How To Bathe Your Guinea Pig?
Guinea pigs do clean after themselves frequently like how hamsters and rabbits do. That is why there are only a handful of reasons why you should give your guinea pigs a bath.
Guinea pigs have natural oils on their coats and excessive bathing may remove this protective coating making them vulnerable to illnesses.
If a bath is needed, there are proper ways on how to wash a guinea pig and this is important to reduce the risks involved in the process.
Do Guinea Pigs Really Need Baths?
They are not that fond of water so it is also risky to expose them regularly to bathing. There is a possibility of them inhaling the water and it will go straight to their lungs and this is considered as an emergency condition. They are also prone to respiratory illnesses such as colds which can be easily caught if they are not dried properly.
It is recommended that they are given a bath once every 3 to 4 months considering some owners don’t give their cavies a bath at all. It is not really necessary but it is still a choice and can be done occasionally to keep them clean.
There is also the consideration of the guinea pig breed as long-haired cavies may need bathing more than short-haired ones. The short-haired breeds usually don’t need any bath as long as they are able to groom themselves properly.
Veterinarians usually recommend giving a guinea pig a bath under the following health conditions:
- If the cavy is suffering from parasitic conditions, bathing can remove dead lice and mites.
- If a guinea pig’s rump is wet due to bladder infection, then you have to wash the rump side only.
- Diarrhea may result in a dirty rump that is prone to bacterial growth. Washing the rump is the only way to thoroughly clean the cavies of feces.
Some owners also give their guinea pigs a bath before a show competition as part of their grooming routine. The grooming routine will also include nail trimming, hair brushing, and cleaning of their grease glands.
Proper Washing of Guinea Pigs
If your guinea pig is in dire need of a bath, it is better to do it on a warm weather for it to dry off quickly. It is also critical that you first set up all the materials that you will need for the bath before taking it out of the cage. If you have more than one guinea pig, schedule a bath time for all of them in one day and wash them one by one.
First, you will need a shampoo for guinea pigs to facilitate thorough cleaning of their coat during bath time. Guinea pigs have a sensitive skin and human shampoo, or even dog shampoo may be too harsh for them. Other shampoos may also cause dryness of their skin resulting to irritation.
You can use a baby shampoo but it would be better if a shampoo specifically formulated for guinea pigs will be used.
You will also be needing 3 to 4 towels on standby. The first towel will be used to remove dripping water, then, the remaining towels will be used to pat dry your cavies. Provide another towel that is to be placed under the bathing bowl to keep it from slipping.
Choose where you will give your pet a bath as this is critical to keep it safe from injuries. Wet guinea pigs will be slippery so you should consider a place or container where they cannot escape.
A small sink or two bowls with 2 to 3 centimeters of warm water should be provided for their bath. The water should not be too hot or too cold as these extreme temperatures will hurt your pet.
A guinea pig brush should also be used to remove matted furs and to keep a smooth coat. This is usually used after completely drying your cavy. Preparing these items ahead of the actual bath time will reduce its exposure to the atmosphere and lowering the chances of it getting the chills.
How Exactly Should You Do It?
Here is a step-by-step guide on giving your guinea pig a proper bath:
- Ensure that your guinea pig is calm before placing it in the bath. Provide fruit or vegetable treats on the side to give to your pet to help soothe its nerves. Let it smell the shallow bowl first for it to get acquainted with the bathing environment.
- Carefully lower its body into the shallow water. Keep its nose out of the water for it to breathe comfortably.
- You may either use your hand or a small cup to scoop the water and gently pour it into its body. Make sure that its face will not get wet and you can help by shielding its head using your other hand.
- Bring it out of the water and transfer to the other bowl. Hold it firmly and lather a small amount of guinea pig shampoo on the body. Make certain that no shampoo or water goes into its face.
- If you are to use an anti-parasitic shampoo, make sure to follow the instructions on the label or as instructed by your vet. This usually involves letting the shampoo sit on a guinea pig’s body for a few minutes before rinsing off. Wrap your cavy in a towel while waiting to keep it warm.
- After shampooing, rinse it all off for two or three times using warm water and double check that no residual shampoo is left on the body.
- Start drying your cavy by wrapping it in a towel to remove the dripping water. Dry pat it completely. Using a dryer is unnecessary as long as you assure that the environment is warm for easier drying of its coat. Keep it close to your body to provide additional warmth to its own.
- If its face needs cleaning, dab a cotton ball in warm water or use a damp cloth then remove the dirt from its face. Just be careful to not let any water get inside its ears.
- When it has completely dried off, start brushing the hair in the direction of its growth. Use a soft-bristled brush for removing tangled hair and loose dirt.
- Keep the cavy in a warm place overnight.
Try to make bathing time as short as you can and make sure that before you return your cavies, their cages are already clean as well. If it isn’t, then, the bath would be useless as they can easily catch again the dirt and smell inside their habitat.
If the weather is cold outside, accelerate the drying process by using a blow dryer. You have to use this as carefully as you can and as far away from their bodies as possible. Set the dryer to the lowest setting and if the air is too hot on your hands, move it farther away from the guinea pig’s body.
Cleaning the Grease Glands
Grease glands in guinea pigs produce oily secretions that are mainly used for scenting and marking of territories. These can be found under the fur located at the base of their spine. It is about half an inch away from their genitals.
Some guinea pigs have active grease glands that they need to be cleaned regularly. If this is not cleaned, cavies can be prone to infection, mite infestation, and bacterial growth leading to various diseases. These are the reasons why cleaning of grease glands should be part of guinea pigs’ grooming routine. This has to be done prior to giving them a body bath.
Trim the fur around the gland if needed before removing accumulated oils in the gland. If there is a buildup of an oily substance, use an extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil to rub the area. You may consult your vet for other safe alternatives to coconut oil as a degreaser.
After degreasing, apply shampoo or a dishwashing detergent on the gland and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing off. If there are still some substances left, repeat the degreasing and shampooing process until it is thoroughly clean. Make sure that the cavy is kept warm with towels while cleaning its rump.
Keeping Your Guinea Pigs Clean
There is an alternative to water bathing and that is the use of a wet washcloth which is similar to giving a sponge bath to humans. If you think that the dirt can easily be wiped away, use a washcloth to remove them or you may also add a drop or two of hydrogen peroxide. This will help in the removal of stains on a guinea pig’s coat.
It is not recommended for guinea pigs to use a sand bath or a dust bath. Their respiratory system is quite delicate and inhalation of small particles can damage their lungs.
Regularly clean their cages for at least once a week. Clean everything from the beddings to their food and water dishes. Wash down their cages if possible and completely dry them before putting in a new set of beddings.
You may also do spot cleaning of dirt, spills or droppings inside their cages every single day. This can be effective in maintaining their cages clean for at least a week.
Ensure that the beddings that you use for them are absorbent enough and do not impart any off odor to your cavies. If you think these can cause the buildup of odors, change their beddings into safe wood shavings or other absorbent materials, excluding newspaper and hay.