Guinea Pig Ringworm – Symptoms and Treatment
Despite its name, one of the common fungal infections in guinea pigs is the ringworm. It is caused by a dermatophyte fungus – one that is considered as a communicable disease called the Trichophyton mentagrophytes. It’s found that about 97% of ringworm infections are caused by this particular fungal species. This type of fungi grows quite rapidly compared to other species.
They are also usually found in wet places that are high in carbon content. It can take many forms of infections but for animals, it is usually characterized by a ring-shaped rash and is typically itchy.
Ringworm in guinea pigs is considered zoophilic in nature, but it could occasionally infect humans.
Animals may have ringworm through direct contact with an infected animal’s skin or by coming in contact with other things infected with the fungus such as furniture. The fastest and probably the most certain way to acquire the infection is through contact with damaged cells on the skin or nails.
Symptoms of Cavy Ringworm
The term ringworm came from its manifestation on the skin which is usually circular in shape. This lesion typically starts in the head as a bald patch which is crusty and flaky in appearance.
There are also cases where there has been no symptoms of alopecia or hair loss and appears only as broken hairs or just a red scaling on the skin. It becomes itchy and as a result may get irritated as the guinea pig will try to scratch it off.
The formation of the rash may start at the tip of the nose and then head towards the back of the guinea pig. When the ringworm infection in guinea pigs is severe, it spreads further down onto its tail but not affecting its hind legs.
When the face gets infected, you will see it around the eyes and ears. A moist, humid, and warm environment may make the symptoms worse.
Treatment For Ringworm In Guinea Pigs
If you are suspecting that your guinea pig is infected with ringworm, it is best to bring it immediately to a veterinarian for the right diagnosis and treatment. Physical examination and the use of an ultraviolet light to show the skin infection are done for initial diagnosis. Further examination would include scraping from the infected area to be taken to the laboratory for confirmation.
The treatment of guinea pig ringworm depends on how severe the infection is. It is usually a combination of topical and systemic treatments. The latter is used to treat the fungal infection itself while the topical antifungal treatments decrease the possibility of further contamination from the environment.
The lesions usually heal from one to three weeks depending on the severity of the condition.
Ingestion of antifungal medicine would usually last for 5 to 6 weeks treatment for the guinea pig. Some veterinarians would also prescribe a soothing shampoo to relieve the pain and itchiness. Some will also suggest vitamins and minerals in order to improve their immune system.
Typical antifungal shampoos are the same as those used by human beings since they contain the chemical called ketoconazole. An example of a veterinary prescribed topical shampoo is KetoChlor with active ingredients including ketoconazole and chlorhexidine gluconate.
Other available shampoos usually prescribed are Malaseb and Pharmaseb specifically formulated for animals. These veterinary shampoos basically combat both bacterial and fungal infections.
Topical creams that are prescribed by veterinarians can be either be a miconazole or clotrimazole-based creams. Dipping solutions as a topical treatment may also be recommended and are probably one of the mildest but effective when there are infected, sensitive areas in a cavy.
This is also typically suggested for young guinea pigs. An example would be the enilconazole dip that is also highly used for dogs, cats, and horses.
A widely used medicine for oral guinea pig ringworm treatment is itraconazole because it lessens the stress to guinea pigs and touching your pet is kept at a minimum. It is also known to have lesser side effects compared to other antifungal drugs.
It might not be the cheapest antifungal medication out there, but it is worth the price due to its effectivity. Other medications that are used may include lufenuron and ketoconazole.
Do not attempt to self-medicate your guinea pigs especially without the proper diagnosis from a licensed veterinarian. There is a possibility that it may interact with other drugs or with hypersensitive animals so it is highly recommended to get a consultation first. Most of these treatments are veterinary-prescribed only for safety reasons.
Fungi Management and Control
As mentioned earlier, fungus thrives in moist conditions especially in hot temperatures that is why it is easy for them to propagate indoors. It is important to eradicate and control the source of infection and other things that you think might have come in contact with the host.
Here are some tips to help you manage this type of situation:
- Reducing the humidity in certain areas especially near your cavy’s cage may help prevent further fungal growth. The use of dehumidifiers or adding a cooling fan can be done to decrease humidity.
- Improve overall ventilation in a room by opening windows, if any.
- Avoid excess moisture accumulation by ensuring there is enough insulation in the room.
- Watch out for porous materials such as cardboard or paper that are damaged due to moisture as they may possibly harbor fungi and therefore should be disposed of immediately.
- Wear protective gears like gloves when handling an infected animal to prevent coming in direct contact with the microorganism. As much as possible, avoid handling an infected guinea pig.
- Wash arms and hands thoroughly if you think you might have come in contact with an infected cavy.
- Thoroughly clean your guinea pig’s habitat by removing all beddings and replacing them with new ones. Disinfect its cages, toys, and feeding bowls to ensure that all fungi are removed.
- For multiple guinea pigs, immediately isolate the infected animal from the others.
There is a higher probability of triggering ringworm in guinea pigs especially when they are stressed or if their environment is not ideal. It is important to know that some pigs can also serve only as carriers of the fungus without the symptoms.
This is why getting a new cavy in the household is usually the main culprit when an outbreak of ringworm occurs. Awareness of the guinea pig ringworm symptoms in its initial stage plus sanitation is the key to preventing the spread of this disease.