Ringworm is a skin condition that is caused by a fungus. It can affect many animals, including but not limited to dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs. Ringworm typically has an incubation period of one to two weeks. The fungus releases many spores into the air that can be inactive for years. Prevention and treatment of ringworm is straightforward and simple, but does require persistence.
Signs and Symptoms
Ringworm in guinea pigs usually begins with small areas of patchy hair loss, typically on the face and ears. The area of hair loss will be crusty and scaly. The lesions will often spread to other parts of the body if not treated, and will become itchy and reddish. In guinea pigs tufts of hair may be stuck together. Ringworm often appears in the summer months, when the weather is hot and humid. Other factors that may predispose guinea pigs to ringworm include stress, diet, environment, age, genetics and crowding. Diagnosis of ringworm should be done by a veterinarian.
Prevention and Treatment
Preventing ringworm is simple. Good husbandry is essential. Weekly disinfection of the guinea pigs living area, including the cage, food and water bowls and toys will aid in the prevention of ringworm.
Treating guinea pigs with isolated lesions is the first step in proper ringworm treatment. The area around the lesion should be thoroughly clipped close to the skin. The lesion should then be cleaned with shampoos specially formulated for fungal infections. Some shampoos can be purchased at local pet stores, though most must be prescribed by a vet. Such shampoos that may be prescribed include keratolytic and miconazole shampoos, lime sulfur dips, and topical anti-fungal treatments. The veterinarian may also prescribe oral medications. Treatments will need to be continued for at least two weeks after the lesions have disappeared.
Once the lesions have been treated and the ringworm fungus has been resolved, it is important to continue an effective cleaning plan. The ringworm fungus can survive for long periods of time in the environment. Bleach diluted to 1:10 with water will kill most of the organisms. Since the fungus can survive for so long, it is extremely important to clean and disinfect all grooming tools, bedding and kennels. Carpets, drapes, and furniture should also be thoroughly cleaned. Heating and cooling filters should be cleaned and changed and vacuum cleaner bags disposed of. The cleaning precautions need to be continued for several weeks to ensure that the fungus is killed.
Ringworm is highly contagious to other animals and humans. If a guinea pig is diagnosed with ringworm isolate it immediately. It is important to treat all of the animals in the community. Gloves should be worn when handling and treating infected guinea pigs. Hands should be washed well immediately after.