Almost all breeds of guinea pig shed–even skinny pigs shed a little bit in the areas they have fur. Baldwin guinea pigs are completely bald and don’t shed at all. However, they do have dander, which can still trigger pet allergies.
Below, we’ll talk all about guinea pig coats–from how often they shed to what to do if your guinea pig is shedding excessively.
Do Guinea Pigs Shed?
Yes, most guinea pigs do shed. The exception is the Baldwin guinea pig, which is a completely hairless breed.
There are also skinny pigs, who have little hair and thus shed less than your average piggy. Both long-haired and short-haired guinea pigs shed year-round, with heavier shedding in the spring.
Why is My Guinea Pig Shedding So Much?
There are several reasons guinea pigs shed excessively–ranging from normal to concerning. Let’s start with some normal reasons your piggy might be shedding more than usual!
Guinea pigs shed more during the spring as it’s their shedding season. They lose their thick winter fur in favor of a more breathable summer coat.
They also shed heavily when stressed. This should be short-term and resolve itself once the piggy is out of the stressful situation, such as a vet visit, but it can happen long-term as well if a guinea pig is kept in a poor environment.
Long-term stress can cause self-barbering, which is when a guinea pig chews on their own fur. Guinea pigs can also barber each other, which can be a sign of stress or a show of dominance.
Lastly, guinea pigs can shed excessively due to health problems. These include parasites, fungal infections, mites, and ovarian cysts. Specifically, guinea pigs with ovarian cysts tend to have symmetrical bald patches on their sides.
How to Stop a Guinea Pig From Shedding
You’ll never completely stop your guinea pig from shedding, unless you adopt Baldwins as we discussed earlier! However, you can lessen the amount of fur you find in the cage or on your clothes during lap time.
- Brush your guinea pigs regularly. Short-haired piggies should be brushed around once a week, and long-haired pigs should be brushed daily.
- Keep their nails trimmed. Itching with long nails can cause fur loss and skin irritation or injuries.
- Feed them a well-balanced diet. Just like us, guinea pigs have healthier hair when fed the right foods. They should have constant access to fresh hay and water, around a cup of mixed vegetables daily, and an eighth of a cup of quality pellets.
- Feed vegetables high in vitamin C. Scurvy, or a lack of vitamin C, can cause hair loss. Bell peppers and dark, leafy greens are the best sources of vitamin C for guinea pigs.
- Reduce your guinea pigs’ stress levels. Piggies shed more if they’re stressed, and this can have a detrimental effect on their health long-term. Keep predator animals like cats and dogs away from the cage, learn to handle your piggies without causing undue stress (and teach children the same!), and make sure all their basic needs are met–including having a piggy friend and plenty of space to run and exercise.
- See a veterinarian if hair loss is excessive or your piggy has bald patches. This likely indicates a health problem.
In addition, cages with tall sides can hold shed fur inside so that it’s not falling onto your floors. Clean your guinea pigs’ cage and the surrounding area regularly, and use a cuddle cup or blanket when holding your piggies in your lap if you’d prefer not to get fur on your clothes.
What if I’m Allergic to Guinea Pigs?
Most people whose allergies are triggered by owning guinea pigs are actually allergic to timothy hay. Switching to orchard grass as a main hay often helps.
If you’re allergic to guinea pigs themselves, you’re likely not only allergic to their fur but also their dander (which is dead skin, or dandruff). This is important to know, because it means that adopting a Baldwin guinea pig is not likely to reduce your allergies. Instead, it might expose you to more dander and thus trigger your allergy symptoms more severely.
If you or a family member is allergic to guinea pigs, talk to your doctor before adopting them. Some people with mild allergies can tolerate living together with piggies, while others may face severe reactions. An allergist might be able to offer treatments to help as well.
Do Guinea Pigs Need Baths?
While other species, like dogs, have better coat health when bathed (and often shed less), this doesn’t work for piggies.
Guinea pigs rarely, if ever, need baths. It depends on their environment, personality, coat type, and health. For instance, guinea pigs with fungal infections will likely need baths to recover. Piggies adopted from a dirty environment are often given a bath in their new home so that they don’t develop health problems from remaining unsanitary.
Long-haired guinea pigs are sometimes given “butt-baths” to get their rear ends clean, since their fur drags on the bottom of the cage.
On the other hand, some guinea pigs go their entire lives without needing a bath at all. It should only be done if they’re dirty or they have a health problem that warrants it. Even then, guinea pigs should only be bathed three to four times a year at most!
Why Does my Guinea Pig Have Bald Patches?
Bald patches can be caused by barbering or health problems.
Guinea pigs can barber themselves or each other due to boredom or stress. Examples include a single piggy in a pet store cage who barbers due to boredom, or a newly-bonded pair who barbers to establish dominance over one another.
If your guinea pig is barbering themselves or a cage mate, first bring them to the veterinarian. In the case of a piggy barbering another, I recommend bringing both in for a check-up.
Your vet can rule out health problems, and then you’ll need to rule out environmental problems causing them stress.
Your guinea pig might need a piggy friend, more space, or separation if the barbering is severe enough between two paired guinea pigs to impact their quality of life.
Health problems that cause bald patches include:
Look for parasites in your guinea pigs’ fur or red, flaky skin which indicates ringworm.
Piggies with ovarian cysts may show other symptoms like crusty nipples and a tender abdomen. The hair loss typically occurs in a symmetrical pattern on the sides of their bodies.
If your guinea pig has bald patches, see a veterinarian for advice. They can help you to determine the cause and what your piggy will need going forward.
Most guinea pigs shed, but excessive shedding can be dealt with by lowering your guinea pigs’ stress levels and bringing them to the veterinarian to check for health problems. It’s normal for guinea pigs to shed more in the springtime as they lose their winter coats.
It’s important to know what’s normal for your guinea pig, and what indicates a problem. See a vet anytime your guinea pig has bald patches as they’re likely suffering from either extreme stress or a health problem.