Many owners often place a huge playpen in their front or backyard for their guinea pigs to roam about more freely. As these furry friends enjoy their time exploring, dirt and other particles may get caught in their coats.
While the first thing that comes to mind is to give your guinea pig a bath, is it necessary to do so?
In this article, we’ll discuss when you should and shouldn’t bathe a guinea pig and why he may smell. We’ll also share how to bathe a guinea pig safely, some alternatives to a wet bath and how to keep your tiny fur friend clean!
*Disclaimer: This article provides general information that should not be used in place of professional advice from a vet. Please consult a vet about their recommended procedure for cleaning a hamster.
Do Guinea Pigs Need A Bath?
The answer is rarely! These small creatures are incredibly clean and groom themselves on a regular basis. Thus, you don’t have to give your guinea pig a bath unless necessary.
Bathing your guinea pig too frequently can remove the natural oils from his skin and coat, causing it to become dry and itchy.
When to bathe a guinea pig
If your guinea pig has a relatively clean living space, you should only bathe him a few times a year. You may also wish to give him a bath if:
- Dirt and waste is trapped in his coat Long-haired breeds are more prone to having dirt and waste caught in their coats. As such, they may need a bath to remove these particles.
If only one spot of your guinea pig’s coat is dirty, you can simply spot clean him with a towel or wet wipe.
- He has an infection (e.g. parasitic or fungal) If your guinea pig has an infection, you may need to give him a bath with medicated shampoo prescribed by the vet. Just follow your vet’s instructions on how to use the shampoo!
When not to bathe a guinea pig
While there are certain instances where bathing is required, there are also situations where you should avoid bathing your guinea pig:
- When your guinea pig is pregnant
- If your guinea pig is below 6 months of age
- If your guinea pig is having a cold or suffering from a respiratory infection
Reasons For Odors In A Guinea Pig
Guinea pigs are clean creatures. Thus, if you begin to pick up an odor, it could be due to the cleanliness of their cage, their diet or certain health conditions.
A dirty cage can cause your guinea pig to have strong odors. Thus, it’s important to clean his cage frequently and thoroughly.
On average, spot cleaning should be done once or twice a day and thorough cleaning of the cage should be done once a week.
Your guinea pig’s diet can also be a cause of odors. Hence, it’s important to ensure that he gets sufficient fibre throughout the day and this can be obtained from fresh hay.
You may also want to limit his intake of vegetables and fruits that are high in sugar.
When your guinea pig is sick, he may have difficulties maintaining his hygiene. Below are some health conditions that can cause your pet to emit an odor:
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Symptoms: Straining or crying when urinating, wet bottom, blood in the bedding
If your guinea pig is suffering from UTI, his urine may smell bad, resulting in strong odors. You may also notice him urinating more frequently than usual.
Bladder stones may occur alongside UTIs. This condition is very painful for your pet and can possibly be fatal.
If you suspect that your guinea pig has bladder stones, you’re advised to bring him to the vet immediately.
Symptoms: Watery feces
The gastrointestinal tract of these tiny creatures is highly sensitive. An improper diet can easily cause their digestive system to be upset, resulting in diarrhea and feces that are smellier than usual. If his feces gets smudged onto his fur, he can carry terrible odors.
How To Bathe A Guinea Pig
Before bathing your guinea pig, you’ll need to prepare the following items:
1. Shallow bucket
3. Guinea pig shampoo
Step 1: Prepare the bath
Grab the shallow bucket and fill it with 2 – 3cm of warm water. If you prefer to bathe him in the bathroom sink, you can use a sink stopper to create a similar shallow bath.
To prevent your guinea pig from slipping and sliding around during the bath, place a cloth at the bottom of the sink or bucket.
Step 2: Calm your guinea pig
Taking baths can be stressful for your guinea pig. Thus, taking some time to calm him down before beginning the bath will help to make the process smoother and less stressful for him.
Here are some ways to calm your guinea pig:
• Hold him in your arms
• Talk to him in a soothing voice
• Stroke him gently
• Give him a treat to distract him
Step 3: Introduce your guinea pig to the water
Once he’s calm, allow him to get used to the water by dipping his toes in first.
Step 4: Wet your guinea pig’s fur
After he has gotten more comfortable with the idea of a bath, gently pour a scoop of water over his body.
Be careful to keep your guinea pig’s face out of the water and ensure that water doesn’t get into his ears.
Step 5: Lather the shampoo
Now you’re ready to get scrubbing! Grab the guinea pig shampoo and lather it all over his body.
Step 6: Rinse with water
Next, rinse him with water to remove the shampoo. You can repeat this 2 or 3 times to ensure that he’s completely clean.
Step 7: Blow-dry with a hairdryer
Once all the shampoo has been rinsed off, it’s time to dry his fur!
Use a towel to dry him slightly before drying him with the hairdryer. You’ll want to make sure that the device is turned to the ‘cold’ setting and avoid aiming the gust of air at his ears.
After his fur is dry, leave him in a warm space for a couple of hours to prevent him from catching a cold.
Step 8: Brush your guinea pig’s fur
Finally, don’t forget to brush his fur! This step is particularly important for long-haired breeds.
With a guinea pig brush or soft-bristled brush, remove any tangles in his fur and comb gently. This helps to prevent matting as well.
If you notice any bumps on his skin, take him to the vet as soon as possible as it could be a sign of health conditions.
Alternatives To Bathing A Guinea Pig
If your guinea pig isn’t too dirty, you can use these alternative methods to clean him.
Brushing with dusting powder
Dusting powder or dry shampoo is a great way to clean your guinea pig. Simply apply some of the substance to his fur before using a stiff brush to comb through his coat.
If only one spot of your guinea pig’s fur is dirty, you can try spot cleaning him. Just get a piece of pet wipes or a damp cloth and clean off the dirty spot on his coat.
How To Keep A Guinea Pig Clean
Keeping your guinea pig clean starts with keeping his cage clean. These are some ways of ensuring that he lives in a clean environment:
Change the bedding
1. Clear out the bedding from your pet’s cage and replace it with a new one
2. Line the cage with newspaper
3. Spread hay all over the floor of the cage
Clean the cage
1. Remove your guinea pig carefully and place him in a travelling cage or enclosed space
2. Remove the bedding from his cage
3. Spray a cage cleaner all around and wipe
4. Rinse the cage with water to remove any residue
5. Leave the cage to air-dry before placing fresh bedding back in
Make sure to use a cage cleaner that’s safe for small animals and check that it doesn’t contain harsh scents.
If you prefer to use a homemade solution, mix water and distilled white vinegar in equal amounts.
Spot clean the cage
Frequency: Throughout the day
1. Check for feces or soiled patches
2. Remove the feces and replace the wet patches
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I bathe my guinea pig?
If your guinea pig is healthy and living in a clean environment, you’re recommended to only bathe him a few times a year (at most).
Can I use human shampoo on my guinea pig?
No, please do not use human shampoo on your guinea pig! You should only use shampoos designed for guinea pigs.
When in doubt, consult a vet to make sure that the shampoo is safe for use.
Can I bathe my guinea pig with just water?
Yes, you can use just water to bathe your guinea pig! Using shampoo too often may strip his skin and coat of natural oils.
Can I blow dry my guinea pig?
Yes, you’re recommended to use a hairdryer to dry your guinea pig fully after his bath. Make sure to use the ‘cold’ setting to prevent him from getting too hot.
Bathing Your Guinea Pig
Ensuring that your guinea pig is clean and healthy is a major concern for all pet parents. With these 8 simple steps, you can now give your guinea pig a bath safely.
If you have any questions about cleaning your guinea pig, approach your vet for advice!