It is essential for your guinea pig’s health that they are kept as clean as possible. If their hair becomes soaked with urine or gets poop stuck in it, they can become sore and also attract flies which can result in a potentially fatal condition called flystrike.
If your guinea pig gets mucky and smelly, they need a bath to protect them from getting nasty, painful conditions.
There are some people who will say that guinea pigs don’t need baths but it’s important to use your intuition. If your guinea pig begins to smell then your nose is telling you it’s time to give them a good wash!
How often you bathe your guinea pig depends on your individual pet. It’s important to bear in mind that you shouldn’t bathe them anymore than is necessary because it can strip out the natural oils in their coat if overdone.
We find our short-haired guinea pigs rarely need bathing and we very seldom bathe them. But our long-haired guinea pigs do have regular baths as they sometimes get a bit smelly around the bottom!
With boars (and sometimes female guinea pigs), the grease gland can become a little smelly and may need cleaning. This doesn’t necessarily require a bath but if you are bathing them you might want to do this beforehand.
Bath time is not generally something that guinea pigs enjoy.
Some guinea pigs are extremely wriggly and are a huge challenge to bathe whereas others tolerate it without too much of a struggle.
If you have an especially nervous guinea pig, 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.
You can buy small pet shampoos online or from a pet store. However, you can use your own shampoo providing it is fairly mild.
We like the Rawganic Organic Pet Shampoo because it contains natural ingredients including lavender and aloe vera. It’s also vegan and cruelty free.
Baby shampoos are formulated for delicate skin and should be very mild so they will be safe to use on your guinea pigs at bath time.
Guinea pigs don’t need conditioner but it doesn’t harm them in any way and is really useful for long-haired guinea pigs as the conditioner will help with the grooming process and make it easier to detangle. It will also make their hair beautifully soft. We use Jason Aloe Vera Conditioner.
Gather up everything you need so you have it to hand, including your shampoo, conditioner and a towel to wrap your guinea pig in after the bath. Also make sure the room is warm so your guinea pig doesn’t get too cold during the bathing process..
Put a bowl in the sink and fill it with warm water that is not too hot or too cold. It should be about an inch or two deep. Test the water with your elbow and if it feels warm then it will be a safe temperature for your guinea pig.
Add a small amount of shampoo to the water and mix it around like you would for a bubble bath.
Carefully lower your guinea pig into the bath. Hold him with one hand underneath his tummy and he might put his front feet on your arm. This is what most of our guinea pigs do!
Using the other hand, bring the water over his back and bottom being careful to avoid getting water on his face and head. Make sure his coat is completely wet.
Squeeze a little shampoo (you don’t need much) on to his back and gently massage into his coat and skin.
Make sure you give him a good clean under his tummy and, in particular, around his bottom. This is the place where he will need the most cleaning.
Once you’ve finished cleaning him, rinse him as much as you can with the water in the bowl.
Then, if you have a mixer tap, get the water to the right temperature without it running over your guinea pig. When it is a consistent warm temperature, hold your guinea pig under the water being careful not to get it in his eyes and rinse.
If your mixer tap tends to change temperature while running you should fill a jug instead for rinsing.
If you want to add conditioner, empty the tub of water and sit him in there while you massage the conditioner into his fur. Then go through the rinse process again. Once he’s thoroughly rinsed, wrap him in the towel.
Some people will feel confident using the kitchen or utility room sink to bathe their guinea pigs. However, if you have a very skittish guinea pig it may be safer to use a large plastic bowl on the floor or on a low table.
Use the same process as you do when bathing in the sink but have 2 bowls. This way, once you’ve finished the shampooing, you can rinse him as much as you can with the existing water and then put him in the second bowl, which should have an inch or 2 of warm water, and rinse him. You might also find a jug of warm water is useful to pour over his back to make sure you’ve got all the shampoo out of his fur.
Don’t use too much shampoo (or conditioner) when bathing like this otherwise it will be difficult to thoroughly rinse out all the soap.
It’s important to towel dry your guinea pig to get the worst of the water out of his fur. 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.
If your guinea pig lives outdoors it’s essential his fur is completely dry before going back outdoors. You can leave him to dry naturally but the room must be warm or he may become ill. Alternatively you can use a hairdryer and give him a blow dry.
Giving your guinea pig a blow dry will help dry his fur quickly, and is especially helpful if you need to put him back in an outdoor hutch. It is also better for his health to dry as quickly as possible unless the weather is very warm in which case this may help him feel a bit cooler.
We use a Babyliss hair dryer which has 3 heat settings plus 2 speeds. We use the medium heat and the low speed for our guinea pigs.
Some hair dryers are very loud and will scare your guinea pig. Make sure the hairdryer you use is as quiet as possible.
A hair dryer that doesn’t have a medium setting may be too hot or too cold for your guinea pig. The air should be warm and the hair dryer shouldn’t be used too close to his skin or face. Be particularly careful around his ears which aren’t covered with fur and are very delicate. They will easily burn.
Keep the hair dryer moving. If you keep it in one place for a long time it can get very hot and will burn him.
You might find your guinea pig hates being blow dried. If this is the case, simply towel dry him as best you can and keep him warm until he is dry. Make sure you don’t wrap him in a wet towel or he will feel cold.
To help him finish drying, you could try setting up an indoor pen so he can have a run around but make sure the room is warm enough for him.