Even though guinea pigs are self-cleaning, there may be occasions where you need to know how to give your guinea pig a bath. When doing so keep in mind that guinea pigs are not the biggest fans of water and exposure to water may cause them stress.
Below is a step by step guide on how to safely bathe your guinea pig as well as frequently asked questions about guinea pig baths.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Bathe Your Guinea Pig Safely
Place a small cloth in the bottom of the container or sink that you will be using to bathe your guinea pig. Placing the cloth at the bottom will help to prevent your guinea pig from slipping.
While the amount of water that you add to the container or sink will differ depending on the size of your guinea pig, a general rule of thumb is to only add enough water so that the water level comes up to the midpoint of the guinea pigs legs.
When adding the water, make sure that the water level is not near their nose or mouth. You should avoid using water levels that are too high to avoid accidental aspiration and unnecessary stress to your guinea pig.
It is important to only use warm water and avoid using cold or hot water when bathing your guinea pig. Cold water should be avoided since guinea pigs are sensitive to shifts in temperature and can be susceptible to hypothermia. You should also avoid using hot water when bathing your guinea pig because it can cause the guinea pig’s skin to become irritated, or even burn their skin if too hot.
As you prepare to place your guinea pig in the water, you should take steps to ensure that your guinea pig is calm. In many instances, this can be achieved by gently talking to your guinea pig as you carry them to the container or sink that you will be using for their bath.
Once the guinea pig is calm, continue to hold the guinea pig in your hands, and slowly introduce them to the water by gently rubbing their leg with a warm damp cloth. If your guinea pig remains calm during this process, slowly place your guinea pig into the container of water hindquarters first.
Once the guinea pig is fully placed in the water, give it time to adjust to the feeling and temperature of the water. This could be a good time to give your guinea pig a treat to help the guinea pig to remain calm and to develop a positive association with bathing.
Next, give your guinea pig a rinse by gently pouring a small amount of warm water over their body until their fur is wet. When pouring the water over the guinea pig’s body be sure to avoid getting water in their ears and eyes, as this can cause irritation and possibly injure your guinea pig.
Squirt a small amount of guinea pig shampoo into your hand and gently rub the shampoo into the guinea pig’s fur.
When rubbing the shampoo into your guinea pig’s fur, you should not scrub or forcefully rub the shampoo into their fur. If your guinea pig’s face is soiled, apply a small portion of the bathwater to a clean cloth and gently wipe their face, but again be sure to avoid getting the soapy water in their nose and ears.
Gently pour clean warm water over your guinea pig’s body to remove the shampoo. Leaving excess shampoo on your guinea pig can cause skin irritation, so be sure to completely remove all of the shampoo during the rinsing process.
After your guinea pig has been completely rinsed, place him/her on a clean towel, and gently wrap another towel around them to keep them warm. Gently massage the guinea pig with the towel but be sure to avoid vigorously rubbing our guinea pig with the towel since this can cause unnecessary stress.
During this step, you should continue to dry your guinea pig until most of the water is out of their fur. If the towel that you are using becomes too wet, you may need to use a second dry towel to continue this step.
**While you may think using a hairdryer would be a more efficient approach to drying your guinea pig’s fur, you should avoid doing so. The air from the hairdryer may be too hot even if it is on the lowest setting and the hot air can burn or otherwise irritate their skin. Additionally, since guinea pigs do not like loud noises, the noise from a hairdryer would likely cause undue stress.
Once your guinea pig’s fur is as dry as possible, take a brush with soft bristles and brush your guinea pig’s fur. Brushing their fur after the bath will help to prevent matting and tangled fur.
Can You Use Baby Shampoo to Bathe Your Guinea Pig?
In general, you should avoid using anything other than an approved guinea pig shampoo to bathe your guinea pig. Typically, human shampoos contain chemicals which can cause dry skin and irritation for guinea pigs since their skin is much more sensitive than human skin.
In the event that you need to give your guinea pig a bath and you do not have guinea pig shampoo available; a tiny amount of baby shampoo can be used. When using baby shampoo, you should be extra careful not to get any of the shampoo in the guinea pig’s eyes or ears. You should also be sure to rinse away all excess shampoo.
Additionally, when selecting a baby shampoo keep in mind that guinea pigs have a very keen sense of smell, and therefore you should use a shampoo that is fragrance free. You should also seek a baby shampoo that has a neutral PH level to reduce the opportunity for skin irritation.
Even a mild baby shampoo can still contain chemicals that are too harsh for guinea pig’s skin, therefore baby shampoo should not be used on a regular basis to bathe your guinea pig.
Can Other Types of Human Shampoo Be Used to Bathe a Guinea Pig?
You should avoid using human shampoo of any kind to bathe your guinea pig. Human shampoo other than baby shampoo will very likely contain chemicals that are too harsh for their skin. These chemicals can cause skin irritation and even hair loss for guinea pigs. Human shampoo can also strip the guinea pig’s skin of natural oils that are essential for their skin to remain healthy.
Can Dog Shampoo Be Used to Bathe a Guinea Pig?
Dog shampoo should not be used to bathe your guinea pig. Guinea pigs have extremely sensitive skin and often dog shampoos contain anti-flea medicine which can cause severe health issues in guinea pigs. Dog shampoo can also have fragrances that can be too harsh for your cavy’s skin.
Can I Use Cat Shampoo to Bathe my Guinea Pig?
Cat shampoo should not be used to bathe your guinea pig. Cat shampoo will likely contain chemicals that are too harsh for your guinea pig’s skin. Similar to dog shampoo, cat shampoo may also contain anti-flea medicine that can cause severe health issues for your guinea pig.
Can I use Dawn or Other Dish Washing Soap to Bathe my Guinea Pig?
You should not use dishwashing soap to bathe your guinea pig. Dishwashing soap contains chemicals that are designed to strip grease/oils from dishes and kill bacteria.
Using this type of soap for your guinea pig’s bath will strip their skin of oils that are required for them to maintain healthy skin. Dishwashing soaps contain harsh chemicals (even soaps like Dawn which are designed to be gentle on human skin) that will cause your guinea pig’s skin to become dry and irritated.
Can I Use Plain Water to Bathe my Guinea Pig?
If you do not have shampoo specially formulated for guinea pigs, bathing your guinea pig in plain warm water is a great alternative as opposed to using shampoos designed for humans or other animals.
Guinea Pig Shampoo Alternatives
If you do not have guinea pig shampoo available and do not think that just plain water will be sufficient for your guinea pig’s bath, you can make a do-it -yourself shampoo.
Add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar to ½ cup of warm water ensuring that the vinegar is completely mixed with the water. Some pet owners also add 2-3 drops of lavender oil, 2-3 drops of chamomile oil, and a tablespoon of almond oil to the water and vinegar mixture.
Prior to using the homemade shampoo, you should consult with your guinea pig’s veterinarian to confirm that the ingredients are guinea pig safe.
Remember that guinea pigs are self-cleaning and will not need to be bathed on a regular basis. If you do need to bathe your guinea pig, avoid using products that are intended for humans as they can cause skin irritations, rashes, and even the loss of fur.
Using a shampoo that is specifically designed for guinea pigs or just plain warm water will be the safest approach to bathing your guinea pig. Under all circumstances, avoid using harsh chemicals and detergents to bathe your guinea pig.