A clean pet is a healthy pet, and if you are committed to taking care of it, then you must clean them and their environment on a regular basis. Their surroundings are even more important, especially if your pet is living in a cage. You’re running the risk of exposing your guinea pig to bacterial growth, fungal infections, and some nasty diseases if you don’t keep it clean.
Do guinea pigs need baths and do they enjoy them? Yes, guinea pigs need baths but not very often. Short-haired guinea pigs can be given a bath once or twice a year while for the long-haired guinea pigs this frequency is every two to three months (only if they are dirty and smelly). Guinea pigs don’t actually enjoy the water, they are not like other common pets (a cat or a dog).
Some guinea pigs only take a bath once or twice during the whole year. This is only possible if you always keep their cage clean and you only have short-haired guinea pigs.
Even with long-haired guinea pigs like Peruvian guinea pigs, they need regular grooming, but you should only bathe them once a month at most. You probably will only need to wash their bums when their coat gets soiled.
In this article, we are going to go over everything related to guinea pig baths and give you an instructional guide for bathing and grooming. Let’s start!
Reasons Not to Bathe Your Guinea Pig Often
There are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t bathe your pet guinea pigs often:
• Guinea Pigs Can Clean Themselves
Your guinea pigs are excellent self-groomers especially the short-haired ones, so they don’t really need to hop on the bathtub often. So in most cases, you can just let them take care of their coat and fur themselves.
• Bathing Them Removes the Natural Oils on Their Skin
Especially if you use shampoo for humans (which I advise you NOT to do), this will strip the natural oils from your guinea pigs’ coat and will make their skin dry, which will do more harm than good.
• Your Guinea Pig Might Become Chilled and Stressed
Most guinea pigs don’t like water for any purpose other than drinking it, and it is also true for some other domestic animals like cats. If your pet guinea pig finds bathing stressful and chills a lot after bathing, especially during the winter season, it will catch colds and get sick easily.
It might be best to wipe them instead with a damp washcloth or unscented baby wipes to remove urine or feces from their fur.
When to Bathe Your Pet Guinea Pig More Than Once a Month
• When Your Exotic Vet Tells You to
However, follow the vet’s instructions carefully on how often you should bathe your pets, what particular shampoo to use on their coat, and what to look out for while bathing them. Diarrhea can also make guinea pig’s bum filthy, so just wash that part only.
• When Your Pets Have Extremely Dirty Fur
If your pet is only dirty on one spot like its bum, wiping it clean with a towel or just washing that part is enough. In case its whole body’s fur is highly felted then you can consider giving it a full bath.
• When You Are Grooming Your Pet for Guinea Pig Shows
You would want your pet to look and smell its best during pet shows, so you need to bathe your pet before taking it to the show.
Never Bathe Your Guinea Pig Under the Following Conditions
- If the guinea pig is under six months old
- The guinea pig is suffering from any sickness especially respiratory illness
Necessary Equipment for a Guinea Pig Bath
- Container or a big bowl with a washcloth underneath where you’ll bathe your pet so it won’t slip or slide. The container must have sides that are high enough that your guinea pig won’t be able to jump out.
- Towels – one for shampooing your guinea pig and another one or two for drying your guinea pig after a bath.
- Special shampoo for guinea pigs – Ask your exotic vet for recommendations. In the case of parasitic infestations or fungal infections on your guinea pig, your vet will prescribe a different shampoo. If you can’t find any shampoo recommended for guinea pigs (click on this link to see our recommendations for a guinea pig shampoo), then a mild shampoo for kittens (not cats!) can be used.
- Hairdryer with a low setting
Related: Can Guinea Pigs Swim in a Bathtub?
How to Give a Guinea Pig a Bath – Step by Step Instructions
Step 1 – Pour Warm Water onto Your Container
As a rule of thumb, the water should just reach a guinea pig’s belly when it stands up in the container.
Step 2 – Calm Your Guinea Pig First Before Bathing It
Your guinea pig might become anxious and stressed once you start bathing it, so you need to relax it first. To do this, you can pet its fur gently or give it a treat. Do this while you are bringing your pet to the bath area.
Step 3 – Slowly Lower Your Guinea Pig into the Container
You may want to touch the warm water with one of its feet first so it can get used to it. Another tip is to have a veggie treat nearby to distract it while you are lowering it into the container.
If your guinea pig is wriggling too much, take the container and put it on a bathtub so your pet won’t be able to jump out and get away.
Step 4 – Watch the Water Level
Make sure that your guinea pig’s nose and mouth are out of the water when it is standing up. Give it a few minutes in the water to adjust. Gently pour water onto its back. Avoid getting water on to its eyes, nose, ears, and mouth.
Step 5 – Apply the Shampoo
Once thoroughly wet, lift your guinea pig with a towel and let the excess water drip on it. Start lathering its body gently with shampoo, again avoiding its head and parts of the face.
If your guinea pig’s head is really dirty, lather shampoo on it with your finger. Avoid getting any shampoo on its eyes. If you’re giving your pet an anti-parasitic bath, follow carefully any special instructions written on the prescribed shampoo.
NOTE: You can use this moment to gently feel your pet guinea pig’s body for any bumps or lumps.
Step 6 – Rinse Your Guinea Pig with Water
Once you’ve shampooed your guinea pig thoroughly, put it back into the container and rinse two to three times, changing the water for every rinse until all the residue of shampoo has been washed away.
Step 7 – Slowly and Gently Apply the Towel
Lift your guinea pig out of the water and place it on the other dry towel. Gently wrap up your pet with the towel and dry its fur. Don’t fret if your pet starts shivering but keep towel drying until the shivering stops.
Press gently on its body with your towel but try to dry it as quick as possible to prevent chills. You may want to use another dry towel if the one you’re using gets too damp.
Step 8 – Dry Your Guinea Pig Completely
Fully dry your guinea pig’s fur with the hairdryer. Use the lowest settings in order not to burn your pet. Keep moving the dryer but avoid its ears and then brush its fur while you’re blow-drying it to remove tangles. Make sure your pet is completely dry before putting it back in its cage.
Related: How to Give Guinea Pigs A Bath?
Guinea Pig Grooming: Instructional Guide
While bathing your guinea pigs should be done rarely, grooming them should be done regularly. It is the best way to keep your guinea pigs clean. It is also a great way to increase your bond with your pets.
Here are some basic tips for grooming your pet guinea pigs:
For short-haired guinea pigs, you should regularly brush their coats once or twice a week. It is a different story with long-haired guinea pigs though, as you need to do it daily to prevent hair tangling and matting of their fur. Use narrow-toothed pet combs for brushing.
Most guinea pigs enjoy being brushed because the motion is similar to petting. You should also use this opportunity to feel any lumps or bumps on your pet.
Most guinea pigs are not comfortable having their nails trimmed, but you should do it nevertheless at least once every 4 to 8 weeks. You may consult the help of an exotic vet so he can show you how to do it or he can trim your pets’ nails for you.
Regardless, you should never try clipping your pets’ nails if you don’t know what you’re doing.
This is because of “quick” which is a blood vessel at the center of the nail. If you accidentally clip this part along with the nail, it will result in pain and bleeding to the poor guinea pig. Use grooming scissors and not the nail clipper that you use on your nails!
Clean Grease Gland
Grease gland is a small area of skin on a guinea pig. It is located at the base of its spine just above its anus. The need to clean this area differs for every guinea pig, but most male guinea pigs have an active grease gland that secretes a pungent oil that gets sticky and stinky and can lead to infection if left unchecked.
This can be easily cleaned with a cotton swab soaked in a non-abrasive cleaning agent, butt baths with soap, or by rubbing gently with a dry cloth.
As a commitment to being a loving guinea pig owner, you should learn how to do these grooming tips to keep your guinea pigs clean and healthy. They might be able to groom themselves, but they also sometimes need a little help from you.
Overall, guinea pigs require a good amount of attention and low maintenance, but cleaning them and their environment will make sure that they live a happy and healthy life with you.
List of Sources
Johnson, P., Guidelines for the Housing of Guinea Pigs in Scientific Institutions, Animal Welfare Branch, New South Wales Department of Prima, 2006.
Griffiths, J. H., Some Common Parasites of Small Laboratory Animals, Univesity of Minnesota, 1971.
Richardson, V., Management of skin conditions in guinea pigs, Veterinary Nursing Journal, 2014.
Richardson, V., Care of guinea pigs, Veterinary Nursing Journal, 2011.
O’Malley, B., Intensive Care of Rodents, Veterinary Nursing Journal, 2014.
Donnelly, T. M., Brown, C. J., Guinea pig and chinchilla care and husbandry., Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice, 2004.