Flies are nuisances that we encounter every once in a while. They are attracted to rotting food, a lamp shining on a dark night, garbage and even sugary beverages. But are they also attracted to guinea pigs?
The answer is yes. In certain circumstances, guinea pigs can attract flies. The bad news is that flies can pose a deadly threat to guinea pigs. The good news is that there are ways to prevent the damage that flies cause.
When a guinea pig attracts flies, it becomes at risk for a condition called “flystrike.” Flystrike occurs when a fly lays eggs on or around a guinea pig.
These eggs hatch and the maggots that emerge burrow into the guinea pig’s body and begin to feed on the guinea pig from the inside. As the maggots feed, they release toxins into the guinea pig’s bloodstream.
Flystrike is a serious condition that can escalate quickly. Maggots hatch within a couple hours after the eggs are laid.
Within 24 hours they burrow into the guinea pig’s skin and cause fatal damage.
If your guinea pig is at risk for flystrike, some signs and symptoms that you may notice include:
Early Warning Signs:
- Ill health or changes in behavior
- Wet Fur
- Open Wounds
- The presence of flies around your guinea pig’s cage
Elevated Warning Signs:
- The presence of maggots in your guinea pig’s cage
- The presence of fly eggs on your guinea pig’s body
Severe Warning Signs:
- The presence of maggots in your guinea pig’s fur, especially around the rear end
- Signs of shock such as shivering, weak pulse, lethargy or decreased body temperature
If you notice any of the early warning signs, make sure you keep a close eye on your guinea pig and take the preventative measures outlined in this article.
If you notice any of the elevated warning signs, you are not yet at the emergency stage, but you will, at the very least, want to contact your vet. At this stage, it is a good idea to physically take your guinea pig to be seen by the vet.
If severe warning signs are present, you will need to get your guinea pig to the vet immediately. At this point, the situation is an emergency as guinea pigs can die within 24 hours of becoming infected with maggots.
If you notice severe signs of flystrike in your guinea pig, DO NOT attempt to remove the maggots yourself. Attempting to remove the maggots on your own without the proper knowledge of how to do so can cause your guinea pig to go into toxic shock.
The best thing you can do for your guinea pig is to get professional treatment for it as soon as possible.
Types Of Treatments Professionals Will Provide
When you take your guinea pig to the vet, the vet will trim and clean the affected area and remove any maggots that have burrowed into your guinea pig’s skin. If the maggots have caused severe wounds, the vet might perform surgery to close the wounds.
The vet will give your guinea pig the proper medications to treat flystrike which can include pain relief medications, fluids, anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics. The vet might also give your guinea pig an anti-parasitic medication to ensure that all the maggots and eggs are killed.
It is possible that the vet will send you home with medications to treat your guinea pig over the next several weeks to ensure the infection does not return. These medications include an anti-parasitic and an antiseptic cream to apply to the guinea pig’s wounds multiple times per day until the wounds are healed.
Sadly, in cases where flystrike is severe and the maggots have burrowed too deeply into the guinea pig’s body, euthanasia may be necessary.
What Is It About Guinea Pigs That Attracts Flies?
The manner and conditions in which your guinea pig lives can attract flies. Risk factors that can lead to flystrike include:
- Damp Conditions – Flies are attracted to moist conditions. This includes both wet guinea pig fur (e.g. fur that is wet from diarrhea or urine) and wet bedding.
- Housing Guinea Pigs Outdoors – Housing guinea pigs outdoors exposes them to a higher chance of encountering a fly as there is a larger population of flies outdoors than indoors. Also, when weather becomes hot and humid, it can lead to damp conditions in an outdoor hutch which creates a risk of attracting flies.
- Unclean Environment – Another risk factor for flystrike, whether outdoors or indoors, is housing guinea pigs in an unclean environment. Flies are attracted to feces, urine and uneaten food that can be found in an unclean cage or hutch.
Flystrike can be prevented by:
- Preventing Diarrhea
- Paying Attention to Housing
- Maintaining a Clean Living Environment
- Keeping Your Guinea Pig Well-Groomed
- Monitoring Your Guinea Pig’s Health Once or Twice Each Day
- Keeping Flies & Maggots Away
Diarrhea is one of the main ways that guinea pigs attract flies.
In order to prevent your guinea pig from getting diarrhea, you can take the following actions:
- Make sure your guinea pig gets enough vitamin C
- Avoid introducing new foods too fast
- Avoid feeding foods that are not suitable for guinea pigs (e.g. human food, foods designed for other animals, and certain vegetables such as iceberg lettuce)
- Ensure that your guinea pig has a balanced diet of hay, pellets and fresh food
- Keep the guinea pig’s cage clean (to avoid a bacterial infection which can cause diarrhea)
If your guinea pig does have diarrhea, temporarily limit its diet to only timothy hay and timothy hay pellets until the situation resolves. If the diarrhea is severe to the extent that droppings are extremely loose and watery, or if the diarrhea does not resolve within a day of limiting the diet, contact your vet.
Housing your guinea pig indoors can minimize the risk of flystrike occurring since flies are less likely to be present inside of your home than they are outdoors.
If your guinea pig is housed outside, check the guinea pig and its habitat at least twice each day for signs of eggs, maggots or dampness. You can minimize the risk of flystrike by installing a mesh covering over the guinea pig hutch.
Maintain a Clean Living Environment
In addition to weekly cage cleaning, be sure to remove soiled bedding daily. A good practice can be to make it part of your nightly routine to remove any damp bedding (e.g. bedding where water has dripped from the water bottle or spots dampened with guinea pig urine). You’ll also want to remove any feces and uneaten food from the cage as this will attract flies. If you use a paper-based bedding, you can easily remove the soiled bedding and replace it with fresh bedding.
If you prefer to use fleece bedding, you’ll need a setup that allows urine to pass through the top layer into an absorbent material (e.g. towel, puppy or furniture pad, etc.). It can be beneficial to purchase a fleece guinea pig mattress that wicks urine into the lower layers, keeping the top layer dry.
Keep Your Guinea Pig Well Groomed
Taking time to groom your guinea pig each day will not only make it less likely that flies will be attracted to it, but also will allow you to notice any potential signs of illness. When you clip your guinea pig’s nails or brush its fur, you can perform a basic health check such as ensuring that eyes, ears and nose are clear, skin is intact with no wounds or abnormalities and teeth are not overgrown. It is important to keep your guinea pig in good health because an ill guinea pig tends not to groom itself well which can attract flies.
Monitoring Your Guinea Pig’s Health
One way to catch the early warning signs of flystrike is to check your guinea pig’s health once or twice each day. As mentioned above, this can be done at the same time as grooming. At a minimum, check your guinea pig’s skin and make sure there are no eggs, worms or wounds present. Also check to make sure the fur on your guinea pig’s rear end is dry and that there is no diarrhea.
Keeping Flies & Maggots Away
In order to kill any maggots that pose a threat to your guinea pig’s health, you can use over-the-counter products, such as those containing a drug called ivermectin. There are also over-the-counter products that can be applied to your guinea pig to protect it from attracting flies. Be sure to consult a professional before treating your guinea pig, or its environment, with these products.
Another way to keep flies away is to utilize mesh coverings on outdoor hutches, indoor cages or open windows depending on where your guinea pig is housed. If your guinea pig is housed indoors, you can place flypaper near the cage to catch any flies that pose a threat.
Guinea pigs can, at times, attract flies. Flystrike is a dangerous condition that can happen quickly and become devastating.
The most important thing to remember is to keep your guinea pig and its environment clean and dry. Further, learning and recognizing the signs and symptoms early on gives your guinea pig the best chance of surviving this condition.
If you take precautions, you can save your guinea pig from a painful and potentially fatal situation. In the words of The Orkin Man, let’s keep “pests in their place” and off of our guinea pigs!