Like all pets, guinea pigs can get a bit smelly every now and again.
But bathtime probably isn’t high on your guinea pig’s list of fun activities to do.
This can make the whole ordeal a little stressful – for both you and your pet.
My guinea pigs, Jake and Finn, aren’t the best when it comes to baths; they’re huge fidgeters.
I’ve had my share of scratches, soggy clothes, and nips over the years when bathing guinea pigs, so I understand how frustrating bathing a guinea pig can be.
To help bathtime go a little smoother for you and your guinea pig, I’ll be sharing tips and tricks I’ve gathered over the years on how to bathe guinea pigs, as well as all the things you’ll need (don’t worry, it’s not much!)
Are You Supposed to Bathe a Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs rarely need bathing unless they are extremely dirty or have a bad case of lice.
Cavies are fantastic self-groomers, so they do a pretty good job of keeping themselves clean.
They use their sharp teeth and rough tongue (just like a cat) to pick off dirt and debris trapped in their fur.
That said, there are a few scenarios when you can give your piggy a bath, which I’ll be explaining more about below!
Why Bathe Your Guinea Pigs?
If your guinea pig is infested with a lot of lice or mites, then they may require medicated shampoo to help remove the parasites.
However, make sure you speak to a vet beforehand to get a diagnosis and the right treatment.
You might have to bathe your guinea pig if urine or feces get stuck in their fur to help prevent soreness and flystrike, which can be fatal if not dealt with quickly.
Flystrike occurs when blowflies lay eggs on your cavy’s body, usually around the bottom as they are attracted to urine and feces.
The eggs hatch into larvae that then begin to eat your guinea pig’s flesh (I know, it’s pretty gross).
This is the same condition that can occur in sheep if they are not sheared or crutched (when wool around the tail and rear legs is cut) regularly.
This condition is most prevalent in summer months when the temperature is warm, so it’s crucial you keep your guinea pig and their habitat clean.
Lastly, you might have to bathe your guinea pig if they become a bit smelly, especially if they’re elderly or sick and unable to groom themselves properly.
Long-haired breeds may also need help keeping clean with a guinea pig bath.
Can Guinea Pigs Clean Themselves?
Guinea pigs are very clean animals and will normally maintain their coat with little intervention.
The only time you might have to step in is for one of the reasons I mentioned above, or to brush out a knot or tangle if their fur is long.
Did you know that cavies also groom each other as a way to show affection?
Some guinea pigs even groom their owners, especially if bonded!
Do Guinea Pigs Smell Bad?
Guinea pigs can get smelly sometimes, but this usually indicates an unhygienic or dirty habitat.
Some diseases, illnesses, or skin conditions can cause your guinea pig to be a bit more pungent than usual, such as diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and fungal infections.
If your piggy’s habitat is clean but you still notice a stinky aroma, then check your guinea pig over for signs of sickness.
Guinea pigs have scent/grease glands around their bottom which they use to mark their territory.
These glands secrete a sticky and smelly oil, which can build up around their bottom, especially in males.
So, if your guinea pig is healthy and has a clean cage, then their pungent scent might be due to their grease glands.
How Often Do You Need to Bathe a Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs don’t need baths very often, so only bathe them when it’s absolutely necessary. If your guinea pig is elderly, sick, long-haired, or particularly messy, then they may require a bath around once a month.
Some owners also bathe their guinea pigs every month in the summer to help prevent flystrike and maintain cleanliness.
Where to Bathe Your Guinea Pig
You’ll need to pick a good area to bathe your guinea pig, preferably somewhere that allows you to have a steady grip on your pet so they can’t fidget.
A sink, basin, or large bowl placed on the floor are some places you can use for your pet’s water bath.
The latter two are particularly great choices as there’s no risk of your guinea pig hurting themselves if they wriggle free.
If your guinea pig is a particularly fidgety piggy, then I recommend using a bowl or basin on the ground rather than a sink to be on the safe side.
Things You’ll Need to Prepare Before You Bathe Guinea Pig
Before bathing your guinea pig, you’ll need to do a bit of preparation to make sure they have a stress-free experience.
Giving your guinea pig a bath can be pretty scary for your cavy, so I’ll be going over some tips below on how to bathe a guinea pig safely and correctly.
When I bathed my guinea pigs for the first time, I got a bit flustered trying to grab all the tools I needed and get my pets ready for their bath.
This lack of preparation really stressed out my guinea pigs – they were very squeaky and wriggly, which just made bathing them more difficult. Even after their bath, they were grumpy with me for the rest of the day!
Soap or Shampoo?
When it’s time to give your guinea pig a water bath, you might be wondering whether you can use soap or shampoo to clean them with.
Human soap, shampoo, and conditioners should never be used on your guinea pig as they could irritate your cavy’’s sensitive skin.
Additionally, dish soap and other cleaning products should be avoided for the same reason (they could also contain harmful chemicals!).
Shampoo for Guinea Pigs
Fortunately, there are shampoos targeted specifically for guinea pigs and small animals, so these are your best bet when bathing your guinea pig.
These products are designed especially for little pets, so they’re completely safe to use for cavies and won’t irritate their skin.
Ideally, choose a guinea pig shampoo or small animal shampoo that is fragrance-free as guinea pigs have a strong sense of smell.
Baby shampoo can be used in a pinch if you can’t get your hands on guinea pig shampoo, but only use a very small amount and make sure you don’t get it in your pet’s mouth, nose, or eyes.
Once your guinea pig has finished their bath, you’ll need to dry them off with a soft towel to prevent them from getting cold.
The material of the towel doesn’t matter.
Use a large and light towel that can easily cover your piggy’s entire body but don’t cover their head. Replace the towel with a dry one if it gets too wet.
I also advise putting a few towels around your pet’’s bathing area to mop up any spillages and water.
Is It Okay to Use a Hair Dryer to Blow Dry My Guinea Pig?
You can use a hairdryer on your guinea pig as long as you use it on the coolest setting.
If your guinea pig has long fur, then giving them a blow dry can help them dry off quicker.
It’s important to make sure your guinea pigs don’t catch a chill after they’ve had their bath, so providing them with a hair dryer / blow dry and style can be a great way to keep your cavy’s fur dry, silky, and tangle-free.
Guinea pigs have very dense fur which traps water when wet. That’s why you need to dry your pet off thoroughly after they’ve had a bath.
Although guinea pigs don’t have to be bathed often, they do require regular brushing.
After your guinea pig has had their bath and is completely dry, it’s a good idea to use a brush to keep their fur knot-free and looking its best.
Short-haired guinea pigs need to be brushed every week with a soft brush made with gentle bristles.
Long-haired guinea pigs, on the other hand, will require daily brushing using a small animal comb or bristle brush to keep their locks luscious.
When bathing your guinea pig, you need to make sure the water is at a good temperature.
If the water is too hot, your guinea could be burned.
On the flip side, if the water is too cold, your guinea pig could catch a chill. Both scenarios will result in an uncomfortable and unhappy guinea pig!
The bath should have lukewarm water (around 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit), ideally around 2 inches deep.
You can test the warm water with your elbow or wrist to make sure it is at a suitable temperature for your guinea pig.
Detailed Step by Step Procedure on How to Bathe Guinea Pigs
First thing’s first, try to make sure your guinea pig is relaxed before putting them in the bath water. You could sprinkle a bit of warm water on their feet to help them become accustomed to being wet.
Keep a tasty treat nearby as a distraction.
When your guinea pig is calm, slowly lower their body into the water, but don’t cover their head (you don’t want water getting into your guinea pig’s nose or mouth).
Keep a gentle but firm grasp on your guinea pig so they can’t wriggle out of your hands.
Use a jug or your hands to gently pour warm water over your pet’s body.
Once your cavy’s body is wet, lift them out of the water onto the ground or your lap.
Use a towel for this part so you or your floors stay dry and don’t get soaked with water!
Next, squeeze a small amount of guinea pig shampoo onto your hand and lather it over your guinea pig’s body.
Use a finger to very gently lather a tiny bit of shampoo onto your guinea pig’s head, but be careful not to get any product in your guinea pig’s eyes.
Now that your guinea pig is all bubbly and soapy, rinse them off with warm water. You can use your hand to shield your guinea pig’s eyes from water and shampoo when you’re rinsing their head. Check your guinea pig over to make sure no shampoo is left.
Once your guinea pig is sparkling clean, wrap them in a soft towel for a few minutes. Don’t wrap them too tightly – make sure their head can stick out so they don’t suffocate.
When your guinea pig is no longer dripping with water, lift them onto your lap. If you have a hair dryer, you can use it on your guinea pig to help them dry quicker.
However, don’t worry if you don’t have one, simply keep your guinea pig in a towel for a little longer to help them dry off.
Use the blow dryer on the lowest setting and keep it moving so it doesn’t burn your pet. Make sure it isn’t positioned too close to your guinea pig too.
After bathing your guinea pig and drying them off, put them back in their cage or a warm spot for a few hours so they dry quickly and don’t catch a chill.
How to Bathe a Pregnant Guinea Pig
Unless it’s crucial, try not to give your guinea pig a water bath if they are pregnant to avoid unnecessary stress.
Instead, use a damp washcloth to gently wipe away any stains or dirt on your pet.
That said if you need to bathe your pregnant guinea pig, follow the same steps I mentioned but be extra careful when lifting and handling your pet.
Be extremely gentle when washing your pregnant guinea pig’s belly – try not to lift her up too much so you don’t put extra pressure on her stomach.
Tips on How to Bathe Guinea Pigs
Bathtime usually isn’t the most enjoyable experience for your guinea pig, and they can understandably be a little frightened.
That’s why you should help them be as comfortable as possible to make sure they don’t get overly stressed.
Here are some tips I use when I’m bathing my guinea pigs.
Pet Your Guinea Pig
When you bathe your guinea pig, gently pet or stroke them to help them feel a little more relaxed.
Being bathed, covered in shampoo, and doused in warm water probably isn’t your guinea pig’s idea of fun, but having you there can help things seem a bit less scary.
Talk to Your Guinea Pig
Speak to your guinea pig in a soft and calm voice to help them feel more at ease. Don’t yell or raise your voice if your guinea pig misbehaves, fidgets, or bites.
You have to remain composed when you’re bathing your guinea pig, otherwise, your pet will pick up on your negative attitude and grow more panicked.
I like to tell my guinea pigs about my day, what I’ve been up to, who I’ve seen, and where I’ve been.
Have a conversation with your piggy about anything – even though they can’t talk back, the sound of your voice will help soothe them.
Toys and Treats
Keeping some toys or tasty treats closeby when you bathe your pet can make for great distractions.
This is especially helpful if your guinea pig is a bit wriggly.
If your guinea pig is getting agitated, try to get their attention with a snack or toy they love like a slice of carrot or chew stick to try and calm them down.
Can You Bath Guinea Pig Without Soap/Shampoo?
You can bathe your guinea pig without soap or shampoo.
If you’d rather not use shampoo on your pet, don’t worry – there’s still a way you can get your pet clean!
You can bathe your guinea pig using just a washcloth.
Simply wet a washcloth with some water and wipe your pet down.
Once your guinea pig is clean, gently dry them off with a towel.
This is the preferred method if your guinea pig isn’t overly dirty or smelly but just requires a quick wash down.
If your guinea pig has mites/lice or has dirt and urine/feces stuck in their fur, then they may benefit from a more thorough washing with shampoo and water.
As guinea pigs already do a pretty good job keeping themselves clean, bathing isn’t an activity you should subject your pet to very regularly.
Like I mentioned earlier, the only times you should give your guinea pig a bath with shampoo and water is when they are extremely stinky or unable to groom themselves properly.
Don’t Be Afraid!
Bathing your guinea pig can be a little stressful, especially if you’ve never done it before.
I know I felt a bit nervous the first few times I bathed my guinea pig – I think I was more anxious than them!
Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you make your guinea pig’s bathtime as easy as possible.
If you’re looking for more useful and informative guides on guinea pig care, then make sure you check out our other resources.
Let me know if you have any helpful tips on bathing guinea pigs that I haven’t mentioned.