Guinea pigs are one of my favorite animals. I am so charmed by their cute little faces and the array of noises they make. And forget about when they eat. I could watch them chew food all day because it is so stinkin adorable!
As guinea pig owners, we want what is best for them. Good food, a clean enclosure, plenty of love and kisses…and baths! Yes, you can bathe your little piggie.
Guinea pigs don’t need a bath more than a few times a year, and they aren’t terribly crazy about it. But as long as it’s done with a loving hand, they will be just fine.
In this article, I will discuss guinea pigs and how to bathe them carefully. I will also touch on other ways you can help keep them clean.
A Short History of the Guinea Pig
I always like to give a little history behind the animals I write about, as I feel it’s important to have some background. Plus, guinea pigs have a super exciting history!
The guinea pig, who belongs to the rodent family, is originally from the Andes Mountains in South America. These little cuties appear in folk art beginning around 500 BCE, and they played an important role in Peruvian medicine. Some civilizations even used them for religious worship!
Many believe that the guinea pig has a unique way of acknowledging sickness in others.
Guinea pigs eventually made their way to Europe in the 16th century when Spanish explorers introduced them as pets. They were valued as loving pets by many European monarchs. Queen Elizabeth I of England adored them. How cool is that?
Through the centuries, guinea pigs have continued to make wonderful pets throughout Europe and the Americas.
Do Guinea Pigs Enjoy Being Bathed?
I will start by saying that most guinea pigs are not huge fans of water.
However, you don’t need to do so that frequently. So as long as you are aware that they might be a little nervous, all should go well.
How Often Do Guinea Pigs Need a Bath?
Thankfully, they only need to be bathed a few times a year; usually, about 2 to 4 times, depending on how dirty they get. In fact, over bathing is not recommended as they have sensitive skin and can have trouble keeping warm.
They also have natural oils in their skin, just like dogs, and we don’t want that to be washed away. However, they should be washed if they are particularly soiled. They also like a cool bath if it’s particularly hot out as they are susceptible to heatstroke.
Have Everything Ready
As with any pet, if you are going to bath them, you want to make sure you have everything you need upfront.
Also, a quick word of caution on shampoo. You will see plenty of shampoo for pets, but you want to choose one specially made for guinea pigs. Their skin is very sensitive, so even human shampoo can strip their oils.
I personally prefer Kaytee Squeaky Clean Critter Small Animal Shampoo. It’s a gentle shampoo with a perfect PH Balance that is safe to use, and it has conditioners in it that will keep your guinea pig’s coat healthy.
It also won’t irritate her eyes should any of the product get in there. It has a mild baby powder scent which is nonirritating and will leave your guinea pig smelling great.
Kaytee Squeaky Clean Critter Animal Shampoo is safe for guinea pigs and rabbits.
To bathe your guinea pig, you will need:
- A sink full of warm but not hot water. You can test the water with your elbow or wrist to ensure it’s just right. Make sure the water is only a few inches, as you don’t want it any higher than your guinea pig’s shoulders
- Guinea pig-specific shampoo (do not get a cat or dog shampoo). Rabbit shampoo is fine too
- A clean washcloth
- A clean, dry towel
- A blow dryer
- A soft hairbrush
- A small cup
Steps on Bathing Your Guinea Pig
- Place the clean washcloth at the bottom of the sink, as this gives your guinea pig a firm footing so she won’t slip. Be sure not to submerge her head.
- Be patient and allow her to get used to the sensation. Talk to her in a calm voice. Slowly and gently pour some warm water on her back. You can use your hand or a small cup.
- If she tolerates this well, you can wet the rest of her body but stay away from her face.
- Take a pea to quarter size squirt of shampoo and work it into a lather all over your guinea pig’s body, except her face. Spend close attention to her rear, if it’s soiled, and her little feet. You can clean her little belly by gently lifting her out of the water and keeping your other hand firmly on her.
- With clean, warm water from the tap, begin to rinse her off. If you have a double sink, you can have the other side filled with clean, warm water for rinsing if you wish. She may be startled by the sound of the faucet coming on. Make sure you rinse all of the soap off of her.
- Carefully life her out of the water and place her in a towel. It is a good idea to have a towel that is fresh from the dryer, so it’s warm. An even better idea is to have two if the first one gets too wet, especially if she starts to shiver.
- You can begin to gently brush her hair, pulling through any tangles she may have if she’s long-haired.
- With the blow dryer set to the slowest speed and the coolest temperature, drying her fur, being careful to avoid getting air in her face. The sound of the blow dryer may startle her, but she will get used to it once she realizes she isn’t in danger.
- As you are blow-drying, continue to brush through any tangles should they arise.
- Give her a treat and place her back into a clean and dry enclosure when you are done. She may be a little stressed out and want to rest.
What Can I Do for Touch-Ups Between Baths?
If you feel your piggie is a bit soiled but doesn’t need a full bath, you can spot clean her with a clean washcloth with a touch of warm, soapy water, using your guinea pig’s shampoo.
You can also apply guinea pig dusting powder to her fur and brush through the dirty part with a stiff but soft brush.
What I use is Kaylee Super Pet Critter Bath Powder. It’s made purely of natural volcanic mountain pumice. It’s 100 % non-toxic and hypoallergenic.
What About Taking it a Step Further?
Like other pets, guinea pigs do need their nails trimmed, and if they are long-haired, they may need mats cut out.
Trimming Your Guinea Pig’s Nails
Your piggy’s little nails grow just like ours and will need to be trimmed if they get too long. If they aren’t cut, they can begin to curl inwards, which can lead to open wounds, infections, foot ulcers, or bumblefoot.
Her nails only need to be trimmed once or twice a month, but one of the best times to do this is after a bath, as the nails will be soft and easy to cut.
Trimming her nails is not painful but should be done with a special nail trimmer for guinea pigs. Look for a product that is specially made for guinea pigs and rabbits. Do not use a cat or dog trimmer.
Trimming Your Guinea Pig’s Hair
Some breeds of guinea pigs have long hair and will be more susceptible to matting. Trimming is also important around her bum as this area can become soiled, which can lead to infections.
Unless her hair is over three inches long, she may not need an overall haircut. It may be that just the mats need to be cute.
Rounded tips are the best and safest for trimming her hair. Do not use scissors with sharp edges as you want to avoid any injuries.
Breeds of Guinea Pigs With Long Hair
When in Doubt, Get a Professional
While bathing your guinea pig is pretty easy, you may feel slightly nervous about trimming her nails or removing any mats.
In this event, you can always check with your veterinarian or a groomer familiar with guinea pigs.
We’ve learned that guinea pigs require just as much care as dogs or cats. You probably already knew that, though!
To bathe your guinea pig, you want to be sure you have everything you need ahead of time. With a gentle touch and a soothing voice, you can make the bathing experience less stressful and perhaps even pleasurable for her!