Bathing your Guinea Pig

Reasons to bath your guinea pig
Guinea pigs are very clean animals and unless you don't regularly clean out their cage, then most of the time they keep that lovely familiar guinea pig aroma. However, bathing your guinea pig will help towards keeping their hair and skin healthy. My guinea pigs have a bath every 3 to 4 months, unless they are undergoing treatment for a skin condition such as lice problem or they have become messy for some reason. Remember that bathing a guinea pig too often can dry out their skin and lead to their skin becoming irritated.

Have everything you will need in easy reach before bath time commences. Here is a list of items that you will need.

3 to 4 towels
Washing up bowl
Small plastic jug
Small animal shampoo
Swafega (for boars grease gland)
Soft hairbrush
Plastic box container (optional)
A responsible helper (also optional)

If the weather is cold, make sure the room temperature is quite warm so your guinea pig doesn't catch a chill.

Fill the plastic bowl with warm water, roughly two inches deep, check the temperature with your elbow to make sure its not too hot or too cold. For my piggies, I place the bowl on the kitchen work top, near to the kitchen sink. Then I fill the kitchen sink with warm water for rinsing. I also place a flannel on the bottom of the bowl, so my guinea pig will feel more secure under foot as it will stop them from slipping. Remember to have everything within easy reach, never leave a guinea pig unattended in the bath water. When applying water, I use a small plastic container that has a spout on the end. It actually came with my steam iron, its just the right size.

If at all possible, ask a responsible person in the house to help you. They could keep their protective hands near your guinea pig while you are busy. For example: changing the bath water. Failing that, a good idea is to line a plastic container with a towel. I use my old baby toiletries container as its high enough to not allow my piggy to escape. Another option is a child's empty toy box. This is very useful if you need your hands free for whatever reason. Never leave a guinea pig unattended on any high surfaces.

I have used Johnson's Small Animal shampoo for years with no problems. For the next bath time, I'm going to try Gorgeous Guineas essential oils shampoo, I've heard so many good things about it. It also helps to prevent fungal and parasitic infestations, so it sounds ideal. I will update the bath time page and let you know how my piggies get on with the new shampoo. If you are treating your guinea pig for lice or any other condition, you need to use normal shampoo first. This makes the hair and skin nice and clean, free of grease and dirt and will help the 'treatment shampoo' penetrate to the skin more easily.

Swarfega and the Grease Gland
If you have any boars, you will need to pay attention to their grease gland which is situated near to where their tail would be (if guinea pigs had a visible tail). Its usually boars that have an active grease gland, but it can effect females too. It can feel like a small round sticky coin. A little Swarfega placed on the area before shampooing your piggy will help to remove the grease. Leave it on for a few minutes and then rinse. Swarfega is what garage mechanics use to clean the oil and grease off their hands. As a young child, my father always had some under the kitchen sink when he was a car mechanic. I have only recently discovered its ideal for cleaning a grease gland on guinea pigs.

Skin Problems
If you are worried your guinea pig has skin problems, either a parasitic or fungal problem, an excellent site to visit is Gorgeous Guineas. Please read through the pages, they really are helpful. Chrissi has vast experience in identifying guinea pig skin problems and treating them. There are numerous treatments for you to buy. Don't buy over the counter products from pet shops. Some products could be harmful to your guinea pig.

If you think your guinea pig has mange mites, then you will need to visit your vet as soon as possible for a diagnoses. If needed, Ivomectin treatment is normally given. Mange mites are very painful for your guinea pig and can cause sores because of the intense itching and biting. Parasitic or fungal shampoo's will not treat mange mites. You could ask your vet for the Ivomectin to be given orally to save your guinea pig going through painful injections. Its rare, but whenever any of my piggies have mange mites, ( although so far its usually only one of my guinea pigs that's effected ) I treat them all. Some guinea pigs have mites but aren't as effected by them, but they still need to be treated to avoid further problems. Always ask your vet about the dosage for oral Ivomectin. My vet gives me enough for my 6 adult guinea pigs. 0.4ml to be given every 7 to 10 days, usually 3 treatments are needed. Some guinea pigs can have mites and lice at the same time. When using Ivomectin, wait at least a couple of days before applying any lice treatment.

A prepared bath

Apart from my Clover who actually likes having a bath, my other piggies dislike the experience and will struggle, so always make sure you have a firm hold of your piggy just incase they panic. Remember guinea pigs can react very quickly, so please be ready. If your worried about them making a bid for freedom or you haven't given your piggy a bath before, so you won't know what to expect, place the bowl on the floor or in an empty bath tub. If they do happen to escape from your hands they won't have far to fall.

Jasmine is going to play 'Cleopatra' for my bath page :)

Bathing a guinea pig
Before you place your guinea pig in the bath water, have a towel spread out for when you shampoo your guinea pig, all towels should be left in easy reach. After preparing everything, place your guinea pig in the bowl and wet the hair, avoiding eyes, mouth and nose. Never pour water down a guinea pigs ears. Take your guinea pig out of the water and place them on a towel. Add a little shampoo on their back and massage in well. When or if you are using a parasitic shampoo, always read the instructions first. Remember to shampoo under the belly and around the bottom area. Leave the shampoo on for roughly 3 minutes. Wrap piggy up in a dry towel so they can't lick the shampoo and this will also help to keep them warm.

Jasmine not looking too worried

Jasmine cosy and warm

Now is the time to ask your helper to either hold your guinea pig or have their protective hands near, so piggy doesn't fall, while you empty the water out that your piggy has previously used. As mentioned above, you can place your piggy wrapped up in a towel and place piggy in the plastic container on the floor, which will leave your hands free for a minute. Rinse your guinea pigs hair, making sure you have all the shampoo out.

Jasmine's hair having a good rinse

Drying Routine
When all the shampoo has been rinsed away, place your guinea pig on another dry towel. You might find that you will need two towels to dry piggy. The first towel will become wet very quickly because of the excess water. Gently towel dry your guinea pig. You can use a hairdryer, but on the lowest setting. Cheak it against your arm first to give you an idea about the distance and the temperature. If its too hot for your skin, its too hot for your guinea pigs. Please be very careful when using a hairdryer.

Lovely Jasmine in mid-shake

'Its just like being at the hairdressers' says Jasmine

Once dry, brush your guinea pigs hair. Remember long haired guinea pigs will need their hair brushed everyday. Knots can quickly form and become matted. If left, it can be very painful for a guinea pig as mats can tug on the skin. You may need to trim around their bottom area as long haired guinea pigs can become messy. Be extremely careful when using scissors and make sure you avoid a boars delicate testicles. If you do find a small knot, its best to cut it out rather than try to brush/comb it out. Guinea pigs skin is very delicate so it would cause your guinea pig pain if you started tugging at it. But again, please be careful not to cut piggies skin. Sometimes it might be better if you take your guinea pig to the vets and a veterinary nurse may do it for you.

Some people also cut their guinea pigs nails after a bath. However, I feel bath time can be stressful enough for some piggies, so I usually cut them on another day. Here's a very good page about how to cut your guinea pigs nails. Nail Manicure

Jasmine looking extra beautiful and enjoying some parsley

If your guinea pig lives outside in an outbuilding like a shed, the temperature will be very different compared to inside your home. Please make sure your guinea pig is thoroughly dry before placing your guinea pig back in the cage.

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