Generally, your guinea pig will take care of their hygiene by themselves. Guinea pigs are naturally a little anxious, so baths should be avoided unless certain exceptions. Even so, there are definitely times when it’s time to break out the shampoo, such as if they have a poop accident or if they’re infested with parasites. Let’s talk about when it’s appropriate to bathe your pig, and how to do so safely.
Can You Give a Guinea Pig a Bath?
If left to their own devices, guinea pigs tend to keep themselves clean. Occasionally, they might develop a little bit of an odor, but you really shouldn’t have to bathe them more than a few times a year purely based on smell alone. If they develop a bad odor more frequently, you’ll want to be sure you’re changing out their bedding often enough and ask your vet to see if they might benefit from a different food. However, sometimes bathing your guinea pig may be necessary.
The 3 Reasons Why a Guinea Pig Might Need a Bath
1. They’ve had digestive upset
For their health (and the smelliness factor), you’ll want to give your guinea pig a bath if they’ve had an upset stomach. Of course, it’s important to get to the root of the problem, so you should also give your vet a call if they’re experiencing diarrhea. If they had a mild upset stomach, you might be able to use a warm, moist bath cloth to clean their bottom instead of opting for a full bath.
Insects such as flies can pester our pets. Unfortunately, these little critters can cause a significant problem within a few days if they lay eggs on your guinea pig, so it’s important to tackle the problem as soon as you notice them. Fly strike occurs when flies have laid their eggs, usually around the bottom and the maggots hatch out. These then start to feed on the guinea pig causing pain and tissue damage. Wash the eggs or maggots off and take your guinea pig straight to the vet for treatment.
3. Poor sanitation practices
Perhaps you left town for a while and your pet sitter didn’t change out their bedding. Or maybe you had a stressful week and forgot to scoop the poop. If your guinea pig is living in unsanitary conditions, you’ll want to scrap the old bedding and give them a bath as soon as possible to prevent illness. Fly strike is more common with poor sanitation or after an upset stomach.
How to Bathe Your Guinea Pig: Step-by-Step Guide
At some point in their life—although hopefully not too often—you will likely need to bathe your guinea pig. Some pigs relax when they’re being bathed, especially if they enjoy a close, trusting relationship with you. Others may stubbornly squirm and nip, making the task as difficult as possible for you both. Here are some tips on how to make the experience better for you both:
1. Use a shampoo formulated for small pets
The pH of your guinea pig’s skin is different from yours, so you can’t simply apply your favorite shampoo. Plus, some of the chemicals in products formulated for humans may be toxic to your pig. It’s always best to scout out your local pet store or Amazon for a shampoo like this one that’s formulated for their needs.
2. Choose your bathtub
Most guinea pig parents like to bathe them in a small container, such as a deep casserole dish or laundry tub, as opposed to the bottom of the bathtub or sink. This allows you to secure them a little easier. Filling the container with water and then setting it on the floor is ideal so they don’t fall off the counter in case they escape.
3. Prepare your materials ahead of time
In addition to a guinea pig-friendly shampoo and tub, you’ll need to round up your supplies before you turn the water on. Find a shallow cup for scooping water, such as a measuring cup. Grab a couple of towels to dry them off, as well as a hair dryer if you prefer. Long-haired guinea pigs may require a little brushing and trim before bathing to prevent matting, so gather a pair of safety scissors and their brush if needed.
4. Fill the tub with an inch of warm water
Run lukewarm water into the bottom of the tub, only coming up to about an inch high. You’ll want to make sure your guinea pig can stand up comfortably without being submerged in water.
5. Bring in your pig
Holding your guinea pig, dip their toes into the warm water. Speak softly to them and reassure them that it’s going to be okay, maintaining a firm but gentle grip.
6. Using the shallow cup, scoop some water from the basin and pour it over them
Avoiding their eyes and ears, pour water slowly over their body. Many guinea pigs do not like this step, so make sure to keep calm.
7. Make some suds
Lather a little bit of the shampoo in your palm and fingers, and then massage the formula through your guinea pig’s fur.
8. Rinse them off
Using the cup, pour water from the basin over their body to rinse off the shampoo. If the water is excessively soiled, you may want to pour fresh water over them to rinse.
9. Wrap them in a towel or turn on the hair dryer on low
Once they’re sufficiently rinsed, wrap your guinea pig in a towel to make sure they don’t get cold. Towel dry them as best you can. Some pet parents prefer to use a hairdryer to make the process go faster, while others feel like it stresses out their pig. It’s up to you to figure out the best way to dry your pig.
10. Treat them to a spa day snack
Once the hard work is over, congratulate your guinea pig for their cooperation with a crunchy carrot or savory spinach leaf.
11. Clean out their cage
To avoid having to bathe them in the near future, change out their bedding before returning them to their cage.
Cleaning your guinea pig is certainly a job, but thankfully you shouldn’t have to do it more than a few times a year. Being prepared with the right tools, such as guinea pig-friendly shampoo, will help the process go much more smoothly. Remember, animals can pick up on anxiety, so staying calm will also help them to relax and feel loved as they’re getting squeaky clean.