We brought Lilith and Tallulah home from the Pet Shop at 7 weeks old, and we left them pretty much alone for the first few days, to get used to their new surroundings. So it was about a week later that I was holding Tallulah and I noticed she had a scabby lump on her head between her ears. There was no hair loss that I could see. I took her immediately to the vet, and he checked for mites, but ruled that out. We wondered whether she had been bitten by Lilith while they were settling down together. So I went home with an antiseptic wash.
Two days later some more crusting appeared on Tallulah's cheek. She went straight back to the vet, who still wasn't sure what it was. [With hindsight I think maybe he should have recognised it]. Lilith had no symptoms at this stage. The vet decided to do a biopsy on the lumps on Tallulah to help the diagnosis. To do this he had to give her a little anaesthetic gas. You can imagine the distress this caused us, as she was only 8 weeks old, and the trauma could have killed her. Fortunately she survived, but had to have half her head shaved and 4 stitches in her head and cheek. The lump was immediately cultured and within a couple of days the culture turned purple and emphatically revealed that Tallulah had ringworm. The day after this diagnosis Lilith began losing hair around her right eye.....
Ringworm on the NetWe then did a very foolish thing, we went on the Net and began looking up 'ringworm'! PANIC! The web is full of horrible photos of human ringworm (click here if you are feeling brave) and warnings about how incredibly contagious it is, and how it can easily be transmitted from animal to man. We envisaged having to have our house defumigated etc etc. Ringworm is NOT a worm - it's a fungus, a bit like athlete's foot, which causes crusting and itching and hair loss. Kittens are also very prone to it.
SymptomsAll the books and information you read tell you that the primary symptoms are hair loss and itchiness. But in fact this wasn't the case with Tallulah, who is a dark-skinned, long-haired pig. She didn't seem to be scratching excessively, and there was definitely no hair loss, and the chief symptoms we had to go on were crusty scabby lumps. This is one of the reasons it took so long to diagnose. With Lilith, the fair-skinned pig, it was much easier to spot the sore patches and she definitely did suffer hair loss around her eye.
Systemic Treatment - griseofulvin
Because both our pigs now had the ringworm, and by this time had had it for 10-14 days, the vet decided to treat both pigs systemically, ie: internally. They were each put on a 6 week course of an anti-fungal suspension known in the UK as "Fulcin". It is used for children and so is a chocolate flavoured syrup! It contains 125mg of griseofulvin per 5ml. We fed 2ml of this syrup to each pig twice a day for 5 weeks (see note below for other dosages) through an open syringe - Lilith loved it and would lap it up, but poor Tallulah was so fed up that she kicked and struggled and learned how not to swallow. This is why we stopped the treatment one week short of the 6 weeks - it was against doctor's orders, but it shows that they were both well clear of the fungus by then. Unless treated systemically, ringworm is hard to get rid of in animals because the spores can lodge in their fur - and especially so for long-haired guinea pigs. But I highly recommend the systemic griseofulvin treatment. It didn't upset the pigs' stomachs or give them any discernible side-effects, and yet the benefits were almost immediate - the crusting and itching stopped and the hair began to grow again, with no recurrences or lapses. And we didn't have to have the house de-contaminated!
NOTE: The drug "Fulcin" has now been discontinued in the UK, although a similar product "Grisovin" is still available. An oral suspension of griseofulvin is still readily available, so ask your vet. It is called "Grifulvin V" in the USA.
NOTE: Other dosages recommended more recently (2005) have been the following: 0.3ml 2x daily for 5-7 days then if no better up to 0.5ml 2x daily.
NOTE: Another visitor to the site (2007) reported that she has successfully treated her two guinea pigs using ground-up "Fulcin" tablets. She read that the powder is very poorly absorbed by the pig unless accompanied by fat, so once a week she mixed two ground-up tablets and an appropriate amount of guinea pig mix, and then added a dessertspoon of sunflower oil. The pigs loved it and it made their coats shine.
I also recommended the treatment to Heather Henshaw at Sherbert's Shelter, and she successfully cured one of her pigs of the ringworm with the same medicine.
There are other treatments, of course. We were also recommended an anti-fungal shampoo called 'Sporal G' by Trigone, and also just plain tincture of iodine (although I think that would be rather painful on broken skin), plus some homeopathic remedies. I also used the Canesten anti-fungal cream I bought from the pharmacy on Lilith's eye and I think it eased the itching.
The Blue Cross Centre at Burford, UK, has successfully treated guinea-pig ringworm with Imaverol (available from vets both in the UK and US), which has to be diluted 1:50 with water and applied with cotton wool onto the affected parts weekly. It took about 5-6 treatments before the ringworm disappeared.
It is worth continuing treatment for a week or so after symptoms disappear to prevent recurrance.
There are some practical hygiene steps to be taken when dealing with pigs with ringworm, especially in the house. I had a particular sweatshirt I would always wear when handling them (and at no other time) and they had a towel to sit in on the upholstery. Both towel, sweatshirt and other items of clothing were washed very regularly, and hands were washed with an anti-bacterial soap after every time we handled the pigs.
However, I DID get a patch of ringworm myself. Tallulah gave me a tiny scratch on my neck about a week BEFORE she was diagnosed, and I didn't wash it immediately. So I got a red, itchy patch. However, I went to the pharmacist and bought an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream - 'Canesten' - which I rubbed on my neck. After about 3 days the itching and redness had subsided so I stopped using the cream - and the ringworm came back again! It just goes to show how difficult it can be to get rid of! I continued with the cream for another 10 days and it disappeared without trace.
AdviceThe best advice I can give you is