Cavy lice, sometimes referred to as running lice, are host specific and need a guinea pig to survive. These lice are considered chewing lice, not sucking lice, and actually abrade the skin to obtain fluid.
The most common type of louse is Gliricola porcelli. This is a slender, flattened, light colored (white to pale) insect about 1 to 1.5 mm in size with no wings. The lice can be seen moving through the fur near the skin and, in heavy infestations, around the eyes. Lice are typically found around the head, neck, ears, and rump.
The life cycle of lice is about three weeks. Transmission normally happens through direct contact with another guinea pig or contaminated bedding or other equipment. A person carrying an infested animal can also transfer eggs or lice from their clothing to another animal.
The Rutgers Cooperative Extension fact sheet “Common Mites of Your Rabbit and Small Animals Part II – Cavy Lice” provides an overview of the types of lice, how they are transmitted, life cycle, signs and symptoms, and treatment.
By Jeannette Rea Keywood, State 4-H Agent, Department of 4-H Youth Development, Rutgers Cooperative Extension