Can you give guinea pigs a bath or will it harm them? Do guinea pigs even need bathing? Alison O Callaghan answers your guinea pig bath time questions.
Guinea pigs are clean animals and, like cats will lick their fur constantly throughout the day to remove any dirt spots.
If you are new to guinea pigs, you may wonder if bathing a guinea pig is necessary. In this article, we aim to answers any questions and concerns you may have.
So, before you put your cavy into the tub, soak up our guinea pig bath tips for everything you need to know about washing your beloved pet!
Can you give guinea pigs a bath?
Guinea pigs can be bathed but not too often. And you need to be careful about what you put on their fur.
So before you reach for the shampoo, scroll down for Guinea Pig bathing instructions!
During bathing, you must always ensure that your pet isn’t cold or stressed, as are very fragile creatures and health problems can easily occur.
Do guinea pigs need baths?
Guinea pigs tend to keep themselves clean and shouldn’t require bathing too often especially if kept in a well-maintained cage.
And they love to wash themselves, as Clover is going to demonstrate for you here:
For this reason, some owners consider a guinea pig bath unnecessary. But it does help to keep your cavy’s coat in good condition and, some guinea pigs, like us, may enjoy feeling fresher and cleaner afterwards!
Reasons for bathing a guinea pig
Some reasons why you might want to bath a guinea pig are as follows:
- The guinea pig’s coat is dirty and greasy, especially long-haired breeds
- You want to exhibit your pet at a guinea pig show
- Your guinea pig has a fungal or parasite infection
- After a parasite infection to help cleanse the skin
Reasons to avoid bathing a guinea pig
Bathing a guinea pig should be avoided if:
- The guinea pig has a respiratory illness
- They are sick
- Or they live outdoors (in winter)
How often should you bath a guinea pig?
You can give a guinea pig bath at least twice a year but no more than once a month.
The reason for this is that cavies have extremely sensitive skin and frequent bathing can make their skin very dry, causing itchiness and hot spots.
It also removes the natural oils found in the guinea pig’s coat. And can be an upsetting procedure for your pet.
Do guinea pigs like baths?
Most guinea pigs dislike having a bath and can find the experience quite stressful, with many being afraid.
There are exceptions though, and it has been known for some cavies to love their bath times! This is more likely if your guinea pig has been used to bath time from an early age.
Can guinea pigs swim in a bath?
Although you may have seen cute videos of guinea pigs swimming on YouTube, it is not necessarily something they would choose to do or enjoy.
Cavies can swim but normally only swim if they need to do so to survive, despite being related to the capybara, who love the water and can stay immersed for up to five minutes!
It’s important to remember that guinea pigs have been bred in a dry environment as a domestic pet so can find the whole process of bathing and swimming very traumatic.
How to bathe a guinea pig
If your guinea pig really needs a thorough wash, then follow this step by step guide on how to bathe a guinea pig.
If it is your first time bathing a cavy, you may appreciate having another person around to help you.
#1 Before bathing your guinea pig
Have everything ready first.
You will need:
- Two washing bowls
- Plastic jug or cup
- At least three towels
- Shampoo suitable for guinea pigs
- Small mat or flannel for base of bowl
- Treats to help keep him calm
- Soft brush
One bowl is to bathe your guinea pig in, the other to rinse off.
It is easier and safer to place the bowls in your bath tub. A sink is too high, and you risk dropping your guinea pig, especially if he is wet and fidgety.
Make sure you have everything close at hand as it is very dangerous to leave a guinea pig in a bath unattended.
It is also a good idea for you to wear old clothes as your pet cavy may attempt to climb out and be very wriggly, causing you to become wet!
#2 Preparing the bath for your guinea pig
Place your small mat or flannel at the bottom of one of the bowls, so it is not slippery for your cavy.
Fill the bowl with lukewarm water, around two inches in depth. As a rough guide, the water should just reach a guinea pigs belly.
You can test the temperature of the water the same way you would a baby’s bath, with your elbow.
It is vital that the room temperature is warm. Guinea pigs’ small bodies are prone to respiratory infections, which could quickly develop into pneumonia if they become chilled.
#3 Bathing your guinea pig
First, collect your guinea pig from his cage and hold him reassuringly before placing him gently into the bath. Allow him a minute or two to adapt to the water.
You should clean the grease gland first, located at the base of the spine, where a tail would be if they had one. Boars especially tend to have a large build-up of grease in this area, which can become infected if left uncleaned.
Shampoo may not shift the grease, so use one of the following:
- Swarfega (hand cleaner used by mechanics)
- Coconut oil
- Hand dishwashing liquid
Take great care to keep these away from your guinea pig’s face
Apply the agent neat onto the gland with just a little water, and build into a lather with your fingers. The grease will start to loosen, and you can then tenderly remove it. Rinse your guinea pig’s rear end in the other bowl.
Return your guinea pig back to the first bowl to give him his bath.
You need to have a firm but gentle hold of him to prevent him from trying to jump out. Having a second person is very useful as they can handle your cavy while you bathe him.
Pour water gently over your guinea pig using your plastic jug or cup. Wet him thoroughly, but avoid the head, face and ears.
Read the instructions on your guinea pig shampoo bottle (see below for choosing a shampoo), and apply the recommended amount on his back.
Make a lather with your fingers and massage softly into the guinea pig’s fur and skin. Don’t forget to do his belly as well. You should leave the shampoo on for approximately three minutes.
Place your guinea pig back into the other bowl and rinse him off using lukewarm water. Give him treats if necessary, to keep him calm. Make sure all the suds are thoroughly washed out and use a damp cloth to clean his face.
#4 Drying your guinea pig
Remove your guinea pig from the bath and place him on a large towel.
Wrap him up and hold him in your arms for extra warmth. When the towel becomes damp, replace it with a dry one and gently massage him with it until he is dry.
If you want to use a hair dryer, have it on the coolest temperature and lowest speed, placing your hand in front of the guinea pig. If he becomes stressed from the noise, do not continue.
Afterwards, brush your guinea pig’s fur, removing any tangles on long-haired breeds.
If he is slightly damp, it is ok to put him back into a clean cage. If your guinea pig lives outside, make sure he is thoroughly dry before returning him to his hutch or cage.
Guinea pig shampoo
You may ask can you use human shampoo on guinea pigs? The answer is no, as they contain chemicals that could harm your cavy’s skin.
When bathing your cavy, you should always use shampoo for guinea pigs such as Squeaky Clean Critter Shampoo made by Kaytee, and available from Amazon.
You may even prefer to make a homemade guinea pig shampoo, which is free of chemicals.
You can create this by adding ¼ cup of apple cider, ¼ cup of dish washing liquid and ½ cup of distilled water into a clean and empty plastic bottle.
Place a lid on the bottle and roll it back and forth, then open it and put two tablespoons sweet almond oil and eight drops of essential oil. Leave the shampoo overnight so the ingredients can fuse together.
Always consult an exotic veterinarian if you believe that your guinea pig may have a fungal or parasite infection.
Your veterinarian may give your guinea pig medication and prescribe or recommend a medicated shampoo. They can also guide you on bathing.
Can you give guinea pigs a bath – summary
Giving your guinea pig a bath is not usually necessary unless he gets dirty or acquires a skin problem that your vet recommends treating with a medicated shampoo.
Bathing your pet guinea pig should always be done at a warm temperature and never more than once a month.
When using a new product for the first time, do a patch test to check if your cavy has an allergic reaction to it. Place a little just behind the ears on the bald spot and leave on for twenty-four hours.
If you have more than one guinea pig, it is vital that you bathe them both on the same day.
During bathing, removal of the original scents can occur, so the other may not recognise their mate and end up fighting. Always bathe them one at a time though, and not together.
Guinea pigs that are less than three months old should only be bathed if they have a skin condition and always under veterinary advice.
Aged and frail cavies should just be cleaned gently, placed on a towel, with a sponge, as the stress of bathing could bring on a heart attack.
Always seek advice from an exotic veterinarian on bathing your guinea pig with skin conditions or if they have fleas, mites or lice.
Does your guinea pig like baths?
Do you have any guinea pig shampoos you could recommend to other readers? Have you made your own? Share your tips and ideas in the comments box below