Grooming & Bathing

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Grooming your guinea pig is part of the regular (and often daily) maintenance that comes along with being a responsible owner.

If done correctly, it can be a pleasurable experience for both you and your pet; providing an opportunity to bond, for your cavy to relax and enjoy an attentive massage as well as give you essential access to review their overall health condition.

The frequency of the grooming will be largely dependent on the type of breed you own.

Long-haired guinea pigs will need daily grooming whilst short haired pets require less frequent attention. And, whilst hairless varieties will certainly not appreciate a brush they will need attention under the ‘grooming’ section.

It’s recommended to invest in the best quality you can afford as you will want them to last. Cheaper items often mean poor quality and not only will you have to replace them more quickly but they also don’t do the best job and can even end up hurting your pet.

Brushing out

So, now you’re ready to start grooming.

With longer haired guineas it is recommended that you brush them out daily with the bristle brush before combing them through. This is to help them shed their loose hair and prevent tangling.

When you brush them out, check the length of their coat and give them a trim where necessary. Whilst they may look good when you are done grooming, excess hair dragging along the floor will collect debris more quickly, become wet with urine and become dirty. It’s usually a good idea to do this monthly.

After brushing your guinea pig out, check underneath that mass of fur with the metal comb to have a look at the skin underneath. It’s essential that you do this every week to look for raw, irritated or infected areas so that you can identify any underlying health conditions. Parasites may be a cause as can irritation from a low-quality bedding grass or other irritant. Your guinea pig may also be scratching an area that is causing them pain. 

Stress for a guinea pig can also lead to hair loss, so make sure to look out for any signs of this.

If you are concerned about an area of the skin which looks sore, then take your pet to a vet for further advice and diagnosis.

Ears

Check inside their ears once a week and gently wipe the skin with a moist cotton wool pad to clean out any debris and muck.

Cleaning the grease gland

The area around the bottom can become quite grubby and may smell; guinea pigs have a gland around this area which becomes greasy and, particularly in boars, can smell quite potent.

Brushing the hair around this area, will clean any debris.

You can apply some Extra Virgin cold pressed coconut oil to the grease gland which also has anti-fungal properties, and can help keep this area less stinky!

If you apply a little Swarfega to the grease gland before bathing, it will aid in the cleaning by dissolving the grease that has built up.

Giving your guinea pig a bath

It is not recommended that you give your guinea pig a bath too frequently as this can dry their skin out and actually strip their coat of the essential oils that they need. However, there are times when you need to give your cavy a bath, especially the long haired breeds. Some institutes recommend monthly bathing but twice yearly should be sufficient. 

Whilst you could bathe your guinea pig in a kitchen sink, it is a good idea to have a specific bowl or basin that you can use to do this. Not only will this keep infection risks down but the potential for dropping your pet is reduced, particularly if they wriggle a lot when you take them out. 

Prepare the area in which you are going to give your cavy a bath and make sure that they have somewhere warm and cosy they can dry off; don’t attempt a bath in the middle of winter and then to put them straight into an outside enclosure! Have a couple of towels at the ready as well as some warm rinsing water in a jug.

The ‘bath’ should be filled to a depth of around two inches with lukewarm water; basically, it should reach their underbelly but never go 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.

Firstly, it’s a good idea to give the grease gland a bit of attention prior to getting them wet. Apply a small amount of shampoo or Swarfega to this area and massage it in.

Keeping your hands close to your cavy, place them gently in the water and wet them thoroughly using a jug without pouring water over their head and face. Apply a strip of shampoo down their spine and massage well into their hair and skin. 

Using a cotton wool pad, gently wipe the face with clean water and some of the lather from the hair and allow to soak in.

Rinse the body well with clean water from a jug and then wipe the face with a damp washcloth until there is no lather remaining. 

Take your pet out of the bath using a towel and dry them gently using a second towel. Ideally you should allow them to dry naturally in a clean, warm indoor environment but some guinea pigs can tolerate the noise from a hairdryer. If you have a long haired animal that you want to dry off in this way then make sure you use a low heat setting and keep a good grip on your pet in case of ‘jumping’.

The process of giving your guinea pig a bath will very much depend on the character of your cavy as well as how you approach the event. If you are stressed and nervous then this will communicate to your furry friend. Be confident, be positive and be prepared.

Trimming toenails

In order to avoid your guinea pig’s nails growing too long and requiring a trip to the vets you should trim their nails once a month. 

Many owners get nervous about doing this as they are scared about cutting, what is known as, the ‘quick’.

The ‘quick’ is a blood supply to your pet’s nails that extends through the nail itself but stops just before the new growth. Cutting the nail causes the quick to recede slightly making the next time a little easy. 

Pick your guinea pig up and hold them securely on your lap. The best position is if you place them with their back against your stomach so you can hold their paws in front of them. Look carefully at the nail and you may be able to see where the quick is. In lighter coloured nails, you can see the quick as a darker line running through but in darker nails you will need to be more careful. Trim to just below the line of the quick.

If you do accidentally cut the quick, then it may bleed; don’t panic. You can stem the blood using a styptic pencil which you can purchase from the shaving section of any good pharmacy.

Guinea Pig looking around

Summary

Irrespective of the breed of your guinea pig, grooming is an essential part of their regular care and maintenance.

Without your help, your guinea pig's coat will quickly become dirty, tangled and make them susceptible to disease, parasites and sores. It is an obligation of responsible ownership that you make sure this is done regularly, carefully and with the right attention to all of those general health matters that you can pick up upon during the grooming process. It should be a pleasant and enjoyable experience for both you and your pet and allows you an opportunity to have a sneaky cuddle at the same time as getting the job done. It helps to keep a written record of when certain things have been done such as nail clipping, bathing and a haircut.

Be consistent in your approach and you will find that grooming time is something to look forward to for both of you.