There will come a time when you might want to give your guinea pig a bath. Here’s some quick tips to make it go smoothly.
How Often Should I Bathe my Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs don’t clean themselves like cats do, but they usually stay pretty clean nonetheless. As long as you keep his cage clean, he should only need a bath once every 3-4 months. Some people never bathe their guinea pigs, so it’s not absolutely necessary, but it’s a good idea to do it occasionally to keep him in tip-top shape.
First Thing’s First
You really don’t want to be using any human shampoos or conditioners when bathing your guinea pig. These cleaning liquids can, in many cases, be harmful for the skin of your guinea pig (as well as your own believe it or not).
I highly recommend getting hold of some natural animal shampoo. You can pick this up at almost any pet store, but just make sure the stuff you pick out has as few nasty chemicals as possible. I highly recommend Oddie and Cody’s Natural Shampoo
Keep Everything Together and Close at Hand
Once your guinea pig is in the water, you never want to leave him unattended to go grab something you need. Make sure you gather everything you’ll need ahead of time and keep it within arm’s reach. You will need:
- 2-3 Towels You’ll need a towel to wrap him up when you’re finished. The first one will get pretty wet, so it’s a good idea to have a second towel ready to finish drying him off. It’s also a good idea to put something on the bottom of the sink or water basin to provide some stable footing and prevent slipping, and a towel works well for this purpose.
- Fragrance-free Shampoo You can purchase a shampoo specifically for guinea pigs or small animals, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Do not use anything like dish soap or house hold cleaning materials. Guinea pigs have a strong sense of smell, so it’s best to use unscented soap. If you bathe him frequently, you’ll have to be more careful about the shampoo you use so that you don’t dry out his skin or cause irritation. If you’re bathing him once every few months, there should be no harm done if you use a small animal shampoo. I’ve also used Johnson & Johnson’s Baby shampoo, too.
- Soft Brush or Comb (optional) If your guinea pig has long hair, you’ll really need a soft brush or comb. If he’s short-haired, it’s not absolutely necessary.
- Cup It’s easier to rinse him using a cup.
- Hair Dryer (optional)
- Pick a Good Spot – I think it’s easiest to bathe a guinea pig in the sink, but if you’re bathing him for the first time and are doing it without help, think about what would happen if he panicked and scrambled out of your wet hands. You will need to keep a firm grip on him at all times, otherwise he could wriggle free, fall to the floor, and get hurt. If you think this might be a problem, consider using a basin or bowl on the floor instead.
- Make Sure the Water’s not Too Hot or Cold – The water shouldn’t be as hot as we’re used to using when taking a bath or shower, nor as hot as it is when we wash dishes. The ideal temperature should be around 90 – 100 degrees F. Don’t test the water with your hand – it’s better to test with your wrist or elbow because they are more sensitive to sensing the actual temperature. You want your guinea pig to feel comfortable in the water. If it’s too hot or cold, he will learn to really despise baths.
- Keep A Firm Grasp Keep a firm grasp and immerse him in the water. Don’t let the water cover his eyes or ears. Lather a small amount of shampoo to cover his entire body, but stay away from his eyes and ears. Pay special attention to his butt. Take the cup and rinse off all the shampoo after you’ve cleaned him pretty well.
- Snuggle with Him in the Towel Wrap him up in a towel and get all the excess water off. If the towel gets soaked, replace the wet towel with a dry towel. Hold him for several minutes while he’s wrapped up to cuddle him, make him feel safe, and keep him warm.
- Use the Hair Dryer (optional) If you’re going to dry him with a hair dryer, start it up and keep it away from your guinea pig at first to lessen the startle factor. Let him hear the sound before he feels the burst of air. Use the “low” setting. Test the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot. It’s important to keep it some distance away when you blow-dry him, because it’s quite hot when held close to the skin, even on “low”.
- Comb or Brush Him Once he’s dry and calm, take the time to comb or brush his hair.
Alternatives to Baths
If you don’t want to bathe your guinea pig in water, here are a few alternatives:
- Some companies make a dust powder specifically designed for guinea pigs or small animals. Kaytee is one company that makes a powder to give your guinea pig a “dust bath”. However, the guinea pig respiratory system is so delicate, that some owners believe the dust from those powders could damage lungs or really hurt an already compromised pig.
- Use a Washcloth and give him a sponge bath. You can just use a wet washcloth to wipe him down, or you can add a little bit of hydrogen peroxide to the washcloth to remove stains or caked-on dirt.