Guinea Pigs and Sarcoptic Mange

I have 4 Guinea Pigs, 2 of them I have had for 2 years now the other 2 I rescued from an elderly lady that could no longer care for them. I used to hold my original 2 piggies all the time with no problem, but now when I pick up any of the piggies and hold them up to my bare skin such as my arms, neck or any other bare skin my skin starts to itch really bad and it is almost like a burning sensation. This happens to anyone that holds them. My two newest piggies are losing the hair on their lower back and have some scabs. I have begun treatment with Ivermectin for mites.

Given that this reaction is so intense and seems to happen to everyone who is contact with your cavies, we can confidently rule out any kind of allergy. I also think you are right to suspect that mites are involved – your guinea-pigs are probably suffering from Sarcoptic Mange, which is caused by a microscopic mite. If left untreated the condition of your guinea-pigs will only get worse. However, although the mites can live on humans for a few days they can’t actually lay eggs and reproduce. The life cycle of the mite is about 3 weeks from adult to egg and back to adult. The mite burrows under the skin to lay its eggs, the eggs hatch within a few days but often stay within the skin until they reach maturity in 7-14 days.

The infection is at a fairly advanced stage so I recommend that your visit your veterinarian for confirmation of this diagnosis, and for a prescribed treatment regiment that can be supervised by your vet. The normal course of action would be ivermectin injections at 2-week intervals, repeated at least twice. He will also be able to recommend treatments to address the itching, decontaminate you and your guinea-pigs’ home environment. He may also be able to prescribe steroid treatment to prevent inflammation and reduce irritation.