Just as a cat or dog, guinea pigs require some grooming in order for them to have healthy coats and nails and to stay free from some illnesses.
Nail Care for Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs’ nails get long, just as any other animals do. Long nails can snag and get caught on things both in and out of the cage. As well, they can cause injury to your guinea pig if he scratches himself with nails that are too long and sharp. Their nails can also get long enough that they start growing into the pads of the feet, making walking difficult and painful.
Trimming a guinea pig’s nails is not difficult once you have done it a few times. Some pigs will fight you and scream, squeak and squeal, while others will just sit and let you trim them. Some people find it easiest to wrap the guinea pig up in a blanket with one foot at a time out. Others are able to just grab a foot and trim. They don’t all have to be done at once if you or the guinea pig are stressed about nail trimming. If need be, you can do one paw a day for four days.
Before trimming nails, it is a good idea to have styptic powder or a styptic crayon (available in the shaving section of drug stores) nearby just in case you cut the quick. The quick is the blood vessel that runs through the nail, and if cut, it will bleed. Should this occur, hold the styptic crayon against the nail or put some powder on it. This will slow and likely stop the bleeding. If you don’t have either of these things, corn starch or flour will also work.
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Putting pressure on the nail will also tip may also be effective, but will not work as quickly. Make sure that the bleeding has completely stopped before putting your guinea pig back in his cage. If it doesn’t stop within a short time, you will need to go to the vet. This is very rare, however.
Nails can be trimmed using human nail clippers or guillotine-style clippers commonly found in pet stores. Some people find one easier than the other. It is mostly down to preference. With guinea pigs who have white nails, the quick is easy to see and avoid. Cut the tip of the nail off before you get to the quick. In darker nailed guinea pigs, it is harder to tell where the quick begins. Sometimes a flashlight can help. Other times you have to estimate.
If you are unsure, just take the tip of the nail off and trim them more often. The longer the nail gets, the further down the nail, the quick grows. Frequent trimming will cause the quick to recede, resulting in less of a chance of cutting it.
Grooming Guinea Pig Fur
Long-haired guinea pigs will sometimes get tangles or knots in their hair. There are brushes designed for guinea pigs that you can pick up in pet stores, but a baby brush and comb set works just as well and is probably cheaper. Combing will allow you to get through any knots or tangles, while the brush will remove loose hair. Guinea pigs do shed. Try to brush in the direction of hair growth. This is easier said than done with some guinea pigs who have hair growing in every direction.
You may find with a longer-haired guinea pig that he is peeing on his long hair or that it picks up a lot of hay off the cage floor. You can give a guinea pig a haircut if need be, taking care not to cut the skin. Many people who have longer-haired piggies will trim the hair at the back to keep it cleaner and tidier. It is easier to take care of and healthy than having wet, soiled fur.
How to bathe guinea pigs?
Guinea pigs do keep themselves clean and do not need to be bathed in water; however, they can be. There are a number of reasons for doing this. Longer-haired pigs collect hay and other things off the cage floor, as well as urinating on their fur at the back. If their cage is kept clean, guinea pigs shouldn’t smell, but some people find that they do. Bathing can help with shedding, and people who are allergic to guinea pigs may find that they are affected less after a bath.
If you are going to bathe your guinea pig, you need to make sure that he doesn’t catch a chill after his bath. You should always make sure he is completely dry before putting him back in his cage. You can bathe them in the sink or the bathtub, but keep in mind, guinea pigs can jump very high, and a wet, soapy guinea pig isn’t something you want to chase around the house. Portable showerheads work very well. Some guinea pigs do like to swim in the bathtub; not all do. Ensure that they can have their feet on the ground without being submerged at all times. Never get their heads wet as water in the ears can cause severe infections. You can simply wipe their heads over with a damp cloth. Shampooing a guinea pig can be done with a specialized small animal shampoo from the pet store, baby shampoos such as No More Tears, or Nizoral, which is an anti-dandruff/anti-fungal shampoo. Nizoral is usually only used if a guinea pig has dandruff. Any fungal infections need to be looked at by a vet. Make sure to rinse all the shampoo off, or you will dry out the skin and make your pig itch. Towel dry off as much as you are able to, and then make sure that your guinea pigs are in a warm room to air dry. Some will tolerate a blow-dry on a LOW setting. Make sure that you keep your hand between the guinea pig and the dryer so as not to burn him if it gets too hot. If your guinea pig appears to be stressed by the blow dryer, don’t use it.
It is not recommended to bathe a guinea pig any more than once a month at the most unless directed by a veterinarian.
For in-between baths or instead of baths, you can pick up small animal wipes from pet stores. Baby wipes are also safe to use and maybe cheaper.