by Jennifer Johnson
Many guinea pig owners wonder how much grooming is required for their pet. Do they need baths? How often should the nails be trimmed? Do they need to be brushed?
The answers depend partially on the breed of guinea pig. Peruvians, texels, merinos and silkies (or shelties) have long hair that does need to be brushed and possibly washed on a regular basis. Unfortunately, from experience I’ve found that most guinea pigs do not enjoy either brushing or baths. Young guinea pigs can become accustomed to both if they are started at a very early age, but otherwise, you might be in for a struggle.
In many cases, a brushing may be all you need to remove mats and dirty hair from your pet. Use a wire brush to gently undo mats and tangles. Be prepared to use scissors if necessary, and if you can, have someone help hold the guinea pig while you brush and trim. Your pet may squeal and jump, making it hard for you to cut out knots. Another set of hands can help prevent injury.
If you do decide to bathe your guinea pig, there are several options. A large plastic tub with tall sides will keep your guinea pig in one place, and it will not be able to jump out. It only needs to be filled with a couple inches of warm water. Make sure you use a shampoo specifically made for guinea pigs or rabbits; these can be found at most pet stores. Have a towel handy so that you can dry your guinea pig off immediately after the bath, and make sure it is kept out of cold, drafty areas. You should also place your guinea pig back into a clean cage so it doesn’t immediately get soiled again.
You may try to bathe your guinea pig in the sink, but the chances that it will jump out are higher. Try to keep the bath short, but make sure you’re able to fully clean the coat. After your guinea pig has dried off, gently run a brush through its hair to prevent mats.
Guinea pig toenails need to be cut when they show signs of curling. This makes it difficult and painful for your pet to walk around. You can use regular nail clippers or pet nail clippers; cut the very tips of each nail to avoid hitting the quick. If you do, make sure you have Kwik Stop (a styptic powder that helps stop bleeding) nearby, along with a wet paper towel or washcloth. If you see blood, put some of the powder on the wet cloth or paper towel and hold it against the tip of the nail for at least ten seconds. This will stop the bleeding and help the wound heal quickly. With practice, you should become much more comfortable trimming your guinea pig’s nails, but if you still have trouble or feel too nervous, see if you can find someone with more experience to do it for you.
To keep nails from getting too long in the first place, a flat rock or chewable log hideaway can help keep nails short as your guinea pig walks and climbs on it. Chewables will also keep teeth from growing too long, which can make eating difficult and will require a trip to the vet. Grooming time is a good time to check your little friend over for potential health issues, and with time, your guinea pig may even enjoy it!