Guinea pigs can be bathed and it’s important if they do become dirty and smelly that you wash them to prevent your pet getting infections and skin irritations. One particular danger for a guinea pig who is in need of a bath is flystrike - this can be fatal and it is the smell and damp on his coat or in the cage that attracts flies.
How often should you bathe your guinea pig?
Bathing should actually be quite a rare occasion if they are regularly groomed. However, there may be times, especially with longer-haired guinea pig breeds that you find their coat needs a good clean. About every 3 months for a long-haired breed should be sufficient but use your own judgement by checking them regularly. Short-haired guinea pigs don't get anywhere near as dirty as long-haired breeds so shouldn't need bathing so much.
Bear in mind that bathing too often can dry out their skin and strip their coat of essential oils that keep it in good condition.
In boars (and sometimes female guinea pigs), the grease gland can become a little smelly and should be regularly cleaned. This doesn’t require a bath but if you are bathing them you might want to do this beforehand.
How to Keep Bathing to a Minimum
Regular grooming will keep your pet’s hair in good condition, remove a lot of dirt and cut down on the amount of times they need to be bathed, so it is vital you do this on a regular basis. See our grooming page for full details on how to groom your guinea pig.
Keeping their housing clean will also help keep their coats clean as it will prevent their hair dragging in dirt, debris or wet bedding.
Do guinea pigs like baths?
Bathtime is not something that guinea pigs enjoy. Some dislike it more than others which means it can be difficult to keep them still while trying to wash them.
If you have an especially nervous guinea pig that is not that tame, you will need to be very gentle and calm as they are more likely to protest than one that is more used to being handled.
Bathtime Kit Guide
- Large washing up bowl or baby bath: (only use this for your guinea pigs and not for washing up!)
- 2 Towels for drying: Make sure they are soft and absorbent as well as being big enough to wrap them in.
- Extra towel for potential spillages: A towel for underneath the bathtub to catch any spills
- Guinea pig shampoo: It is best to use shampoo that is especially made for guinea pigs as it will be mild and designed for their delicate skin.
How to give your guinea pig a bath
Some people will use the kitchen sink or the wash basin in their bathroom to bathe their guinea pigs. However, it is much safer to use a large plastic bowl (like a large washing up bowl) or even a baby bath which is on the floor or on a low table.
Some guinea pigs can be extremely wriggly during bathtime and will try to escape during the bathing session. So using a bowl that is on the floor reduces the risk of potentially dropping your pet or of them escaping and falling. This also makes it a lot easier to take them out of the bath and put them straight into a towel.
How to prepare the bathing area:
- Set out an absorbent towel on the table or floor (on which to place the bath)
- Lay out the soft towel which you will use to wrap around your pet after they have been washed
- Place the shampoo next to the bath
- Fill the bath so that it has a couple of inches of lukewarm water in it. It must not be too deep - reaching their tummy but not above the level of their chins
- Test the heat of the water with your elbow, as you would for a small baby. This gives a clearer indication of how warm it is
- Fill a large jug with lukewarm water and check this is the correct temperature as you did with the bath. This will be used to rinse your pet
Time for the bath...
Once you are all ready and have everything to hand, take your guinea pig gently and lower him into the bath. Hold him with one hand underneath his tummy to prevent him going underwater. Using the other hand, bring the water over his back and bottom being careful to avoid getting water on his face and head.
Squeeze a little shampoo (you don’t need much) on to his back and gently massage into his coat. Make sure you give him a good clean underneath and, in particular, around his bottom. This is the place where he will need the most cleaning.
It can help if you talk softly to him as you wash. Always keep calm as this will help him relax.
Once you have finished washing him, cup your free hand in the water and rinse his back, bottom and tummy to remove the shampoo. Once you’ve removed as much as you can, use the jug of water to gently pour over his back (don’t get it over his head or face) to rinse the last traces of shampoo. It is important you rinse all the soap off so that his sensitive skin doesn't become irritated.
Using both hands (one under his bottom to support him and one under his belly, pick him up and put him straight into the towel. Wrap him up and sit down with him on your lap. You might need an extra towel to prevent your legs getting soaked!
How to dry your guinea pig
Gently rub your pet dry. Don’t rub vigorously as many guinea pigs don’t like this, use more of a gentle massaging motion to make him feel at ease.
Some people use hairdryers but some can become very hot and can be noisy. Our guinea pigs don't really like hairdryers but some don't mind. If you do use one, make sure it is on the medium setting and is not hot. Use the low power setting and don't let it get close to his skin as it can burn. keep the drier moving so it doesn't overheat him in one area. If you find your pet doesn't like a blow-dry, don't do it.
If your guinea pig lives outside, you must wait until he is thoroughly dry before he goes back in his hutch to avoid him catching a chill.
If you're towel-drying your pet, you will need a second dry towel. Sitting in a damp towel isn’t good for him and he will get very cold. You can use the second towel to dry him a bit more or just to wrap him in while he dries.
To help him finish drying, you could try setting up an indoor pen to let him have a run around but make sure the room is warm enough for him.
How to clean your guinea pig’s ears
It is also important to make sure you guinea pig's ears are clean and free from mites. Check inside his ears weekly and gently clean them by wiping the skin with a moist cotton wool pad to clean out any debris and muck.
Relax and enjoy bathtime with your guinea pig!
Remember, bathtime for your guinea pig should be as stress-free as possible. Make sure you feel relaxed and always have all the bits and pieces you need to hand before you begin. This will ensure it is as good experience as possible for the two of you.