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Do Guinea Pigs Need Baths?

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There are heated debates in the guinea pig world about baths. I’m not talking about just a quick bum-bath—I’m talking about a full-on bubble bath where the pig will be wet from top-to-bottom. They get a full body scrub, including the face, ears, and the top of the head. Nothing gets overlooked. Now that’s a proper bath. 

I have done this work for many years and have given health-promoting baths to thousands of little piggies. I am aware some groups promote the exact opposite. These groups throw phrases around like "guinea pigs are self-cleaning," "they get upper respiratory infections and pneumonia from baths," or "you can choke/asphyxiate the guinea pig if the water runs into their nose," and other similar arguments.

When I first heard this, I was blown away, just blown away. Before, I thought everyone knew that baths are an essential part of guinea pig care and should be done at least twice a year. This is especially important as they get older and “greasier.” Baths are an absolute must to keep pigs healthy! My guru, Peter Gurney, and his guru before, Vendra Stanley Patker, advocate regular and thorough bubble baths as part of the basic grooming package. In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find a rescue that doesn’t bathe guinea pigs. 

I cannot imagine not bathing your guinea pigs. Think about it, they secrete all kinds of solids and liquids all day, every day, and most pigs go to the bathroom where they stand or lie and are not potty trained. Inevitably at some point, they will be stretched out, comfortably snoozing on a poop pile. Dark-haired piggies get away with being the dirtiest piggies because their coat hides it well. You can see clearly on white-colored piggies when they get yellow streaks.

Here at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue, we recently had a pair of three-year-old piggies boarded for a while. The owner wanted them to have a bath at pickup, but the pickup was a few months away. While we performed the regular incoming health check, we noticed their hair was greasy and dirty. It’s just like when humans have oily hair, except for guinea pigs, it's not just their head—it’s their whole body. 

So… I gave them a bath at intake. The water became brown after the first shampoo. 

Dirty water from bathing guinea pig

Look at that dirty water. Yuck!

Guinea pigs need baths just like you, me, or any pet. After a bath, your guinea pig will have a shinier coat, smell nicer, and will feel clean when you run your hand over their fur. In this case, clean equals healthy. 

Oh, and we use conditioner as well after the bath–it makes their coat super soft!

Suppose you are like me and love cuddling your guinea pigs and/or have children who cuddle and interact with their guinea pigs. In that case, a clean guinea pig is starting to sound like a great idea round about now, right?  

Aside from that, guinea pigs are prone to fungal infections. They acquire fungus out of nowhere—literally, out of nowhere. This manifests in the form of ringworm, which can be contagious, and foot fungus. Both go largely undiagnosed, but there are preventative measures you can take to keep your pet guinea healthy and happy.  

Fungal guinea pig feet before and after bath

Fungal feet before and after bath.

The main shampoo we use is an anti-fungal shampoo called “Davis Miconazole.” It’s non-stinging and has soft foam. The best way to use it is to lather your piggie and leave it on them for 5 minutes to kill fungal spores. 

Regular baths will ensure your guinea pigs don't surprise you with contagious infections or other preventable health issues. 

Much *wheek* *wheek* love,

Saskia Chiesa

Founder/Director, Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue

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