The Grease Gland Guide You Need To Read (Right Now)

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Pet ownership can be full of learning experiences, some of them very surprising. If you have just gotten a guinea pig, you might have found out that they have a grease gland. You might be confused about what this grease gland is for and what you need to do to take care of it.

Guinea pigs have a grease gland at the end of their spine. This gland is used to mark their territory and it secretes a substance that becomes solid after it comes into contact with surfaces. This gland is also used by male guinea pigs to attract females.

If you are wondering why you need to know about your piggie’s grease gland, you’re probably not alone!

why do guinea pigs have a grease gland

One of the most important parts of caring for guinea pigs is cleaning their grease gland, but you may be wondering why this area requires particular attention.

Read on to learn more about your furry friends’ grease gland.

What do Guinea Pigs Use Their Grease Gland For?

The grease gland is used mainly for the purpose of marking territory but it also plays a part in mating behavior.

Males at puberty will start to develop far more grease to attract sows to them. The scent of the grease is used to prevent other Guinea Pigs from encroaching on territory and to tell females that there is a male Guinea Pig to mate with.

Adult piggies will rub their grease glands against surfaces to mark those locations as part of their territory, such as:

  • the side of their cage
  • a shelter inside the cage
  • a water bowl
  • random toys

(Yep, some piggies go totally crazy with it.)

You might’ve noticed the hard secretions stuck to different parts of the cage. This is leftover from your little friend marking territory around the cage.

How Often Should You Clean Your Guinea Pig’s Grease Gland?

This is one of the parts of guinea pig care that is often neglected because owners are not aware of the existence of this gland.

While each Guinea Pig is different, you will need to clean the grease gland frequently to keep your Guinea Pig from developing health problems.

Guinea Pigs will need their grease gland to be cleaned anywhere from once a week to once a month.

But, don’t clean it on a daily basis as this will harm their skin and prevent them from being able to create enough natural skin oils on their own

How Do I Find My Guinea Pig’s Scent Gland?

New guinea pig owners will be happy to know that it’s easy to find the scent gland.

The gland is located just where a tail would grow on another animal, right near their spine.

Another way to find a Guinea Pig’s scent gland is to follow the length of their back with your fingers until you can feel the end of the bones in their spine.

You might even feel a dime-sized, greasy circle there. This is exactly where the grease gland is located.

Male piggies (boars) secrete more grease, so it is often easier to find their scent glands. Female guinea pig scent glands can be harder to locate as they’re usually not as active as in males.

What Happens if I Don’t Clean My Guinea Pig’s Scent Gland?

Cleaning your Guinea Pig’s scent gland is important because they can get a wax buildup of old secretions near the gland that can block it.

When the grease gland becomes blocked, it will often get infected. 

If you think that your Guinea Pig’s grease gland is infected, you will need to take them to the vet right away for attention.

You can tell if your Guinea Pig’s grease gland has not been cleaned because they will get sticky, hard clumps of hair near the grease gland.

You might even see old pieces of bedding and other debris stuck to their hind end. Ugh!

This can be uncomfortable for your little friends. Plus, it gives them a foul smell that can make can peel wall paper from the wall.

How do I Clean my Guinea Pig’s Grease Gland?

This is a simple process and your Guinea Pig will get used to it after a few cleanings. Some piggies are calm through the process. Others shriek and squirm like you’re flaying them alive as you do it.

Bottom line?

It needs to be done to keep your little friend healthy.

Now, the process below shows a revised version of a bum bath.

This is also known as a bottom bath or a “butt” bath.

In this case, all you’re doing is cleaning the bottom (or as I like to call it “undercarriage”) of your piggies,

1. Trim the Hair Around the Grease Gland

A long-haired guinea pig need this more than short-haired guinea pig. And won’t be necessary at all when cleaning a skinny pig.

This can be more difficult with smaller guinea pigs (because they’re so tiny and squirmy). But, you should always try and trim the hair near the grease gland.

In fact, I recommend that you make trimming that hair around the grease gland a part of your regular grooming routine with your piggies.

This will prevent debris from getting stuck in your piggie’s hair. It’ll also make it easier to keep the hair near the grease gland clean, which will make it stink less.

Use grooming scissors for this task, not sewing scissors or other large scissors.

2. Apply Coconut Oil Or Olive Oil To The Area

Many people say that organic coconut oil is best, but you can use regular coconut oil in a pinch.

Apply the oil and let it sit on your piggie’s grease gland for 3 to 5 minutes (you can leave it on longer if you choose). This process lifts the grease away from the hair and loosens it.

You can use your fingers, a flannel, or a washcloth to break up and remove hard bits of grease buildup.

Now, it’s somewhat controversial, but Dawn Dish Soap is often used to by pet parents to clean greasy build up. But, you need to use it safely. Make sure it’s diluted with water, use a small amount (no more than a dime-sized amount) and only use it for bum baths. Don’t use it for frequent, regular baths.

Aquita of squeaks, scales, and tails

3. Wash With Gentle Dishwashing Liquid (A Degreaser)

The easiest way to do this is to make a solution of water with dish soap (just a few drops). You only need 1 to 2 inches of warm water (or even lukewarm water) in a shallow container. A pig can be comfortable in water if it is able to stand without stretching to keep its head above water.

  • Gently place your piggie into the mixture. Keep one hand on your piggie at all times.
  • Scoop water over the hair
  • Gently pick out or scrub gently to remove all that grease buildup.

4. Wash Your Piggie’s Lowers (Optional):

Some people like to wash the bottom of the parts of their piggie at the stage.  You can use a gentle guinea pig shampoo or a different mild, unscented cleaning agent.

Wipe your piggie’s feet, belly, and bottom with the soapy water and a damp wash cloth.

If you’d rather not, you can always move to Step 5.

5. Rinse carefully

Make sure to rinse the soapy water thoroughly and well. Don’t leave any soapy residue behind.

It helps to have a separate shallow container or pitcher of clean water for this part of the process.

6. Dry With a Towel

Once your fur baby is soap-free, give them a good drying off with a nice soft towel, and you’re done!  

(The is arguably your little friends’ favorite part of the grooming process.  I’d slide your fur babies a few veggies treats at this time – especially if they’re cranky after their bath.

Make sure that you don’t let your piggie get cold while they are wet. They can easily get sick. Keep them with you in a warm location of your home until they are completely dry.

A video of grease gland being cleaned.

Do Guinea Pig Grease Glands Smell Bad?

Over time, active grease glands become very stinky.

Every piggie has active grease glands; the only question is how many piggies have overactive grease glands.

You might not notice that your furry potato’s coat is matted. You also might not see any evidence that they have been rubbing their scent glands on things in their cage.

But, the smell will often let you know it’s time to clean to give that grease gland a thorough cleaning.

The grease gland smell  is musky and it is pretty distinctive. If you pick up your furry burrito and he smells musky, it is time to wash and clean their grease gland.

If your Guinea Pig smells strongly even after you have cleaned their grease gland, a trip to the vet might be in order.

Conclusion: Guinea Pigs and Grease Glands

Yes, the grease gland.

You’d probably rather live without that stinky thing.

But, your fur baby definitely can’t leave without it. It not only can be used to mark territory, but also as an attractant for females and males.

Fortunately, you now have tips to help you find it and to keep it clean. That way you can keep your little friends happy and healthy.

If you want to learn more about your pet’s anatomy or their behavior, check back soon- there’s more blog posts available each week.

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

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

Guinea pigs (Health and Medical Care Issues). (n.d.). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7151879/

Tips for grooming your Guinea pig. (2019, February 26). Lafeber Co. – Small Mammals. https://lafeber.com/mammals/tips-for-grooming-your-guinea-pig/

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