Guinea pigs are clean creatures... for the most part. Sometimes they may need a little help from their piggy parents when it comes to their hygiene. That brings us to the age old question many new and even experienced pet owners have: do guinea pigs need baths?
The quick answer to this question is, YES they do, however, it is not as often as you may think. Many guinea pigs and even pet owners, find bathing a very stressful experience. That’s why we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help guide you through it!
How often should I bathe my guinea pig?
Unlike humans, guinea pigs will only ever need a bath approximately 2 to 4 times a year. For hairless varieties, bathing is very rarely encouraged due to their particularly sensitive skin, and their difficulty in regulating their temperature. For specific care advice for skinny pigs, check out our article, ‘The Ultimate Guide to Hairless and Skinny Guinea Pigs’.
Some may be tempted to give their guinea pig a bath every month! However, unless directed by a vet, this is strongly discouraged. Guinea pigs have natural oils on their skin and fur in order to keep them healthy. When their skin is over washed, you are stripping away their natural oils, putting them at risk of having irritated, dry or cracked skin.
That brings us to our next question...
When should I give my Guinea pig a bath?
As mentioned above, guinea pigs will very rarely need baths unless needed for the following reasons:
- If you are applying preventative or active treatment (for skin problems or infestations…)
- To refresh them when it’s too hot (especially if your piggies are at risk of heatstroke)
- Or, when their hair is particularly soiled (especially long-haired GP)
What do I need to bathe my Guinea pig?
Time to prepare! You will need the following before you get started.
- Sink or wash basin/container (with a flat surface)
- Guinea Pig Safe Shampoo
- Hand dryer
- Veggies or guinea pig safe snack
- Child Safe bath Thermometer (Optional)
A word of caution on ShampooGuinea pig skin is much more sensitive than humans. It is often recommended to choose a shampoo that is safe for small pets. These are available through local pet supply shops or reputable online sellers.
Alternatively, experienced guinea pig owners have discovered that human anti-dandruff shampoo can be used as a good preventative treatment for ringworm.
HOW DO I BATH MY GUINEA PIG?
Start by adding lukewarm water into a basin or sink until it’s roughly where it is the height above your guinea pig’s legs. Ensure you keep the water level below their mouth and neck to keep them comfortable.
Test the temperature of the water by running it on the inside of your wrist as this area is more sensitive. You can also choose a child safe bath thermometer to help as water that is too hot can burn your guinea pig or water that is too cool can make them shiver and lead to illness.
Place a washcloth or towel in the bottom of the wash basin. This will provide your guinea pig with some grip on the slippery surface.
Gently lift your guinea pig and place them in the water and allow them to get used to the situation. Bathing can be stressful, so take your time, don’t rush your pet. Once comfortable, take some water in your cup or hands and pour it gently over their back. Do your best to avoid wetting their head, particularly their eyes, nose and ears!
When your guinea pig is sufficiently wet, you can start to add in the shampoo. Use a guinea pig safe shampoo and start to gently lather it into their fur. To clean your piggy’s belly, lift your Guinea pig with one hand for support while keeping their hind legs in the water.
Once lathered, gently place your guinea pig on a towel and remove the soiled soapy water from the basin or sink. Refill the basin using lukewarm water the same way completed in steps 1 and 2. Return your guinea pig to the basin and gently rinse them off. Ensure that there are no traces of soap left.
Now, it’s time to dry off! By removing your guinea pig from the warm water, it will cause their body temperature to drop, so you will need to ensure that they are completely dry before returning them back to their cage. Dry their fur by wrapping your guinea pig in a towel and gently dab their coat. To finish drying, use a hair dryer set on the lowest temperature setting and use the dryer from a distance.
After all that hard work, be sure to reward your piggy for a job well done with their favourite food.
Bathing After Care
Some piggy parents will take bath time as an opportunity to perform additional grooming on their guinea pigs, also playfully known as guinea pig spa day. This type of care includes cutting your guinea pig’s nails and trimming long or matted hair. Wet hair is often easier to work with when removing knots and tangles.
A word of caution! We strongly recommend that you only do light grooming as bathing is often stressful for many piggies. Always work within your pet’s comfort level and gauge how much they can tolerate.