Hair loss in guinea pigs is often a cause for concern for many owners and can be the starting sign of many diseases or infections. However, not all hair loss with guinea pigs is bad as there are some natural causes of hair loss, such as shedding.
If your guinea pig is losing hair much faster than what you’d consider normal – talk to your vet immediately.
The best way to avoid hair loss in guinea pigs is to have a proper diet and grooming routine. The quality of life your guinea pig has will help determine the root cause of hair loss.
What Causes Guinea Pigs to Lose Hair?
There are two reasons why guinea pigs lose hair:
- Natural Causes
- Infections & Diseases
Natural Causes for Hair Loss in Guinea Pigs
There are different biological changes in the body that can lead to hair loss in most pets and guinea pigs aren’t much different. These changes can range from something simple as shedding their fur or coat all the way to them being over stressed and it causing an adverse reaction in their body.
Below you’ll find the common natural causes for guinea pig hair loss:
- Summer Shedding – It’s not uncommon for your guinea pig to shed some of it’s coat during the warmer months, such as summer. Guinea pigs typically have a much thicker fur coat than other animals and it can become a problem for them when it’s hot outside, especially if your guinea pig lives outdoors. The animals will typically lose their fur in the spring and summer months and this process is completely normal. You’ll want to watch out for excessive hair loss, hairless patches or even dandruff with your guinea pig.
- Pregnancy or Lactation Stress – Female guinea pigs put on a lot of stress through pregnancy and lactation. It’s not uncommon for female guinea pigs to lose hair during the mating process. As the newborn guinea pigs start to drink their mother’s milk they are taking nutrients away from the mother. A lot of the vitamins and supplements in a guinea pig’s balanced diet get shared on to the newborn guinea pigs.
- Excessive Saliva – It’s natural for your guinea pig to produce a lot of saliva as they are eating and trying to breakdown the foods you’re giving them. If you’re not giving them enough hay to consumer grinding their teeth down it can restrict movement of their tongue and cause excess saliva to build up. This saliva will irritate the skin around the mouth and can lead to hair loss around the mouth. If you’re seeing excessive saliva in your guinea pig it may mean there is something more serious going on and you should speak to your vet.
- Barbering – Barbering is a where a guinea pig will pluck their own hair or their hair can be plucked by another guinea pig as a way to show dominance in the cage or with mating. It’s common in cages where you have more than one guinea pig as they will fight over the resources available (food, mates, bedding, etc.) and some guinea pigs will lose hair. If your guinea pig is plucking at its own fur it can mean two things: they are either bored or plucking away at pain. You’ll want to spot check where the guinea pig is plucking and make sure there isn’t any infection or redness.
Infections & Diseases Causing Hair Loss in Guinea Pigs
Because hair loss is part of so many natural things with guinea pigs and several diseases it’s hard to really decipher what the cause of it is. The key is to make sure you are paying attention to where the hair loss is and why it may be happening. You can do this with daily and weekly checkups with your guinea pig and if you’re following a basic routine you should already be looking all over your guinea pig for marks or lesions.
Some common diseases and infections causing hair loss in guinea pigs:
- Mites, Lice and Fleas – These parasites will feed on your guinea pig’s skin causing them to lose hair. If your guinea pig is scratching often you’ll want to observe the area they are focused in for any parasites.
- Infections – The most common cause of non-natural hair loss in guinea pigs is infection. A fungal or bacterial infection can lead to hair loss in your guinea pig and are often hard to treat. It requires proper medication and treatment from a licensed veterinarian. The best way to prevent an infection is proper care and hygiene for your guinea pig.
- Abscesses – An abscess is common in smaller pets who live in confined environments. An abscess is a cavity or pocket that forms below the skin usually due to an injury. The cavity will swell up and can lead to hair loss.
- Cysts – For mostly female guinea pigs, an ovarian cyst can cause a tremendous amount of stress to your guinea pig which will lead to hair loss. The stress your guinea pig feels causes the body to release androgens which cause hair loss.
- Gland Problems – In some cases your guinea pig may have “greasy seborrhea” which is where the glands in their skin produce excessive oils and other greasy substances damaging the fur coat. This oil makes it very ideal for bacterial or fungal infections to grow.
- Scurvy – If your guinea pig is not getting enough vitamin C in their body they may get scurvy. Scurvy in guinea pigs will lead to them having very rough skin and a poor fur or coat leading to hair loss along with many other complications.
- Pododermatitis – Also known as “bumble foot”, pododermatitis is where the guinea pig suffers from hair loss around their feet and no where else.
Treating Hair Loss in Guinea Pigs
The treatment for hair loss or baldness in guinea pigs is tied to the initial cause for this hair loss. In most cases if it’s caused by an infection or disease you’ll have antibiotics or creams to help fight off the infection and hair will grow back over time. The core focus to fight baldness in guinea pigs is to have good hygiene and a good diet.
Common ways vets will treat hair loss in guinea pigs:
- Antibiotics if the guinea pig is suffering hair loss from an infection.
- An improved diet with plenty of fresh fruit, greens and vegetables.
- A more hygienic lifestyle that can reduce infections and promote healthy living.
- Adding more supplements to their diet to improve skin health and promote fur growth and strength.
- Regular teeth checks to make sure there are no dental issues and teeth aren’t overgrown.
- Try to do more medicated baths if your guinea pig has a greasier coat than others.
Tips to Prevent Hair Loss in Guinea Pigs
Not all hair loss warrants a vet visit and most hair loss can be mitigated with some proper care and routine. Below we are sharing some of our favorite home remedies to help prevent hair loss in guinea pigs.
- Increase the humidity of the enclosure or area your guinea pig lives.
- Apply diluted apple cider vinegar to the skin of your guinea pig but avoid using too much.
- Make sure you are regularly grooming your guinea pig.
- Lower their exposure to potential allergens.
- Try to use less aggressive shampoos when washing or bathing your guinea pig.
- Brush their hair routinely to keep the fur coat clean.
Article Sources & Research
- A. (2022, April 8). Why Is My Guinea Pig Losing Hair? Care Animal Hospital. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.careah.com/pet/why-my-guinea-pig-losing-hair/
- Admin, W. (2021, February 16). Common Guinea Pig Conditions & Problems | Blog. Brunker Road Veterinary Centre. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://brunkerroadvets.com.au/article/skin-problems-in-guinea-pigs/