Guinea Pig Breed Guide: How Well Do You Know the Skinny?

The Skinny is a (nearly) hairless breed of guinea pig that has become quite popular with cavy enthusiasts–especially those who suffer from pet allergies. Adorable, easy to care for, and outgoing, Skinnies are sweeping the guinea pig world by storm.

Do you know the origins of the Skinny? Did you know that they require some special care? How can you tell if the Skinny is the right breed for you?

Interested in answering these questions?

Keep reading!


Skinny Guinea Pig Origins

The Skinny was born from a random genetic mutation first identified in Canada’s Armand Frappier Institute in 1978. An accident of nature, this genetic mutation was observed in the Hartley, a breed used exclusively in laboratories.

A Hartley guinea pig.

The resulting guinea pigs were nearly hairless, making them ideal for dermatological testing, and by 1982, Charles River Laboratories were breeding Skinnies en masse.

Can you believe it? Just a slight genetic twist on the Hartley…

But these cute, cuddly, hairless piggies quickly found admirers in homes across the world, and have since become an increasingly popular choice for guinea pig enthusiasts, especially those who suffer from allergies.

Skinny Guinea Pig Characteristics

Who wouldn’t want to take this little guy home?

Skinnies come in a variety of skin colors and patterns, but what defines them all is their near-hairlessness.

The result of a recessive gene, the Skinny shouldn’t be confused with the similar-looking (but completely hairless) Baldwin. While both get their distinctive appearances from their DNA, the Baldwin’s hairlessness is actually caused by a completely different gene.

These look-alikes aren’t the same breed! Can you tell them apart?

Why does that matter?

If you breed a Baldwin with a Skinny, you get a hairy guinea pig 100% of the time!

Skinnies get their cute name from the svelt appearance their lack of fur gives them, making them look a little trimmer than a similarly sized Silkie, for instance. Expect a touch of short fur at the nose and feet, while the rest of a Skinny will be bare.

Adults will weigh 1 to 2 pounds and measure 9 to 12 inches when fully grown, with males typically being a bit larger than females.

Skinnies tend to be friendly, outgoing, and playful, and if handled carefully, they love to cuddle!

Extra Care for Skinny Guinea Pigs

Running around naked all the time creates a few extra demands on a Skinny’s parents.

Without a nice, warm coat, Skinnies tend to be cold. And to maintain their body temperature, they need to eat slightly more than other breeds. It’s also helpful if you keep them a bit warmer–think high 70s for cage temps–and many piggie parents have been known to use heaters, hot water bottles, and extra bedding material like blankets to keep these cute cavies happy.

They’re also quite sensitive to the sun. Without hair to block dangerous UV, Skinnies need your help. They should never be kept outside, and it’s a good idea to carefully limit their sun exposure.

You’ll read advice to use sunscreen on Skinnies who’ll be exposed to the sun, but we recommend instead that you keep them out of direct sunlight.

Skinnies have sensitive skin, too. Many Skinnies find that wood shavings irritate their skin, and they generally suffer from a few more skin-related issues than other breeds. Be especially attentive to things like fungal infection (ringworm), dermatitis, and dry skin.

Skinny Guinea Pig Grooming

One awesome thing about Skinnies is that they don’t need a ton of grooming. And if you suffer allergies from pet hair, the Skinny might be the perfect fit for you!

Unlike long-haired breeds like Silkies, Peruvians, and Texels, Skinnies obviously won’t need to be brushed or trimmed. That makes them great for less-experienced owners, as well as homes with small children who just aren’t up to the task of constant coat care.

You shouldn’t need to wash your Skinny pal, either, as they just won’t get dirty enough to necessitate this extra grooming step.

That said, all guinea pigs demand a little grooming:

Regular ear check-ups

Just like people, guinea pigs produce ear wax. And as it builds up, it can provide a haven for bacteria, so it’s worth taking care of regularly. The good news? Skinnies aren’t known for serious problems here.

If you suspect a serious build-up of wax, make an appointment with your veterinarian!

Every two weeks, you’ll want to work a good outer-ear cleaning into your cavy’s care rituals, but never try to clean deep in your guinea pig’s ear! Instead, you’ll want to use high-quality cotton swabs and a drop of mineral oil to gently clean any loose debris and wax from your furry friend’s ears.

If you’re not sure how to go about this, just watch this video:

Monthly nail trimming

According to PetMD, “All guinea pigs need to have their nails trimmed periodically, typically every month to two months. The frequency of trimming depends on the guinea pig’s age, diet, cage substrate, and activity level. Younger guinea pigs’ nails typically grow faster than older ones’, and those that are fed nutritionally balanced diets generally grow faster as well.”

Cavy parents can use nail clippers designed for cats and work as a team to carefully trim their furry friend’s nails, being careful not to cut to the sensitive quick. If nail trimming stresses your guinea pig, you can work on one or two nails per session, resuming when it has had time to calm down.

Here’s a good how-to guide:

Final Thoughts: Is a Skinny Guinea Pig Right for You?

Skinnies are irresistibly cute, super social, and really easy to take care of. And without the fur that causes allergies, they’re super popular as pets for people who might live in agony with a long-haired breed.

It’s easy to understand, then, why we recommend Skinnies for people with allergies, families with young children, and all levels of guinea pig experience. And while you will need to keep a Skinny out of the sun–and keep it warm–these aren’t major problems or nagging daily chores.

Is the Skinny right for you?

If you want an easy-to-care-for, hypoallergenic friend, give one a try!

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