Your guinea pigs are scratching excessively. You know it’s not mites, ringworm, or lice. Is it possible? Does your guinea pig have fleas? Can guinea pigs even get fleas?
Generally, it’s rare for guinea pigs to have a full-blown flea infestation, but it’s possible if a house is completely infested. Guinea pigs don’t make good hosts for fleas, so fleas tend to move on to a better host (e.g. ferret, dogs, cats) when possible. That said, fleas will feed off your guinea pig if they can’t find a better host.
There are many treatment options available for piggies with flea infestations. We’ll go over some of them below to help you decide how best to deal with this problem and how to prevent future infestations from occurring.
Can Guinea Pigs Get Fleas? (Understand How Fleas Function)
Fleas are insects can jump as high as 13 inches in one leap and are very light (around 0.03 ounces). Fleas are insects that live off of the blood from pretty much any mammal. That said, it’s uncommon for cavies to get flea infestations.
What’s the secret?
Simple. Guinea pigs are rarely the first choice as host for fleas.
Fleas require blood from a particular host to breed successfully, so they typically won’t stay on your little friends for long. (Lucky for you and your piggies!) They need to find a host that increases their chances of survival and reproduction.
Flea infestations in cavies can often take place when your entire home is teeming with fleas – which is also uncommon.
In this case, fleas can find the perfect host in other household pets like cats, ferrets, and dogs. Now even fleas want to live. So, in desperation, some fleas will feed off humans in addition to their usual hosts. That’s how you fur babies end up covered in flea bites.
The infestation can be nipped in the bud if the home is properly treated (e.g. pesticides, cleaning, flea treatment for appropriate pets) to get rid of them before they reproduce too much.
Seeing one or two fleas on your piggie isn’t a major reason to panic – unless you live in South America. That’s the only place where fleas have been found to use cavies as a breeding host.
If you want some insight on guinea pig behavior and how to care for them, check out these posts: How To Successfully Clean A Wound On A Guinea Pig (5 Dos and Don’ts) and Guinea Pig Running Away? (Stop It With 9 Simple Tips)
How Do I know If My Guinea Pig Has Fleas?
There are a few signs to watch for if you think your guinea pig has fleas:
- excessive scratching and “picking” of fur
- unexplained balding, hair loss, or thinning fur on your piggies
- red inflamed skin
- extreme irritability or loss of appetite
- round, dark dirt specks in your guinea pig’s fur could be an indication that your cavies are infested with fleas; this only works if your pet has light-colored fur
Those dark dirty flecks are called “flea dirt”, which are flea droppings. The “flea dirt” is dirt is dried blood.
If suspect a flea infestation on your guinea pig, use this tactic to identity them. First off, if you rub some flea dirt onto a wet cloth (maybe a cotton ball or pad) it will turn red – because it’s dried blood. If you see that, then you know there’s a flea problem that you’ll have to deal with.
How Do Guinea Pigs Get Fleas?
With so many factors to consider such as your guinea pig’s living environment, it can be tricky to figure out how the fleas got on it. But, here are a few possible culprits you’ll want to keep an eye out for:
- Your guinea pig’s pet friends. It’s possible that your guinea pigs picked up fleas off of a doggie or feline – or even a ferret. It’s a risk that cavies share with their other furry friends.
- Anything your guinea pig has been rolling (or walking) in . Whether it’s a pile of leaves or just the dirt from the backyard, cavies have a way of making themselves at home when they feel comfortable and safe. Anything they’ve rolled around on is now fair game for fleas to jump onto.
- Other people. Once again, severe flea infestations in humans are rare. But, fleas can jump. There’s nothing to stop them from hitching a ride on a shirt sleeve or pants cuff and then jumping onto your guinea pig. Or they might contract the pests from infected animals and then hand it off to their fur babies at home.
During weekly health checks, make sure to look for fleas. If you see any, there are several treatments that can get rid of the pests – and protect your guinea pig from future infestations.
How Do You Get Rid Of Fleas On A Guinea Pig?
Happily, there are a number of guinea pig flea treatments that can get rid of the pests. But, it’s important to choose a treatment based on your piggies’ needs as well as other factors such as their age and health.
Here are some suggestions and tips for success for getting rid of fleas on your guinea pig :
- Bath time for your piggies. You can drown fleas. Use guinea pig safe shampoo (not a flea shampoo) and warm water. Take extremely great care to not drop them while when washing off the fleas, as piggies an get injured and killed by falls. Comb your piggie’s hair with a flea comb.
- Don’t use any type of over-the-counter, flea treatment for dogs and cats. There are tons of chemicals in them that are dangerous to guinea pig.
- See the vet for a script. If the infestation is so severe that it requires a topical treatment, a safe guinea pig safe treatment is Revolution. It can be prescribed by a vet and is quite effective when used appropriately.
- Clean…everything in your piggie’s cage. Remove the bedding and cloth hideaways (wash in hot water if it’s fleece). Use hot, soapy water to disinfect your guinea pig’s cage and plastic toys. Scrub away any obvious areas of dirt, grime, or flea residue. Spray a mixture of 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water and wipe everything down.
- Keep outdoor piggies inside for a bit. If your fur babies live outside, keep them inside for a few days while you clean their habitat. If their hutch it wooden, consider painting it to decrease the amount of fleas.
- Clean…everything in your home. Vacuum your carpets. Your sheets, pillowcases, and blankets will need to be washed in the washing machine. It must be thorough. Get your furniture shampooed or steam cleaned if possible.
How To Prevent Your Cavies From Getting Fleas
You don’t need to specifically do preventative flea treatments for your fur babies since they’re not normally a host for breeding fleas. By preventative treatments, I mean baths, dips, etc. Most of useless or harmful to your piggies.
It’s better to regulate the environment that your piggies are in to prevent flea infestations. Here are some suggestions:
- Treat your other pets instead. Dog and cats are the main carriers of fleas. During flea season, make sure to take your cavies to the vet for a treatment – even if you don’t see flea bites. You may also want to bathe and treat their bedding with safe, flea-killing products as well. Fleas can (and will) jump from animal to animal
- Treat your yard. Remove any debris that collect in your yard so that the pests don’t find a warm, moist environment to live. Cedar chips are an effective treatment for fleas. They have sensitive noses and don’t like strong odors like cedar.
- Treat your house. Steam clean your furniture when possible. Put your vacuum cleaner to work. Make vacuuming one of your favorite hobbies – do it at least once or twice a week to keep the flea population down. Vacuuming will disturb any eggs or larvae that may be living in your carpets, rugs and furniture
- Treat your piggie’s cage. Keep it clean and dry. Spot clean daily and deep clean it weekly. Aside from discouraging fleas, a clean cage will help your guinea pig feel more comfortable and happy.
Here are some natural ways to give your guinea pig preventions tactics a little “boost”:
- Baking soda: To eliminate a flea infestation most effectively, sprinkle all the carpets and furniture liberally with baking soda. Brush in as much as possible. Vacuum your entire house and empty into bags outside. Take them outside pronto. (This is best done on a trash day)
- Salt: To get rid of a guinea pig’s fleas, take some salt and sprinkle it across the carpets in every room. Leave the salt there for one or two days. Afterwards, vacuum like your life depends on it. Then chuck the contents in an outside trash can. (Also, best done on a day when your trash is collected.)
- Flea-Hating Plants: Certain plants contain specific substances that fleas despise, and they will try their best to avoid such plants. Just make sure that your piggies can’t get to them. Penny Royal, lavender, and spearmint can be be used inside and outside your house to repel these pests. They won’t get rid of those pesky critters, but it’ll make them thing twice about crossing your territory to bother your pets.
Can Guinea Pigs Die From Fleas?
Generally speaking, fleas themselves won’t kill guinea pigs. But, secondary illnesses caused by the infestation will. For example:
- Anemia Risk. Anemia is a blood condition that happens when cavies don’t have enough red blood cells, and this can lead to death. However, your cavies are small animals with much less blood volume than a cat or dog. If your guinea pig has a heavy flea infestation, it’s possible for them to become anemic through blood loss, which can be dangerous.
- Self-Inflicted Injuries. Cavies have a habit of severely biting and scratching themselves in an attempt to rid themselves of fleas. It can become so extreme that your piggies will give themselves open wounds. This can lead to skin infections if left untreated.
So, if a true infestation has taken over your fur babies, there’s no need to freak out. But, you’ll want to take care of it quickly.
Why Is My Guinea Pig So Itchy?
Guinea pigs (like you and me) will scratch themselves occasionally. As long as it’s not too frequently or intense, there’s nothing to worry about.
But, sometimes cavies will have itching fits and the cause isn’t fleas. Here are some of the most common reasons why guinea pigs get itchy:
- Mites: These are tiny bugs that live in guinea pig fur. They cause intense itching and can make guinea pigs feel really miserable. Mites can be fatal if left untreated.
- Food sensitivities: A guinea pig’s diet is the most important thing, so changing food types or brands might be all it needs to stop scratching! Always keep
- Contact dermatitis: This is a reaction from contact with an irritant, such as soap, detergent, fabric softener or other chemicals. If you’ve recently changed brands of laundry detergent and your guinea pig starts scratching more than
- Lice: These are parasitic bugs that causes itchy skin
- Certain Oils: It’s common for some cavies to be allergic to coconut oil. If you choose to use this oil on your piggie, do a patch test first to make sure it’s safe!
- Ringworm: This fungal infection can cause guinea pigs to itch. It also causes hair loss and irritated skin.
If you don’t see any signs of this pest, the best treatment option is to figure out what the root cause of all that scratching might be. The last thing you want if for your little friends to be miserable!
Let’s Wrap Up
Fleas can be your worst nightmare under certain circumstances. Fortunately, there are many preventative measures that you can take to keep your fur babies flea-free.
Most of them just require you to be vigilant about keeping their environment flea-free and keep checking your guinea pig’s fur for those pests.
If you catch a flea early enough, there are many treatments available to get rid of them quickly before they can reproduce. But, remember that the bugs don’t really want to stay on your piggies – they want better hosts like dogs and cats.
If you’re worried that your guinea pig has been infested by these critters, this article should have given you some tips to help identify and treat the problem.
If all else fails, consult with a veterinarian who specializes in guinea pigs for more information or treatment options!