Do Guinea Pigs Need Baths? The Full Guide

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Brown guinea pig in straw

On average a dog owner can spend an average of $60-$100 on dog grooming (per session)- usually more depending on the dog’s size, type of hair/fur and special treatments like de-matting. But what about guinea pigs? Do they need spa days to soak in the tub? 

Guinea pig don’t need baths. They take care of their own grooming, and no help is required from owners. However, there may occasionally be exceptions to the rule, when you may want to bathe them. These may include when they are in old-age, or have a medical issue that stops them from grooming.

Guinea pigs are generally experts in keeping themselves really clean. However, there are a few complex issues involved that it is worth knowing about.

I’m going to take a look at all the reasons why not to bathe your guinea pig, some exceptions to the rule and what to do, any other hygiene issues for guinea pigs, and everything else you need to know.

Self-Grooming in Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs usually take care of their own grooming and need very little help from their owners. Much like cats, guinea pigs use their tongues to clean the areas that they can reach (which is surprisingly a lot of areas).

For the areas that they can’t reach like their face and ears, they will lick their hands and rub any grime that they detect in those areas [Source]. So if you see a guinea pig rubbing their face, don’t be alarmed that they are itchy or uncomfortable – they are just doing their job! 

Self-Grooming Decline with Age in Guinea Pigs

Self-grooming tends to decline with age. Guinea pigs may become less and less flexible and limber with age, which makes twisting and turning to clean themselves more difficult.

You may notice as your guinea pig’s coat isn’t as shiny as it once was, or they just overall begin to smell more strongly or look more untidy.  This unfortunately is a part of their aging process.

You may have to help them out at times, especially to prevent grime and yuck from building up. Without proper grooming, your long-haired guinea pig can develop painful matting that can be uncomfortable and limit mobility.

Additionally, the build-up of dirt on the hair and skin can lead to skin breakdown and a nasty skin infection that can quickly spread and infiltrate into the other body systems. 

If you have a young guinea pig who starts to show some decline in its grooming habits, this should be a sign to you to have them checked out by a vet. They could not be feeling well, and they maybe are lacking the energy to part-take in this cleaning ritual.

Guinea pigs who have joint problems may not be as flexible and may find it hard or painful to reach certain areas which can lead to an overall decline in grooming. 

Why Should I NOT Bathe My Guinea Pig?

Even though your guinea pig may not need a bath, maybe you just really want them to smell like coconuts. Is there any harm in bathing my guinea pig? Well, the true answer is bathing your guinea pig although is not directly going to cause insult or injury, improper bathing could be potentially harmful. 

Cold and Wet, Hot and Wet – Guinea Pigs and Water

To begin with, guinea pigs are known to be sensitive to temperature which can make bathing tricky. Water that is too hot can easily overheat a guinea pig and potentially irritate or even burn their skin. In contrast, water that is too cold could stun a guinea pig leading to hypothermia and or shock that could be life-threatening. 

Even if the temperature of the water is just right, damp hair can also be troublesome to guinea pigs. Even if the water was the perfect temperature at one point, damp hair can cause the guinea pig to become quite cold which could ultimately lead to a dangerous complication like a respiratory infection.

This could easily progress and worsen very quickly to a point where even antibiotics may not even be enough to prevent progression and illness [Source].

Sensitive Skin in Guinea Pigs 

Guinea pigs naturally have quite sensitive skin and it can easily become irritated and inflamed leading to nasty skin infections. Even if you are taking all the right precautions, bathing frequently can actually cause the hair of the guinea pig (and its skin) to lose the oils the body naturally secretes.

This can cause their skin to become chronically dry which may cause the guinea pig’s skin to become very itchy and lead to scaling and flaking of the skin. Their coat can become dry and brittle as well and lose its natural shine and even start falling out! 

Accidental Water Intake/Drowning in Guinea Pigs

Although guinea pigs may have the ability to swim, it’s not something your guinea pig probably does often. They can easily panic and become tired and drown.

If they manage to keep their heads above water they can still get water into their ears, mouth, and nose. This water could cause a nasty ear infection or lung infection depending on where the water travels to [Source].

If you do choose to bathe your guinea pig, you should make sure the water is very shallow or don’t even have them submerged in water, to begin with. If you suspect your guinea pig may have inhaled water and find them coughing or making gurgling sounds, you should take them to a vet immediately.

When is it Okay to Bathe My Guinea Pig?

There are some instances where bathing may be absolutely necessary and should be done in a safe and proper manner.

My Guinea Pig Rolled in Something…Icky

If your guinea pig has gotten exceptionally filthy with mud, urine, or “who knows what,” the benefit of bathing them may outweigh the risk [Source]. Leaving mud, feces, and soil on the guinea pig could lead to breakdown and irritation of the skin. Not to mention, your guinea pig may take it upon themself to clean up the mess which may lead to them ingesting potentially toxic materials.

Medical Reasons to Bathe Your Guinea Pig

Medically, it may be necessary to bathe your guinea pig. If your guinea pig is suffering from a fungal or parasite infection, many times vets will prescribe a medicated shampoo to be used. Directions should be followed and bathing should be kept to the minimum amount the treatment requires.

Additionally, fleas, mange, mites, and other skin infestations may also require bathing. Again, it is best to consult your veterinarian if you have a suspicion that your guinea pig may require this type of treatment. 

Bathing for Competition for Your Guinea Pig

For competitions and showing, you may need to bathe your guinea pig (especially the long-haired breeds). You may also need to part-take in other grooming like brushing, trimming hair and nail clipping.

Do your homework to see what that particular competition requires. If you’re not very experienced, call upon a professional to help you and/or teach you. You’d hate to have a bad hair day the night before the show! 

Guinea Pig-Friendly Bathing Products

Shampoo

If you do decide to bathe your guinea pig with shampoo not prescribed by your vet, make sure the shampoo is guinea pig friendly. Do not use shampoos used for humans or even your disk soap under your sink.

You should be looking for a shampoo that is made for guinea pigs and has ingredients tailored to the skin and coat of your pet [Source]. Just because the shampoo says “natural” or “pet safe” doesn’t mean it can be used on guinea pigs specifically, so read carefully! 

Critter Shampoo for Small Pets – 8oz Small Animal Fragrance Free Shampoo – Pet Shampoo for Small Critters Including Ferrets, Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, Hedgehogs, Hamsters & Sugar Gliders
  • SMALL CRITTER SHAMPOO: Keep your pet squeaky clean while keeping their skin and coat healthy with this fragrance free shampoo specifically formulated for ferrets, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, sugar gliders, and hamsters.
  • PROUDLY MADE IN THE USA: Our ethically created small pet shampoo is specially formulated to ensure a gentle yet effective cleaning experience for your beloved ferret, guinea pig, hamster, rabbit, sugar glider or hedgehog.
  • PERFECT FOR SENSTIVE SKIN AND FUR: Embrace the power of nature with our small critter shampoo, meticulously crafted using the finest natural ingredients. Pamper your furry companions with a luxurious bathing experience that leaves their coats lustrous and healthy.
J·R·LIGGETT’S Pet Shampoo Great for Sensitive Skin-Relieves Dry, Itchy Skin-Hypoallergenic and Biodegradable Formula–100% Detergent-Free
  • GENTLE CLEANSING: Formulated for Small Animals it is an all-natural liquid shampoo that is mild and gentle! Almond, Cedarwood, Lemongrass, Lavender and Rosemary oils offer a fresh clean scent, moisturizing skin and coat.
  • EASE ITCHING AND DRY SKIN: While other detergent products dry skin and fur, our shampoo offers Virgin Coconut and Almond Oils that penetrate deep to hydrate skin, relieve itchiness and promote a soft, healthy, clean coat.
  • SPECIFICALLY FOR SMALL ANIMALS: Instead of detergent liquid shampoos, our non-detergent shampoo was designed specifically for small animals. Easy to use, rinses clean, and your pet is left with healthy, great smelling fur!
Johnsons Veterinary Products Small Animal Cleansing Shampoo, White, 125 ml
  • Cleanses and deodorises
  • Mild and non irritant
  • For small animals over 12 weeks of age
Small Critter Shampoo and Waterless Shampoo Bundle – 8oz Small Animal Fragrance Free Shampoo & 8oz No Rinse Shampoo for Ferrets, Guinea Pigs, Hedgehogs, Sugar Gliders, Rabbits, and Hamsters
  • ???? THE ULTIMATE SMALL CRITTER SHAMPOO BUNDLE: Contains 1 (8oz) bottle of our original detergent and fragrance free small pet shampoo and 1 (8oz) bottle of our detergent free waterless shampoo with aloe vera and oatmeal
  • ????SMALL CRITTER SHAMPOO: Keep your pet squeaky clean while keeping their skin and coat healthy with this fragrance free shampoo specifically formulated for ferrets, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, sugar gliders, and hamsters.
  • ????Nourishes and moisturizes: Enriched with nourishing Aloe Vera and Oatmeal ingredients, our no rinse shampoo helps to keep your critter’s fur soft, shiny, and healthy, promoting a lustrous coat and reducing dryness
Kaytee Quick & Clean Critter Dry Shampoo, 8-Ounce
  • Specially formulated no-rinse shampoo gently loosens dirt, dissolves oil and deodorizes your pet’s skin and coat, leaving your furry friend smelling as fresh as a baby
  • Simple spray on solution for soiled pets
  • Non-irritating leave-on formula

Waterless Shampoo and Grooming Wipes

Another great option may be waterless or dry shampoo. You can still do a good amount of cleaning and refreshing your guinea pig’s coat without risking them being cold and wet or potentially getting water in areas of their body that they shouldn’t.

Waterless shampoo may not do the trick always, but it may prolong the time between bathing or cut down the number of times you have to actually bathe. 

Additionally, grooming wipes can be a great tool to use for added convenience. Guinea pigs aren’t fairly big, so you can maximize your pack of wipes by cutting the sheets in half.

These can be great for a quick grooming session, grooming on the go, or grooming at a competition. Just like all bathing products, make sure these are guinea pig friendly. Baby wipes are not a substitute for guinea pig grooming wipes and should be avoided.

Kaytee Quick & Clean Critter Dry Shampoo, 8-Ounce
  • Specially formulated no-rinse shampoo gently loosens dirt, dissolves oil and deodorizes your pet’s skin and coat, leaving your furry friend smelling as fresh as a baby
  • Simple spray on solution for soiled pets
  • Non-irritating leave-on formula
Dog Shampoo Bar Soap for Itchy Skin Relief – Twin Pack – Concentrated Dog Soap for Sensitive Skin with Natural Manuka and Neem Oil to Ease Allergies and Itching
  • This natural vegetable based dog shampoo includes neem and manuka essential oils to soothe sensitive itchy skins, ease allergies and moisturize dry dogs
  • This concentrated natural dog soap cleans deeply and creates a lot of lather with no spills or waste. One bar is equivalent to 16 Fl oz of liquid dog shampoo with zero plastic
  • The dog soap bar makes washing your dog so much easier. The curved bar fits your hand and your dog, making it simple to wash their tummy, legs, and hard-to-reach spots.
Sale
Oatmeal Waterless Foam – Grooming for Dogs and Cats, Soothe Sensitive Skin Formula with Aloe for Itchy Dryness for Pets, pH Balanced, Cruelty Free, Paraben Free, Made in USA
  • Gentle botanical foam-shampoo, cleans and refreshes without water leaving your pet’s fur clean and soft
  • Great to use during colder weather or for pets who don’t like getting a bath
  • Specially formulated to mix with oil and dirt so they can be brushed out of the fur

Other Helpful Products

  1. Medium stiffness toothbrush for gentle scrubbing
  2. Small bowl to pour water over your pet instead of having them directly under running water
  3. Sponge to help with distributing shampoo
  4. Small pet bathing tub
  5. Small sink mat or washcloth to provide grip so your guinea pig isn’t nervously slipping on slick surfaces 
  6. Microfiber cloths for drying 
  7. Hair dryer with low heat setting – preferably one that is quiet! 
  8. Cotton balls to protect the ears from the water. Be careful not to push them too far into the ears!
  9. Small narrow-toothed comb for long-haired breeds
  10. Detangler spray for long-haired breeds 
Black and white guinea pig in straw

How Else Can I Keep My Guinea Pig Clean?

Cage cleanliness is ultimately the best way to keep your guinea pig not only filth free, but healthy! Using absorbent bedding will help soak up urine and keep your guinea pig from rolling around in wet stinky waste. Changing your bedding regularly will also help leave less dirty areas. 

Having separate areas in your enclosure can also cut down the amount of grime in the crate, and may even help you not have to change the bedding as frequently.

Litter pan training is a great way to have all your guinea pig’s waste in one area. It may not stop them from laying in their own “potty”, so make sure there is plenty of room in your enclosure to create more friendly and fun areas for your guinea pig to hang out. 

Your guinea pig may also tend to lie next to their food and/or water bowl or bottle. Putting a small rubber mat under where your guinea pig eats may help from food being spilled and spread around.

Make sure if you choose to give your water in a bowl, that the bowl is heavy enough not to be easily knocked over. This can cause bedding to become soaked and your pet to become damp and have debris stick onto their coat more easily.

Water bottles can be equally troublesome. Inspect your water bottle every now and again for malfunctions or cracks in the bottle that may cause water to leak out. 

To Bathe Or Not to Bathe My Guinea Pig?

At the end of the day, you can bathe your guinea pig if you so choose. Young, healthy guinea pigs can more than likely handle their own grooming and don’t require bathing.

Other times, circumstances may come about that it would be beneficial to bathe your guinea pig. If you do so, do it safely by picking the right products and taking proper precautions. Never leave your guinea pig unattended in a bathtub, sink, or otherwise.

Although you may be trying to be helpful, excessive bathing (or even the occasional bath) may end up causing more harm than good. 

There are a lot of options out there that can potentially substitute baths, decrease the amount of bathing necessary, or prolong the time between baths. Bathing is important at times, but don’t neglect the other care your guinea pig can’t do on their own! This includes nail trimming, ear cleaning, dental care, and, of course, routine veterinarian care and vaccination (if you so choose). 

Guinea pigs can be quite self-sufficient as far as their grooming regimens are concerned, but occasionally they do need a little help! A weekly dip isn’t necessary, but the occasional scrub may be warranted, so make sure you have the required supplies ready for action! 

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