually a different genus and species of mite than the selnick mite.

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