Can You Give Your Skinny Pig a Bath? (What You Need To Know)

Skinny pigs are a hairless breed of guinea pig. If you have one, something you might be wondering is “Can I give my skinny pig a bath?” After all, they don’t have fur, so they might need a bath to soak up all of the oil and dirt.

Skinny pigs can have baths. On average, skinny pigs don’t need a bath more than once or twice a year (if ever). This is because they don’t get dirty as easily as furry guinea pigs. However, a skinny pig might need a bath more frequently due to dead skin build up, fungal infections, or other issues.

can you give your skinny pig a bath

There are some pet parents who worry about giving their skinny pig a bath because they have sensitive skin. But, there’s really no reason to worry.

Giving your skinny pig a bath (when appropriate) is a good way to keep your piggie clean and healthy. To explore some reasons why your skinny pig might need a bath and the best way to do it, read on below.

Can You Give Your Skinny Pig A Bath?

Bathing skinny pigs (even a haired guinea pigs) and what to put on their skin (if anything) is a pretty hot topic.

But, the most important thing to remember when bathing a skinny pig, is that it’s important to only wash them only when needed.

“Only when needed” is a phrase that’s tossed around a lot.

Let’s clarify.

Your skinny pig probably needs a bath your piggie:

  • has mobility issues due to age, obesity, surgery, or injury and can’t groom himself
  • is fighting fungal or parasitic issue like ringworm, fleas, or lice
  • become unreasonably filthy (A woman’s son threw up on her guinea pig. So piggie got a bath that day. True story)

Unfortunately, it’s common for some people to bathe their skinny pigs more often than necessary. They just don’t know any better…or they’ve been misinformed.

(Not you, rock star. Because you’re here reading this!)

Ultimately, this will lead to dry and irritated skin on the skinny which can be uncomfortable.

According to my research, there are two most popular ways that owners use to bath their skinny pigs: water baths and oil baths.

Popular Ways to Wash a Skinny Pig

So, I did some (well a lot) of digging to find information about people with skinny pig and best practices for bathing them.

(The skinny pigs – not the people.)

I found out that water baths and oil baths are the most popular ways to keep a skinny piggie clean and moisturized.

  • After surveying 168 hairless guinea pig pet parents, I discovered that 82.7% of the respondents bathed their pet with some sort of water. (Note: I counted sponge baths as baths.)
  • 17.3% of the respondents never bathed their skinny at all. Also, they never used any sort of lotions or oils of them!
  • So, that left 139 people who bathed their skinny pig pets, right?

Out of those 139 people, 51% (71) either used oil as part of their skin care regimen for the little friends or used oil bathing in addition to water baths.

I’m gonna give you the goods for each bathing technique (as well as some insider tips I discovered during my research below, starting with…

Water Baths for Hairless Guinea Pigs

You can wash your skinny pig without the risk of it getting sick.

That said, it’s perfectly all right to find someone to help you bath your skinny. Especially if it’s for the first time. Practice makes perfect and eventually you’ll feel confident with doing it on your own.

Keep reading for a step by step guide on how that is done!

Here’s a video of a skinny pig getting a water bath.

Step One: Gather Your Materials

Skinny pigs are particularly sensitive to the cold (and slippery as butter-smeared water balloons when wet). So, if you need to make sure that everything is ready if you have to give them a bath. That way you can avoid your little friend catching a cold or dropping them because they slid in the bath tub. Have the following supplies handy:

  • bucket or some sort of bowl for bathing mat
  • mild, fragrance free shampoo or soap
  • two towels
  • two wash cloths
  • a warm room for bathing and drying your skinny

Whether or not to use shampoo is a personal choice and based on how dirty your skinny is.

As long as your shampoo is very mild and unscented and you’re bathing your piggie on an as-needed basis, your little buddy will be fine.

In the poll I mentioned before, 71% of the pet parents used some sort of shampoo and 15.8% only used water. 12.9% didn’t say one way or another.

If you do choose to use a shampoo, there are a few popular options (for otherwise healthy piggies)that popped up repeatedly in my research. Those include:

My recommendation?

If money is no object and you don’t mind waiting for shipping, go with Gorgeous Guinea Shampoo.

It’s based in the UK and their entire line is specially formulated for guinea pigs.

The Aveeno is a nice, affordable alternative that lots of pet parents use. It’s proven to be safe and effective.

Step 2: Start The Bath

Don’t heat up the water too much.

Hot water is a big “no-no” for your skinny pig! Use lukewarm or even room-temperature water instead. 

This’ll keep your little friend comfortable throughout the experience.

After filling a shallow container with about 1 – 2 inches of water.  Yes, shallow water is best. 

Add a few globs shampoo (if you’re using it) to get your piggie extra clean. Swirl the water around with your hand to mix the shampoo. Then:

  • Carefully submerge your little friend into the fresh water. Placing a washcloth at the bottom of the bucket will help your skinny feel more secure.
  • To be safe, always keep at least one hand on your skinny. As I said before, they’re crazy slippery. And you don’t want them sliding away on you and getting hurt.
  • Hold him with one hand and use your second hand to support him as you soap him up (if you’re using shampoo). A pea-sized amount of shampoo is more than enough. You can use your hand or a washcloth to do this. Wash cloths have a bit more exfoliating power than your hand.
  • Gently rinse off the shampoo from his back, rump, head, belly, and legs.
  • Be gentle throughout the process.

Step 3: Dry Your Skinny

This step has to take place in a warm room, so that your skinny pig doesn’t get chilled. It can even happen in the same room as the bath.

This is something that you need to think about before starting the whole process.

Happily, skinny pigs don’t take as long to dry as furry ones. You don’t even have to use a hair dryer and you can often dry them in a matter of minutes.

Using an absorbent towel or a warm cloth to remove as much moisture from the surface of their skin as possible speeds up the process. Microfiber towels like this one work well.

You’ll need to dry your skinny pig thoroughly.

As you are doing this, you might notice that the towel is beginning to turn black, depending on the coloring of your piggie.

This is normal, it’s just the dead skin cells coming off. Be extra careful around their nose and mouth.

Only put your little friend back in her cage when she’s completely dry.

Oil Baths for Skinny Pigs

There are many pet parents who prefer to use oil as their primary method of cleansing and moisturizing their skinny pigs.

It’s important to remember that overuse of this technique could upset the natural oil production of their skin and clog their pores.

40.9% of skinny pig pet parents use coconut oil in the skinny pig’s bathing and skin care routine.

Coconut oil can help to keep the skin of skinny pigs hydrated without the risk of drying it out too much with repeated baths with shampoo.

(Pet parent bonus points for using organic, unrefined, expeller pressed coconut oil whenever possible. The less additives to irritate your piggie’s skin, the better.)

It avoids dunking the piggy in water and coconut oil has antifungal , antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

So, how do these oil baths work?

There’s no one “right” way to perform an oil bath. But, the process below describes one that’s used by many pet parents of skinny pigs:

  • Step 1: Prepare your materials. You’ll need towels, one or two wash cloths, and a bottle of liquid (or a bowl of melted and cooled) of coconut oil.
  • Step 2: Place your skinny in a safe, warm place. If you can do the oil “bath” on the floor, that’d probably be best. Laps are fine, too. As long as you can hold them securely. Skinnies are very slippery and squirmy anyway and the slip factor is going to increase with the oil.
  • Step 2.5: Some pet parents wipe their piggie clean with unscented baby wipes or flannel first.
  • Step 3: Rub the oil into onto your piggie’s belly, legs, face, and body. If you’re using solid coconut oil, rub your hands together. Use the heat from your body to melt it. Don’t use too much, because you don’t want their pores to clog.
  • Step 4: This will be a little gross the first time you do it. Use a washcloth to gently wipe away any excess dirt and dead skin. Coconut oil helps the dirt, dry skin, and dead skin cells come off easier. As you wipe off that dry skin and dead skin cells, they’ll be the same shade as the skin of your skinny pig. (Be mentally prepared for your black skinny pig’s wash cloth to look like it’s been dipped in fireplace soot)
Coconut oil “bath”

7 Reasons to Bathe Your Skinny Pig (With Water)

Under normal circumstances, most healthy skinny pigs are fairly clean animals. They’ll groom themselves several times a day.

Also, unlike other varieties, the skinny pig doesn’t have a coat. Because of this, there is no risk of dirt and grime getting into their hair. 

However:

That doesn’t mean that your skinny pig doesn’t need your help staying clean in certain circumstances.

Here are some points to help you decide if your guinea pig needs a bath. For example, your guinea pig might need a bath if:

1. Your Skinny Pig Is Overweight

If your skinny pig has packed on the pounds (or ounces), then their weight might make them less flexible.

Less flexibility means that they won’t be able to groom themselves properly. And that means that you’ll need to step in and help your skinny with a good wash up.

2. Your Skinny Pig Is Injured

If your little friend has recently had surgery or has fallen and strained something, then it’s likely that your piggie won’t be able to groom themselves properly.

After a while, your piggie will start to stink and might need your help staying clean. A full bath isn’t usually necessary. But, a refreshing wipe down with aloe-free, baby wipes would be helpful.

3. Your Piggie’s Skin Is Covered In Dirt.

Skinny pigs don’t have fur, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get dirty. They’re still susceptible to the ills of dirt and filth. Just like their furry counterparts, some skinny pigs love to sit in their own pee and poop.

Genetics and what you put on their skin plays a role. Some skinny pigs have skin that can become:

  • dry and flaky: causing itchiness and irritation when paired with dirt and scurf
  • oily and greasy: makes them stinky from the oils and dust or bedding can get stuck to your skinny

Grime and urine remains can irritate your pig’s skin. Plus, they can lead to infections.

Gently removing the gunk and dirt with a bath will help keep your skinny healthy and well.

4. Your Skinny Pig Has A Skin Infection.

Fungal and parasite infections are a good reason to bathe your skinny, little pet.

Ringworm, a skin fungus, is a common issue for guinea pigs. (Yes, even skinny pigs) Treatment for ringworm often requires a medicated bath.

In fact, many pet parents will give their piggies anti-fungal baths as a preventative measure (and you might consider doing the same)

Flea and lice infestations require medicated baths as well.

5. Your Skinny Pig Has Gotten Old.  

Piggies are like us when it comes to aging. Their joints get stiffer and they’re not able to move around as well.

It’s likely that your piggie will need more baths as they age, because they won’t be able to groom themselves like they used to.

6. Your Skinny’s “Undercarriage” Needs Cleaning

If you’ve ever owned a skinny pig, then you know that their “undercarriage” sometimes needs a little bit of cleaning as well.

Like all guinea pigs, skinny pigs live close to the ground. Boars (male pigges) tend to “scent mark” by dragging their butts around. They pick up shavings, dirt, potentially hair or other material all over their undercarriage, including – Ouch!

By undercarriage, I mean the:

  • Grease Gland: A guinea pig’s grease gland makes special oil. This oil is used by piggies to scent and “mark” their territories. All piggies have them. It is near the base of their spine. Some skinnies have very active grease glands. that can often benefit from some form of bath or wash up. Quick grease gland checks are a recommended part of normal care and grooming. Letting the gunk continuously build up can cause irritation, stink, and even infection.
  • Perineal Sac: Older male guinea pigs, called boars, often lose muscle strength in their sacs and can no longer push poop out on their own. The perineal sac can also become a collecting place for all sorts of debris (hair, cage shavings, hay). Make sure you check it on a regular basis and cleaned if needed.

7. Your Vet Recommends It

There are a variety of reasons that your guinea pig might recommend that you give your skinny pig a bath.

These range from treating illnesses (e.g. ringworm) to combating dry skin.

When To Not Bathe A Skinny

Although there are sometimes good reasons to give a skinny pig some sort of bath or wash up, there are also times you want to avoid it.

  • Pregnant Piggies: Pregnant pigs should never be bathed. You might end up hurting the baby. And the stress of being bathed isn’t good for the mother either. The anxiety and discomfort could cause the mother to abort. And bathing a pregnant pig can make them slow down on eating, which may lead to weight loss or starvation.
  • Baby Piggies: Skinny pig babies don’t need to be bathed until at least six months old, because they’re so clean already. In fact,
  • Skinny Pig Health: Bathing skinny pigs that are already sick is not recommended either – especially if they’re sick with an upper respiratory infection. You could easily make their condition worse.

The Danger of Washing Too Regularly

One of the reasons why it’s recommended that you avoid washing your skinny pig too often is because of the risks involved in cleaning them. These include:

  • Dry skin: Skinny pigs need extra care as they don’t have fur coats to protect against the skin problems that arise without oil. These can include dry patches, red blotches and even sores. The risk is increased with frequent bathing and harsh shampoos. 
  • Might start a fight: Guinea pigs rely on scent to recognize each other. After a wash, the piggies will smell differently and their companions might not be able to tell them apart. This may cause some fighting among the guinea pig friends! To avoid this problem, you’ll need to give your furry little buddies all of those baths at once so they can have matching scents again.
  • Burns or discomfort: Skinny pig skin is very sensitive the temperatures. Use the elbow test to determine if your piggie’s bath is at a comfortable temperature. When you put your elbow in the water, make sure it feels warm but not too hot.

The Powerful Object That Keeps Your Skinny Pig Cleaner Longer

Spoiler alert: It’s the the cage.

A clean cage is your first line of defense against a dirty skinny pig.

Your skinny is likelier to stay clean if the cage is clean.

Here are a few simple tips that you can use to make sure your skinny’s cage is the kind that’ll help kid them “wheeky clean”. These include:

  • Refresh high traffic bathroom areas more frequently. Determine where guinea pigs usually go to the bathroom. Clean these areas daily to keep your friend smelling fresh. Use washable puppy pads, small fleece liners, and fabric diapers to make droppings easier to contain and remove. 
  • Thoroughly clean the entire cage at twice a week. That means take everything out of the entire cage. Replace bedding and give everything a good scrub down. You can make a simple cleaning solution by mixing equal parts water and vinegar. 
  • Make sure the cage is big enough.  A big cage means your guinea pig won’t have to walk through their own poops and urine puddles. This will keep the house cleaner for you and happier, more comfortable space for them!
  • Spot clean more frequently. Check on the skinny pig and pick up poops throughout the day, as needed. Skinny pigs poop more than furry guinea pigs.
  • Evaluate the quality of your bedding. If you’re using fleece, make sure it’s wicking urine appropriately. Does your skinny have greasy, oily skin? If you use wood shavings, do they stick to your skinny?

Though it only takes a few minutes each day, properly arranging and maintaining their cage is one of the easiest ways to reduce the chances that you need to bathe your skinny pig. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Skinny Pigs And Hygiene

Is Coconut Oil Good For My Skinny Pig?

Coconut oil is beneficial to skinny pigs because of its anti-inflammatory properties.

Many people insist that healthy skinny pigs won’t have dry skin and that the core issue is often issues with their diet or a fungal skin infection.

However, some skinny pigs are sensitive to seasonal weather changes or live in a very cold climate (or a very dry one).

So, some pet parents often use it to soothe dry skin, which skinny pigs can get if they live in very dry areas or if there’s issues with their diet. However, some skinny pigs are allergic to coconut oil. Make sure that you do a patch test before using the oil on your little friend.

Do I Need To Use Oil On My Skinny Pig?

Using oil on a skinny pig isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s discouraged by some pet parents. Oil is usually a treatment for dry skin. But, there are other ways to treat dry skin for skinny pigs. For example, you can use a humidifier, assess and improve your piggie’s diet, or any number of other dry skin remedies.

Final Thoughts About Bathing Skinny Pigs

If you have a skinny pig, don’t worry. You can still bathe them (or not) and keep their skin clean just like any other pet.

Follow the right set of steps to shower your piggie with love without giving it too many baths!

One of the most important things to remember about bathing skinny pigs is that you should do it only when necessary.

Water bathing too frequently will dry out their skin and irritate it. Oil bathing too frequently will clog their pores.

Moderation is key.

Does your skinny piggie need a bath?

Is it an “as needed” situation?

Now you have the all the tips and information that you need, you can make that determination yourself.

And to be confident with the decision your make.

Guinea pig care. (n.d.). Animal Humane Society. https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/adoption/guinea-pig-care

Beck, A. (2013). Guinea pigs: Keeping and caring for your pet. Enslow Pub.

COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY 4-H YOUTH DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM CAVY LEVEL TESTING STUDY GUIDE. (n.d.). Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. https://ucanr.edu/sites/slo4-h/files/203931.pdf

Gender differences in the anatomy of the perineal glands in Guinea pigs and the effect of castration. (2013, February). PubMed.

Grooming Guinea pigs. (n.d.). Companion Animals. https://companion-animals.extension.org/grooming-guinea-pigs/

Guinea pig care links. (n.d.). Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue. https://mgpr.org/newsite/GP_Info/gpCare.htm

Gunnars, K. (n.d.). Top 10 evidence-based health benefits of coconut oil. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil

Housing and feeding your Guinea pig. (2016, January 19). University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. https://vetmed.illinois.edu/pet_column/feeding-your-guinea-pig/

How should I keep and care for my Guinea pigs? (n.d.). RSPCA Knowledgebase – Let Australia’s most trusted animal welfare charity help you answer the big questions. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/how-should-i-keep-and-care-for-my-guinea-pigs/

University of Florida. (n.d.). Small Animal Hospital » College of Veterinary Medicine » University of Florida. https://smallanimal.vethospital.ufl.edu/clinical-services/zoological-medicine/how-to-care-for-your-pet-guinea-pig/

Vanderlip, S. L. (2015). The Guinea pig handbook. Barron’s Educational Series.

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