Article written by Jessica Proietti
Fungal infections in guinea pigs ( also known as Ringworm ) can occur at any time they are caused by an infection of the hair and the surface layers of skin by spore forming fungi. These spores then attack the surface layers of skin. It is quite common for fungal infections to flare up particularly during the summer months when humidity levels are high. Keeping your guinea pigs environment clean and well ventilated will help prevent the chances of fungal spore build up. Stress, sickness and age can also contribute to the development of a fungal infection. Fungal infections can spread rapidly and quick action is needed to treat the condition.
Often a fungal infection can be misdiagnosed as a parasite infection and visa versa and in turn the guinea pig will receive incorrect treatment. Parasite infestation and fungal infections require different medications and treatment. If your guinea pig shows signs of either a fungal condition or a parasite infestation it is recommended to treat your guinea pig for both separate conditions as a preventative measure.
What to look for
Obvious signs of a fungal condition are patches/lesions of hair loss on your guinea pig. With these lesions comes flakey/crusty dry skin often with a ' whitish ' appearance in and around the affected area. The area may also be sore, inflamed and itchy. Fungal infections can cause the hair around the area to fall out easily. Common areas of infection include the ears, nose and the back of the guinea pig.
Is Ringworm contagious?
Fungal infections are HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS. Fungal Spores can remain active for several years in your guinea pigs environment and strict sterlisation of the guinea pig and their environment is essential to prevent re-occurrence of infection. The infected guinea pig/s must be isolated from other guinea pigs to prevent spreading of fungal spores. Spores can be spread through direct contact with another guinea pig or through the passing of hair follicles.
The infected guinea pig will need to be placed in an enclosure that can be easily sterilised/cleaned. It is recommended to wear gloves when handling the infected guinea pig and also when touching anything the guinea pig may have come in contact with. If gloves are not worn you will need to disinfect your hands thoroughly after coming in contact with anything fungal spores may have touched. Spores can be very difficult to remove from timber cages it is recommended to replace your cage if it is made from timber. Your guinea pigs enclosure and all accessories will need to be completely sterlised before placing your guinea pig back in the enclosure. You can sterlise your guinea pigs enclosure first by washing it with a mild bleach solution then rinse off the solution with water after it has been left to sit for up to half an hour. Vinegar and water has also proven effective with sterlising your guinea pigs enclosure as well as diluted Lavender essential oil. After the guinea pigs enclosure has been sterlised it is recommended to spray or wash over the enclosure with an anti-fungal wash/spray. It is recommended to let your enclosure dry out in the natural sunlight.
Topical treatments are recommended for small patches of hair loss which have not begun to spread. The infected area should have the treatment applied once or twice a day for up to three weeks. If the area is still healing after this time then keep treating until the effected area shows no signs of a fungal infection. It is recommended to continue treatment for several days after the condition appears to be gone. If using a wash for treatment it is recommend to bath the guinea pig twice a week for 3-4 weeks. If the guinea pig has a widespread infection it is recommended to also apply a topical cream to help soothe the area and aid in a quick recovery.
Note - All treatments recommended below can also be purchased at various online stores if they cannot be found in your local area.
Recommended Topical Treatments include -
Betadine - Betadine has been proven very effective in the treatment of fungal conditions in guinea pigs. The active ingredient ' Iodine ' in Betadine doubles as a fungal treatment. Betadine is safe and effective and will not irritate the skin.
Panalog Ointment - Panalog is a very powerful ointment which comes in a small tube. It is used to treat a variety of inflammatory and fungal infections of the ear and skin. Panalog can only be bought with a prescription from your local vet it is a highly recommended product.
Clonea or Canesten Cream - Clonea cream for humans can be purchased from your Pharmacy. The cream is soothing and effective and is used to treat dermatitis, fungal and other skin infections.
Tea Tree and Lavender Oil - Diluted Tea Tree or Lavender Oil are an all natural effective treatment which can be used on your guinea pig although they need to be used with caution. The area they are being applied needs to be an area your guinea pig will not be able to lick/clean.
Fungazol - Can be purchased from your local vet or produce store. For the treatment of fungal infections in animals.
Recommended Fungal Washes include -
Malaseb - Malaseb comes very highly recommended by many small animal owners and vets and can be purchased from your local vet or produce store. It is very effective in the treatment of widespread fungal conditions in guinea pigs. For use in guinea pigs it is best to apply a capful of the wash to your guinea pigs bathwater then wash your guinea pig and let them dry naturally in warm temperatures. If temperatures are cool, towel dry. Some people use the product directly on their guinea pig then rinse off completely after letting sit for 8-10 minutes.
Quit-Itch - Quit-Itch can be purchased from your local produce store. Quit-Itch is an effective wash which contains the active ingredient ' Iodine ' which is effective in treating fungal conditions. Quit itch is similar to the topical treatment for humans ' Betadine ' although is produced for animals as a wash.
Vetadine - Vetadine can be purchased from your local produce store or horse store. It is very similar to Quit-Itch and Betadine and contains iodophor, giving the well known effective germicidal action of iodine in a non-irritating, stable, mild form.
Triocil - Triocil can be purchased from your local produce store. Triocil is a high quality antiseptic wash used for various skin irritations, fungal infections and can also be used for rashes and wounds. The active ingredient is Hexetidine.
For further information, questions, advice or for vet recommendations please contact ACS.
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