No one wants their guinea pig to smell awful; we want clean cavy friends. But, do guinea pigs need baths?
Although they’re self-cleaning, guinea pigs need baths sometimes. On average, short-haired breeds need a bath once or twice a year; whereas long-haired breeds often require a bath every three months. Illnesses, dirty fur, and other factors are cause for a good guinea pig wash up.
So, when do you wash up your guinea pig? And how often? How do you do it?
What can you do to keep your guinea pig clean?
In this article, I’ll tell you everything that you need to know (including tips for things that you didn’t know you needed to know).
Want the Lowdown on What Other Pet Parents are Doing? I Gotcha Covered!
When I had my piggies, I bathed them 2 or 3 times a year.
I didn’t need to do more, because they did a really good job of keeping themselves clean. But, I wondered what other people were currently doing.
And I figured that you’d be curious, too.
So, I manually collected data from 100 guinea pig owners in a forum. I specifically looked for posts where people where sharing their opinions about bathing their guinea pigs.
I wanted to see if there were any patterns (or parallels) that I could find around the question: “Do guinea pigs need baths?” aside from what I’d read on research sites and library books.
Guess what! I found some.
There’s a lot of information cruising online about how guinea pigs were self-cleaning and didn’t need any help with hygiene. However, my guess was that most pet parents would still give their guinea pigs a bath from time-to time…if they felt they needed one. Guinea pigs have different personalities and they also have varying hygiene needs and self-cleaning habits.
I was correct. 80 of the 100 people that I analyzed gave their little friends some form of bath. But, that’s not all I discovered…
I assumed that most of the people that did give their cavies a bath, would do more of a quick, washcloth wash up.
I clearly remembered being terrified of wash day for my fur babies – they weren’t the biggest fans of bath. My guess was that most people would balk at a full body wash, but…
How wrong I was!
57 of the 80 people who gave their guinea pigs baths actually did thorough, full body washes. Even people who said that their guinea pig didn’t love the experience was able to console their piggy pal with treats and snuggles afterwards.
This led me to my final question: How often do you bathe your guinea pig? Keep reading to see what the data showed…
My final guess was most people would only bathe their guinea pigs once or twice a year.
I was wrong, yet again.
33 of the 80 people who gave their guinea pigs baths washed them 3 to 4 months. 4 people even washed their guinea pigs once a month (which is honestly a bit too frequently).
And remember those 20 people who said that they never gave their guinea pigs a “bath”?
Well, 5 of the 20 indicated that they wiped their guinea pigs down with a baby wipe or wash cloth or let them run around a shallow pool of water to “freshen” them up.
I really wanted to see if I could make a real-life connection between the frequency of washes and the type of guinea pig (e.g. skinny, short-haired, or long-haired), but I wasn’t able to manually collect enough data for it.
However, I did find in the data that collected is that 95 of the 100 people mentioned some sort of bathing safety measure for bathing guinea pigs, which I’ll cover a little later in this article.
So, what does all this mean?
- It means that bathing a guinea pig is not an evil akin to kicking a sack of puppies down the stairs.
- You’re likely going to have to give your guinea pig a bath (or help them get clean)at some point.
- Many people bathe their guinea pigs in some way and are raising them to be happy and healthy. Just use simple safety measures.
So, let’s dive into some specifics to get you started (and to help you stay) on the right path.
If you want some tips on how to build a better relationship with your guinea pigs or how they relate to each other, check out these posts: 15 Wonderful Ways To Entertain Your Guinea Pig (Right Now) and 10 Shocking Mistakes That Make Your Guinea Pig Hate You
When Does My Guinea Pig Need a Bath?
There’s no hard and fast rules for figuring out when your little friend needs a thorough wash up.
But, there are a few points to keep in mind to help you decide if your guinea pig needs a bath. Your cavy likely needs a bath if:
- An injury incapacitates him. Unfortunately, there might come a time when your little buddy might be injured and can’t keep himself. So, you’ll have to help keep him clean. NOTE: Don’t bathe your piggies if they have an upper respiratory infection.
- Her fur is heavily soiled. Some cavies love to sit in their own urine and poop – that stains their fur and makes them stink to high heaven.
- Your guinea pig has skin issues. Flea infestations require baths. Ringworm is a common skin fungus that guinea pigs can catch, which also requires a medicated bath.
- You have an elderly guinea pig. As guinea pigs age, they become less flexible. It’s more difficult for them to clean themselves.
- An exotic vet tells you to. Some exotic vets will recommend that you bathe your guinea pig more frequently-based on their breed or their state of health.
|Skinny Piggies||Short Haired Piggies||Long Haired Piggies|
|-bathe once or twice a year; or as needed||-bathe once or twice a year; or as needed||-three or four times a year; or as needed|
I was looking at a Facebook group, and I almost thought my head would explode when someone said they bathed their pet once a week. That is way too much! If you bathe your fur balls too often, you’ll dry out their skin – which’ll cause health issues.
Tips for Grooming Safety and Success
Although there are some exceptions, many guinea pigs don’t naturally enjoy being in water.
Bath time can cause your little friend a lot of anxiety. But, there are things that can be done to take the stress out of the event, making it easier and safer.
- Keep plenty of snacks nearby. A sprig or two of cilantro or a leaf of red lettuce is just the thing to keep your guinea pig calm (and distracted).
- Make sure the water is no deeper than the bottom of your guinea pig’s stomach. About two inches worth. Anything higher is frightening to her.
- Avoid getting water in your cavy’s ears and eyes. Your cavy could get an ear infection, which could be dangerous, even fatal.
- Lay a towel or some sort of non slip mat on the bottom of the sink, bathtub, or basin. That way your guinea pig feels safe and secure, instead of sliding around like she’s at a skating rink.
- Get an extra set of hands involved. If your guinea pig is extra antsy or you’re nervous as well, get someone to come and help you with the washing.
- Don’t bath a sick guinea pig. If they haven’t been seen by a vet, it could be dangerous, because you don’t know if washing them will make the illness worse.
- If possible, wash your guinea pig somewhere low to the ground. Avoid the sink if you can. Skittish guinea pigs can “blind jump” out of your arms in fear and hurt themselves – especially if they’re feeling anxious about a bath. Use a basin (or a dish pan) on the bathroom floor. A clean, empty bathtub combined with a dishpan is a possibility, too.
- Turn off the air conditioner and heat the room where you’re going to be washing and drying your guinea pig. You don’t want your little friend to catch a cold.
- Only use baby-warm water. It’s important that the water isn’t too hot or too cold – piggies don’t do well with extreme temperatures. Use your elbow or wrist to test the water before starting the bath.
- Prepare everything before you grab your guinea pig. Once the bathing starts, you can’t leave your piggie pal alone. Make sure that you have all of your tools close at hand before you begin.
If you want some tips on how to keep your piggie well-groomed and clean, check out these posts: What To Do If Your Guinea Pig’s Nail Is Bleeding? (Find Out Now) and Clean Your Guinea Pig’s Cage (A Step-By-Step Guide)
What Tools Do I Need to Wash My Guinea Pig?
Every job is easier when you have the right tools – especially when cleaning your guinea pig. You want the process to quickly and efficiently, so gather the following items before starting the task:
- Disposable gloves. If your little buddy has ringworm, you’ll need these to protect yourself from getting it.
- A mild, fragrance-free shampoo. Guinea pigs have sensitive noses and delicate skin. Protect both by choosing the right type of shampoo. Shampoos specially formulated for guinea pigs are available. In a pinch, you can always use a gentle baby shampoo. But, you don’t want to make it a habit, because it might cause skin issues over time.
- A small tub or wash basin. Ideally, you want to wash your guinea pig is a small, confined area that you can control and that your little buddy won’t feel lost in.
- 2 or 3 clean, dry towels. Preferably thick cotton or microfiber ones that absorb water very well.
- A cup or shower head. This’ll be helpful when it’s time to rinse.
The Bathing Process
Follow the steps below to have your piggy pal smelling sweet and “wheeky” clean in no time.
- Have all tools ready beforehand (including snacks – just don’t get shampoo on them)
- Fill the basin with 1 to 2 inches of baby-warm water. Place one of the towels at the bottom of a basin. Gently and firmly lower your guinea pig into the basin or dish pan.
- Use a cup or showerhead to wet your guinea pig’s body. But, avoid getting water in her ears, eyes, head, or face.
- Apply a few dollops of shampoo to your guinea pig’s back; gently lather her fur and massage her feet to rid them of poop and urine. NOTE: If you must clean her face or head, use a moist (not drenched) washcloth.
- Now it’s time for the big rinse! Take your guinea pig out of the dirty water (place her on a nearby towel), pour out the dirty water, and refill with 1 or 2 inches of baby warm water. Then use a cup or showerhead to rinse the lather from the fur – check the water temperature first to make sure it’s not too hot. Make sure all the shampoo is gone.
- Gently lift your guinea pig out of the basin and place her on a fresh, dry towel. Loosely wrap your guinea pig in a towel to soak up the excess water. Snuggles and snacks are encouraged. If the towel gets too damp, switch to a new towel and lightly rub the fur until it’s as dry as possible. NOTE: If your guinea pig will allow it, use a dryer on low heat to help dry her- preferably with a diffuser, which spreads heat evenly. That way no one part of your guinea pig gets too hot. Try to keep the dryer about a foot or so away from your little buddy to avoid burning her.
- Put your guinea pig in their cage or a play pen to finish drying off. The room should be heated to keep your little friend from getting a chill.
If you have multiple guinea pigs, only wash them on days when you can wash and dry all of them. Guinea pigs know each other by scent. If you wash just one of your fur babies and put her back in the enclosure, her friends might not recognize her. That could start a fight.
When washing two (or more) guinea pigs, you follow the same steps with a few minor adjustments.
- Set up a “waiting area” near the wash station to contain the guinea pigs that you’re going to scrub up. This could be another dishpan or basin or just a contained space. Or it can be an area at the bottom of the tub or shower floor. Just make sure that it’s safe and that your little friends can’t escape.
- Wash all the guinea pigs first – keeping water away from their ears, face, and head. Then rinse them and dry them thoroughly.
Here’s a video that demonstrates how to give a long-haired guinea pig a bath.
And here’s a video demonstration for how to give a skinny pig a bath.
If your guinea pig is scratching, please DO NOT give her a bath. Take her to vet. There’s a chance your little friend has mites. It’ll be even more painful for her because the water will make them burrow deeper into her skin. An injection of medicine is required to get rid of mites; not a bath.
The Gross Grease Gland
Guinea pigs are bodacious, little bundles of cuteness. But, the grease gland is easily one of the unappealing parts of them. Ugh!
The grease gland secretes an oily, greasy material to mark surfaces.
Consider it the piggie version of a dog peeing to mark territory.
It’s located where their tail would be…if guinea pigs had tails. Over time, that spot gets dark (sometimes yellowish) and sticky…and foul-smelling.
Male guinea pigs usually have more active (and stinky) grease glands. But, female guinea pig grease glands can have a strong odor, too. It depends on the guinea pig.
Grease glands are often cleaned once every month or two. The process isn’t too difficult. Just follow the steps below.
- Locate the grease gland. Just look for the dark patch near their bottom. You might have to part a little bit of fur.
- Apply coconut oil. It doesn’t matter if it’s refined or unrefined. Let it sit for 2 to 3 minutes, so it has time to dissolve the icky grease.
- Use your fingers to remove the bulk of the grease from the grease gland. Feel free to use gloves if you’re squeamish – I know I am!
- At this point, you can either follow up with a full thorough bath to remove the remaining grease. Or you can just wet a washcloth and squirt on a dollop of gentle, guinea-pig friendly shampoo; then give your little friend’s grease gland a few wipes. Fill a cup with water and then rinse the shampoo off once the gland is clean and fresh.
Take a peek at the video below. It shows a guinea pig grease gland being cleaned.
Alternatives to Shampoo and Water Baths
There are a few reasons why pet parents want to avoid a complete bath. Perhaps you’re short on time. Or your guinea pig isn’t dirty enough to really need one. Other people don’t believe in giving guinea pigs a full body wash.
Whatever your reason, there are options if you’d like to give your piggie pal’s a fur and body “refresh” without cleaning their entire body. Consider doing one of the following:
- Use unscented, aloe-free baby wipes to wipe down your little friend. Avoid using baby wipes that have a lot of chemicals – it might irritate your guinea pig’s nose. To be more frugal, just use a piece of an old cotton shirt or a flannel wipe.
- Give your guinea pig a Bottom Bath. The purpose of a “Bottom Bath” is to only clean the nails, feet, tummy, and longer hair that might be icky and stinky from poop and urine. Put a towel (or washcloth) on the bottom of a basin, fill it with an inch or two of baby-warm water, and add a few dollops of shampoo (swish it around). Put your piggie in. Then squeeze out the towel and wipe her body down with the damp towel. Then wrap in a towel, dry, and snuggle.
How to Keep Your Guinea Pig Clean Longer
A healthy guinea pig tends to self-clean very well. However, there are certain things you can do to help your little buddy smelling fresh and clean for extended periods of time – without more frequent baths. Take a look at the tips below.
- Make sure the cage is big enough. If the cage is too small, your guinea pig has no choice but to poop and pee wherever she sees fit. When the cage is big enough, your piggies won’t have to walk through their own waste
- Clean the cage more frequently. Spot clean it daily. Replace bedding and give the cage (and everything in it) a good scrub at least once a week. Do whatever needs to be done to avoid them sitting in their poop or pee for long periods of time. If using fleece, make sure it’s wicking your guinea pig’s urine properly.
- Place squares or extra bedding in huts or pigloos or in the “kitchen area” that can be replaced daily. These are “problem spots” where guinea pigs usually go to the bathroom. Keeping these areas clean helps keep your little friend smelling fresh.
- Brush daily to remove shed hair. This is especially true for silkies or Peruvian guinea pig breeds with long hair. Shed hair can stink, so brush your little friend every day (or every other day). Use a pin brush. It’s more gentle for texture hair. And it does a good job removing those pesky loose hairs.. Then follow up with a softer brush.
- Trim your little friend’s hair regularly. Keep the hair around private areas trimmed as short as possible. That way they’re less likely to stain their fur with urine, which causes them to smell. How often you trim depends on how fast your piggy pal’s hair grows.
Thinking about adding a piggie to your family or want to brush up on the essentials? Gotcha covered. What you need is a reliable, “all-in-one” resource to refer to when you’re struggling. A Beginner’s Ultimate Guide To Guinea Pig Care is a starting point with all the basics and more to get you on your way!
What should you line a guinea pig cage with?
There are many cage liner options to choose from. You can use combinations of aspen shavings, Carefresh, and wood pellets. Fleece and chenille bath mats are also materials that you can use to line your guinea pig cage.
What is that white stuff seeping out of my guinea pig’s eyes?
Guinea pigs don’t blink to moisten their eyes; instead a white, milky fluid oozes out of their them. They also use it to wash their faces and to groom their bodies.
How to Bath a Guinea Pig: Final Takeaways for Pet Parents
Ultimately, bathing a guinea pig all boils down to being knowing when to do it and how to do it safely. If you think you need to give your pig a bath, you just need to be prepared.
Prepare your space, bring a friend for backup if you desire, and confidently approach the task.
A clean piggie will follow.
Maybe a little grumpy…but definitely clean.
I wrote this guide because giving a guinea pig a bath can be nerve-racking.
And I hope that by now you feel confident enough to go out there and bathe your piggie if you need to.
Just follow the basic framework of washing up tips and suggestions and safety protocols and take a good look your situation, you will make the right call for you and your little friend-deciding the when, why, what, and should is in your (very capable) hands.
You can do this, rockstar! *fist bump to you*