How to Wash A Guinea Pig – Home & Roost

How to Wash A Guinea Pig

How to Wash A Guinea Pig

Melinda Connor |

Keen to find out how to wash your guinea pig? We have a step-by-step guide that will help you get the job done, quickly and easily. But before we get to the how-to bit, let's take a look at the most frequently asked questions we receive on this particular topic.

How Often Should You Bathe a Guinea Pig?

Like cats, guinea pigs are clean-freaks and groom themselves all the time. This means they don't need to be bathed too often. In fact, giving them a bath too regularly will do more harm than good, removing natural oils and causing dry hair and itchy skin. 

We recommend bathing your guinea pig once a month in the summer and every second month in the winter.

Is It Normal For Guinea Pigs To Smell?

Because they are so good at cleaning themselves, it is unusual for guinea pigs to smell. But if you are picking up a strong odour from your cavies, it could be that you need to clean their cage or hutch more often. Also, the more guinea pigs you have, the more regularly you will need to give their enclosure a spot clean and a deep clean.

Having said this, if you notice that it is actually your guinea pig giving off a smell, it could be because of its age, its weight, dental issues or because it is sick. Guinea pigs over the age of five are considered senior and will need some help in the cleaning department. 

Overweight cavies, those with dental issues and sick guinea pigs will also have a hard time keeping themselves clean.

Tip - Keep an eye on your piggy's poop! It is a good indicator of your guinea pig's overall health.

Can I Use Dawn Dish Soap to Wash My Guinea Pig?

Although some articles say it is safe to use Dawn dish soap to wash your guinea pig, we recommend that you don't. Even the gentlest dish soaps contain ingredients that may be too harsh on your guinea pig's skin.

Is It Okay To Wash Guinea Pigs With Human Shampoo?

No, it's not okay to wash your guinea pigs with human shampoos. These products contain harsh chemicals that are not suitable for use on guinea pigs. Some unscented baby shampoos, diluted with water, can be used to give your piggies a bath, but we recommend this only if you are desperate. 

But we always suggest that you check with your vet beforehand to make sure the product is safe for your pet.

What Soap Is Safe For Guinea Pigs?

Now that you know what soap not to use on your guinea pigs, let's take a look at products that are safe.

We recommend the following products for your guinea pigs.

Earthbath Hypo-Allergenic Pet Shampoo

Johnson's Vet Manuka Honey 2-In-1 Shampoo

Johnsons Veterinary Products Small Animal Cleansing Shampoo

Chubbs Soap Bar

And for their hutch or cage, we suggest using Simple Solution Cage and Hutch Natural Anti-Bacterial Cleaner.

Can I Bathe My Guinea Pigs Without Shampoo?

Guinea pigs, for the most part, don't enjoy bathtime. But if yours gets particularly stressed out, there are a couple of ways you can give it a clean without using shampoo or too much water.

If this sounds like your piggy, why not try these shampoo-free solutions?

Sponge bath

If your piggy isn't too dirty but can still do with a clean, why not give it a sponge bath? Simply wipe him down with a damp washcloth. Of course, every now and then your piggy will need a proper bath to remove stubborn stains and dirt.

Pet-friendly wipes

Pet-friendly wipes are also a good option for spot cleans and grubby guinea faces. We recommend Petkin Small Animal Wipes to get rid of surface dirt. For a thorough wash, a bath with some water is inevitable.

No-Rinse Dry Shampoo

Another option for a water-free bath is a no-rinse dry shampoo. Vet's Best Small Animal Waterless Bath |No Rinse Dry Shampoo for Small Animals cleans, detangles, and moisturises your guinea pig's fur without getting your cavy wet. 

However, we recommend a regular bath every four to six weeks, even when using this product.

How To Bathe Your Guinea Pig - A Step-By-Step Guide

Bathing your guinea pig the first time can be a little bit daunting, but once you get the hang of it, both you and your cavy will enjoy the quality time together.

What you need

Before you start, make sure you have everything in one place. The more organised you are, the better. You will need:

  • Guinea-pig friendly shampoo - make sure that you have the right shampoo on hand. You can use any one of the products recommended earlier, or ask your vet for advice.

  • Towels - have plenty of towels available to dry your piggy after its bath. You might want to lay a few down on the floor too.

  • Plastic container - if you have one, a plastic container makes an excellent bath for your guinea pig. If not, then we recommend using a basin or sink.

  • Hair dryer - a hair dryer with different settings is optional. Just remember, not all guinea pigs like the noise.

Tip: Patience and a sense of humour will definitely come in handy, especially the first few times.

Step-By-Step Guide To Bathing your guinea pig

Now that you are ready, let's get started.

1. Get the water ready

We suggest placing a washcloth or small towel on the bottom of the plastic container or basin to stop your guinea pig from slipping. Then fill it up with approximately 2 inches of lukewarm water. Your piggy should be able to stand comfortably in the water, without getting its face wet.

2. Calm your guinea pig down

Take the time to calm your guinea pig down before putting it in the water. Give it a cuddle, use a soothing voice to talk to it and gently stroke it. If your piggy enjoys a treat (and whose doesn't), it will help distract it during bath time.

If you have more than one guinea pig, we suggest bathing them one at a time. This way, they won't hurt each other, and you will be able to give each one the attention it needs.

Tip: Remember to bathe all your guinea pigs on the same day. Leaving any unwashed could cause others to gang up on them.

3. Remove stubborn dirt before bathing your guinea pig

Before washing your cavies, remove any stubborn dirt with a damp cloth or pet wipe. This will make cleaning your piggy in the water a whole lot easier, and a lot less stressful.

4.Cleaning your guinea pig

Always put your guinea pig in the water, back legs first. Give it time to adjust to the water, continually reassuring it. A treat may come in handy at this point. Never leave your cavy alone in the basin, sink or container.

Use your hand or a small scoop to wet your guinea pig's hair. Do this gently and don't get any water on its face or in its ears.

Pour a few drops of guinea pig shampoo onto your pet and in the palm of your hand. Gently massage it into the coat. Use one hand to do this, so you can hold your cavy with the other.

Tip: If your pet isn't very dirty, you could put a few drops of shampoo directly into the water. Then using cotton wool balls, gently rub your guinea pig's coat with the soapy mixture.

Once you are done, make sure you rinse all the shampoo off your guinea pig with warm water. Remember to do it gently, avoiding getting water on its face, in its eyes or ears.

5. Use a towel to dry your guinea pig

Lift your guinea pig out of the water and place it on a clean, dry towel. Gently wrap the towel around your piggy to keep it warm. Whatever you do, don't rub your guinea pig dry. Instead, pat the towel on your pet's coat to absorb the water. Keep doing this until your cavy is completely dry.

At this point, if you notice any dirt around your piggy's eyes, nose or ears, gently wipe it away with a pet-wipe or damp cloth.

Optional - If you have a long-haired guinea pig breed, you could use a hair dryer to dry it more quickly. Only do this if your cavy doesn't mind it, and remember to keep it on a low speed and medium heat setting.

6. Groom your guinea pig

Once cleaned and dry, you should give your guinea pig a bit of a grooming session. Start off by brushing it, and then move onto trimming nails and cleaning grease glands (if necessary). This article is great if you are wanting to find out how to groom your piggy. 

Now is a good time to look for any injuries and feel for any strange lumps and bumps. Not only is this important for your guinea pig's health, but it's also a great way to bond with your pet.

How To Keep Your Guinea Clean In Between Baths

Ideally, you should only be bathing your guinea pig every four to six weeks. In between baths, you can keep your cavy clean by doing the following:

  • Replacing the bedding - once a day, you should replace soiled bedding from the cage. It's a good idea to line the hutch with newspaper to absorb any moisture, which will stop it from smelling.

  • Disinfect the cage once a week - while spot cleaning will keep the foul odours at bay, giving the cage a clean with a disinfectant will keep the germs away. To do this, remove all the bedding, food bowls, water bottles and toys. Then spray the disinfectant inside the cage and on the wiring. Give it a wipe down with a clean cloth, and wait for it to dry. Once it is completely dry, replace the bedding.

  • Clean bowls, water bottles, and toys - it's a good idea to give the water bottles, and food bowls a thorough clean once a day. We suggest disinfecting them once a week with a pet-friendly solution.

  • Spot clean the cage - depending on how many guinea pigs you have, you will need to do regular spot cleans. This involves removing soiled bedding, especially around litter trays and eating areas.

  • Keep your guinea pigs away from dirt - your guinea pigs need plenty of exercise, which is why we recommend a run and good-sized hutch. To keep them clean during their run-around, make sure their hutch and play areas are on grassy spots, away from sand and mud. Also try not to get your guinea pigs wet, especially when it is cold.

Frequently Asked Questions About Washing Guinea Pigs

This section tells you everything you need to know about washing guinea pigs at a glance.

What soap is safe for guinea pigs?

The only safe soap is a guinea pig or small animal shampoo. Anything else will be too harsh for your pet's sensitive skin. We have seen some websites saying it's okay to use unscented baby shampoo, but we only recommend this if you're absolutely desperate.

Can I use dish soap to bathe my guinea pigs?

We are asked this time and again. And while some sites say it is okay to use diluted dish soap to wash your guinea pig, we suggest you don't. If you are trying to remove stubborn dirt or clean your piggy's grease glands, we recommend using a good quality coconut oil instead.

Is it okay to give my guinea pig a dust bath?

We hear about people giving their guinea pigs dust baths, but don't suggest you do this. It's not how piggies clean themselves in the wild, so chances are they won't know what to do with it. Also, there is a good chance it will cause respiratory problems.

Can I give my guinea pig a bath without water?

If your guinea pig really doesn't like getting wet, there are other ways you can clean it without water. Use pet-friendly wet wipes to remove stubborn dirt, no-rinse dry shampoo, or if you prefer you can use warm water and a sponge to wipe it down.

In a nutshell, guinea pigs are very good at keeping themselves (and their hutch mates) clean, so regular baths aren't necessary. But when wash day does come around, our step-by-step guide will make it a whole lot easier for you, a lot less stressful for your guinea pig.

Have you got any photos of your guinea pig having a bath? We would love to see them. Just remember to keep them PG... or should that be GP?