close up side view of longhaired guinea pig's face
Guinea pig grooming becomes a simple routine once you know what to do, even for longhaired breeds like this. Jolly-Sunshine/

While it’s true that guinea pigs require less grooming than the average dog, this doesn’t mean they require no grooming. Your guinea pig buddies do some of their own grooming, but they do need a bit of help from you. Don’t worry. Grooming a guinea pig is simple, and the small amount of time it takes for you to do it pays off with happy, healthy guinea pigs! The following is information regarding companion guinea pigs. Those guinea pigs bound for the show ring have more intense grooming requirements.

Guinea Pig Baths

Do guinea pigs need baths? The answer to that is yes and no — mostly no. Most guinea pigs don’t like baths, so it’s lucky that guinea pigs don’t usually need baths. If your guinea pig gets a little dirty, try to do spot cleaning with a baby wipe or a shampoo formulated for small animals. Never use shampoo for people, as this can dry out your guinea pig’s skin. If your guinea pig requires a full-body bath, use guinea pig-safe shampoo and lukewarm water that only reaches your pal’s belly. Never submerge your guinea pig in water and avoid getting water in your furry friend’s ears or eyes. After a thorough rinsing, gently towel dry and then use a blow dryer on a low setting to dry your pet’s fur. Keep one hand between your guinea pig and the dryer so you know the temperature at all times. It should never be more than slightly warm. Be sure your guinea pig’s fur is completely dry so that he or she won’t get sick.

Some guinea pigs, especially males, might have an active grease gland at the base of their spine. This is a small area of skin just above the anus that can get greasy and matted and stink. The need for cleaning varies by guinea pig. If you have a guinea pig who experiences matting or odor in this area, check it regularly and consider doing butt baths or gently cleaning the gland with a cotton swab soaked in a cleaning agent. The Guinea Lynx website suggests several cleaning methods. You can also discuss how to clean this gland with your veterinarian or guinea pig-savvy groomer.

Guinea Pig Coats

How would you look if you didn’t brush your hair for days? The same thing happens to guinea pigs if you don’t brush their coats, especially longhaired breeds. Brushing your guinea pig’s coat prevents matting of the fur, redistributes oil and stimulates the skin. Use a soft-bristled pet brush, grooming glove, or comb. Experiment to find out what your guinea pig likes and what works well for you. Always be gentle when brushing to avoid hurting your guinea pig. How often you brush depends on the length of fur, with shorthaired breeds needing it at least every few days and longhaired needing it daily.

One bonus to brushing is that it’s really just “formal petting,” so your guinea pig should enjoy it. When brushing, pay attention to your guinea pig’s body overall. Do you see or feel any lumps or bumps? Discuss anything abnormal with your veterinarian.

If your longhaired guinea pig is constantly getting dirt in his or her coat, you might consider trimming the fur so it won’t drag on the floor. Guinea pigs that constantly soil their long tail fur might need to have that trimmed so they aren’t constantly wet around their bottom.

Guinea Pig Nail Trims

There’s no question that guinea pigs need regular nail trims. Once you feel the prick of overgrown nails or see a guinea pig try to walk on overgrown nails, any doubts about the necessity of nail trims vanish. Nail trims are needed about every 6 to 8 weeks. Your veterinarian, a guinea pig-savvy groomer or a nearby guinea pig rescue operator can show you how to trim guinea pig nails.

The guinea pig needs to be held still, either by you or a helper, so that you can use pet grooming scissors to trim the nails. Grooming scissors are a must. Using incorrect scissors can damage nails. Take care not to trim into the quick, which is the blood vessel at the center of the nail. In light-colored nails you can usually see the quick inside. For dark-colored nails, use a flashlight and shine behind the nail to try to see the quick. Trim just the very tip of the nail. If necessary, a brief filing with an emery board can dull any sharp nail edges. Keep styptic powder or corn starch nearby in case you do nick the quick and a nail starts to bleed. A pinch of either powder should minimize any bleeding.

Guinea Pig Ears

Why would ears need grooming? Well, they can build up ear wax in the outer folds. They can also get ear mites. It’s a good idea to include an ear inspection in your weekly grooming routine. Guinea Lynx recommends cleaning the outer ear folds every two weeks using a drop of mineral oil spread on each ear, then waiting 5 minutes before wiping off with a clean, soft cloth. You are only touching the outer ear. Never insert anything into the ear. If you see anything abnormal during your inspections, contact your veterinarian.

Keep An Eye On

Your guinea pigs’ teeth and butt are two areas you don’t usually need to groom, but you should inspect them weekly. Guinea pig teeth grow continuously, so you need to monitor for overgrowth, breaks, misalignment, and anything abnormal. At the other end, your guinea pig’s butt could alert you to a health problem if there is strange discharge, impacted feces, or other issues. Contact your veterinarian if anything looks odd.

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