Guinea Pig Ringworm – What Is It, What Are The Symptoms And How To Treat It.
Is your guinea pig’s coat looking a little patchy? Is the skin underneath somewhat scaly and dry looking?
If so, it might make you wonder “Do guinea pigs carry ringworm?”
Let’s find out how to treat ringworm in guinea pigs, and how to prevent reinfection.
We will also answer an important question for all guinea pig owners: can you get ringworm from guinea pigs?
Can Guinea Pigs get Ringworm?
Yes indeed, guinea pigs can get ringworm!
But before we go any further, let’s clear up a common misconception about the infection.
Ringworm is caused by a fungal infection, not a worm. The name of the fungus responsible is Trichophyton mentagrophytes.
According to a study published in 2012, this fungus we have come to know as “ringworm” is the most common fungal skin infection found in guinea pigs and rabbits.
Guinea pigs that are kept in hot, humid, overcrowded, and unsanitary conditions are at higher risk of developing the infection.
Signs of Ringworm in Guinea Pigs
The first sign of a ringworm infection is usually bald patches around the nose, which expose scaly, dry skin underneath.
These bald patches then spread over the face. If the infection is severe, it may also spread down the back of the guinea pig.
The affected areas are usually not itchy, but some guinea pig’s skin may become pus-filled, crusty and inflamed.
How do Guinea Pigs get Ringworm?
While ringworm is treatable and not considered a serious disease, it is highly contagious. For that reason, most cases of ringworm are introduced into a home with the arrival of a new guinea pig.
Being a fungal infection, ringworm is spread when spores move from one animal to the other.
It seems that these spores can spread when they become airborne. However, physical contact is the most likely way the infection will spread.
If a guinea pig was raised in an unclean environment, it is possible for it to be infected without showing any symptoms.
Once it is introduced into a new home, the infection can then spread rapidly to any other pets, or people, in the household.
As guinea pigs live in groups, it is possible that if one develops it the rest will follow.
As we mentioned, guinea pigs kept in hot, unsanitary conditions are most likely to pick up the infection. So, ideally having a good look at the place the guinea pig was raised will give you an idea of whether the new piggy is likely to carry the fungus or not.
Guinea Pig Ringworm Treatment
It is important to eradicate ringworm completely. Because the infection spreads so readily, it could end up being a real headache if you don’t treat it properly.
Guinea pig ringworm medication is systematic, not just topical. Your vet will likely prescribe an antifungal agent that will need to be taken orally, such as itraconazole or terbinafine.
Your vet will likely also direct you to wash your pig a couple of times a week with special anti-fungal shampoo.
A doctor will likely recommend that you decontaminate the area in which your piggy has been living to ensure the infection does not reoccur.
There are special preparations available for decontamination, but your vet may suggest something as simple as the correct dilution of chlorine laundry bleach to clean the guinea pig’s housing.
It is important to follow your veterinarian’s guidelines to a T, as using topical treatments on their own can result in your guinea pig developing a chronic, sub-clinical infection. This could lead to others in your household becoming infected.
Is Guinea Pig Ringworm Contagious to Humans?
In short, yes, it is. Most commonly, children will contract the infection, as they are the most likely to have close contact with the guinea pig.
If you or your child has caught ringworm from your guinea pig, you will likely see skin lesions appear around the face, neck and arms.
Often, the infection appears soon after a new guinea pig joins the family.
If you suspect people in your household have contracted ringworm, take them to the doctor for the appropriate treatment.
The guinea pig which introduced the infection will also need to be taken to the vet for treatment.
If you have any other animals in the household that could have caught the infection, it would be a good idea to talk to your vet about the proper steps to take to prevent the infection spreading further.
How to Prevent Guinea Pig Ringworm
The best way to keep your guinea pig ringworm free is to keep living quarters clean and dry. Try and keep your pigs in a cool spot that does not encourage the growth of fungus.
If you are adding a new guinea pig to your family, try and have a good look at where they have been living up till now.
Is the area clean and dry? Is the guinea pig living with other pigs? How healthy do they look?
If you want to be extra sure that your new furry friend will not bring unwanted fungal infections into your home, then house them separately for a couple of weeks, just to make sure they haven’t brought some nasties along with them.
In that time, try to keep contact with your guinea pig to a minimum.
Of course, you will have to clean out their cage and you will want to make friends with your new piggy. Close attention to hand washing or perhaps even some gloves might be in order during this period.
If your guinea pig shows no sign of guinea pig ringworm after this initial quarantine period, your new piggy is ready to move it with any other guinea pigs you may have!
Needless to say, they are also ready for lots of cuddles as well, without fear of an unwanted ringworm infection.
References and Further Reading
- Donnelly, T. M. Guinea pigs. MSD Veterinary Manual.
- Pombier, E.C. & Kim, J.C.S. (1975). An epizootic outbreak of ringworm in a guinea-pig colony caused by trichophyton centagrophytes. Laboratory Animals, 1975(9).
- Kraemer A., et al (2012). Dermatophytes in pet guinea pigs and rabbits Vet Microbiology, 157(1-2).
- Chittasobhon, N. & Smith, J.N.B (1979). The production of experimental dermatophyte lesions in guinea pigs. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 73(2).
- Kraemer A,. et al (2013). Clinical signs, therapy and zoonotic risk of pet guinea pigs with dermatophytosis. Mycoses, 56(2).
- Weese, S. Guinea pigs and ringworm. Worms & Germs Blog.