Guinea Pig Grooming 101: How To Keep Your Guinea Pigs Clean

by Lindsay Pereira
Guinea pig grooming guide

Guinea pigs are adorable little fluffballs with a penchant for cuddles and a whole lot of personality. On average, they can live up to 9 years, though their life expectancy is linked to their diet and living conditions. Unlike other domestic pets, like rabbits, cats, or dogs, guinea pigs require minimal grooming. Thus, they make excellent companions for individuals who live alone, seniors, or families with young children.

Even though you won’t have to dedicate a large chunk of time to styling your guinea pigs’ fluffy, flowing locks, they’ll still need regular grooming. Hair and care maintenance includes coat brushing, occasional bathing, cleaning ears, clipping nails, trimming hair, cleaning the grease gland, as well as regularly checking the state of their teeth.

How often should you groom your furry pals? Are there any tips for making grooming easier? To answer these questions and learn about the ins and outs of guinea pig grooming, take a few moments to read through our extensive guide.

Brushing guinea pigs

Grooming guinea pigs: Brushing their hair

Minimize shedding by brushing your little rodents once or twice a week. As you can imagine, piggies of the short-haired varieties won’t require as much brushing as their fellow long-haired cavies. The lovely thing about brushing is, it provides you with the perfect opportunity to monitor your guinea’s skin. Upon inspection, should you see any scabs, crusty patches, lumps, or parasites (such as lice or mites), it warrants a trip to the veterinary clinic.

How to groom short-haired, smooth-coated cavies, like the American guinea pig

  • With the palm of your hand, rub your pet’s back (from nose to rump) to check for problem spots.
  • Now, check both front and rear legs.
  • While holding them securely, rub the underside of the neck and belly and continue to look for any issues.
  • After doing a full-body check, groom with a brush in the direction the hair.

If you’re getting annoyed with all that loose, shedding hair, wet your hand a little and the shedding fluff will adhere to your fingers. With my guineas, I always liked using the Kaytee Pro-Slicker brush because the bristles had soft plastic tips that protected their skin. I’ve seen many positive online reviews about the PETPAWJOY slicker brush but, I’ve also heard other pet parents swear by a plain, soft-bristle baby brush

How to groom longer-haired, fluffy-coated cavies, like the Abyssinian guinea pig

For Abyssinians like my sweet Muffy, the primary concern is keeping their rosettes clean. Rosettes, also known as hair whorls, crowns, or swirls, is a distinct patch of hair that grows in a circular pattern around a noticeable center point. In Abyssinians, they often have several rosettes, which can get tangled if not regularly brushed.

  • First, perform a full-body check, as mentioned in the first three points of the previous grooming description for the short-haired piggies.
  • Then, groom your pet with a soft-bristled brush, making sure not to pull on any rosette tangles.
  • Lastly, use a small, extra soft toothbrush (like a child’s toothbrush) to comb each rosette, from the middle of the whorl to its outer edges.

How to groom short-haired, fuzzy-coated Teddy guinea pigs

As they have a unique coat, Teddy cavies need a different approach to grooming. For these little guys, you’ll require a few extra tools: a slicker brush, a metal wide-tooth comb, and a metal flea comb. When choosing hair tools, opt for metal combs as they prevent snagging. A Teddy’s coat is short and fuzzy, and plastic combs are known to damage this type of hair, particularly where snarls are concerned. However, due to its smooth, metallic surface, metal combs decrease friction between the hair and the teeth. Thus, it leads to a smoother stroke and less pain.

  • After performing a full-body check, use the flea comb to remove any debris, litter or wood shavings from their hair.
  • As with other kinds of cavies, brush head to rump.
  • Then, use the wide-tooth comb to give their signature Teddy look by combing from the body, straight up, to get their coat to “stand up.”
  • Continue brushing their hair from the body up and outwards, in small sections, until they look like a tiny, fuzzy teddy bear.
  • Lastly, use the slicker brush to gently even out their appearance.

How to groom long-haired cavies, such as Silkies and Peruvian guinea pigs

Silkies and Peruvians require a lot of grooming. To reduce hair tangles in these kinds of cavies (and minimize your pet “home hair salon” time), it’s important to maintain a clean cage.

  • After a full-body check, loosen hair tangles with your hands, by gently running your fingers through their coat.
  • Then, use a wide-tooth, metal comb to eliminate the rest of the tangles. Pay attention not to pull their hair.
  • Once all tangles are gone, smooth out their coat with a soft-bristle brush.
  • Finally, trim any overly long hairs that seem to be uneven.

Feel free to shorten their coat slightly using ball-tipped scissors, if their hair is always getting dirty. At home, I use the TINY TRIM small pet grooming scissors, and they even come in handy when I need to groom my dog’s ears.

Bathing

Grooming cavies: Don't bathe your guinea pigs unless absolutely necessary

Don’t bathe your guinea pigs unless absolutely necessary

Unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t bathe your cavies. Like most other rodents, they really don’t enjoy water, except of course when they’re drinking it! So, there’s no need to worry about giving them frequent baths, since they only need proper grooming schedules. However, in the event that your pets have become soiled and stinky, you’ll need a bottle of pet-safe, unscented, non-medicated shampoo and three towels per guinea pig. When it comes to products, I prefer to use either the SofiesSecret 100% Natural+Organic Pet Shampoo or the hypoallergenic Odie and Cody Organic Pet Shampoo. Both shampoos are safe for cavies and are also perfect for sensitive skin.

  • Choose a room that is draft-free and warm, like the bathroom.
  • Line the bottom of your sink or a small tub with one of the towels (but don’t place your guinea in yet!).
  • Fill the bathing area with about 2 inches of lukewarm water.
  • Now, gently place your cavy in the water, hindquarters first, making sure to keep their head out of the water.
  • With a cup, slowly pour warm water over your piggie’s shoulders, back, and rump.
  • Once they’re damp, add a few drops of shampoo and work up a lather.
  • Lastly, rinse them thoroughly, ensuring all the soap is removed.

Since these fuzzy little ones don’t like baths, you’re better off keeping this part of grooming as short as possible. Now that they’re all squeaky clean, you can use a towel to dry them, switching over to the other towel should you need to. Often, I use a hairdryer on the lowest, barely-warm setting to speed up the whole process, but also because it’s important to make sure your pet is completely dry before returning it to its clean cage.

More reading: How to correctly clean a guinea pig cage

Clipping nails

Every month or so, guinea pigs need their nails clipped. To do so, you’ll need a tiny clipper, and I use the Kaytee Pro-Nail Trimmer. Now, clipping guinea nails isn’t a hard thing to do, but it can be quite tricky. That’s because, they’re skittish little creatures, so if you have someone around who can help, that would be best. While one person holds your pet, you can easily hold their paw and clip their nails without worry.

If two people are available:

One holds the piggie close to their body, supporting the weight with one hand while the other hand holds the guinea’s chest and abdomen.

In this position, your pet’s legs will dangle down, and you can carefully trim their claws.

If only one person is available:

Secure your pet “football-style,” with their body tucked under one of your arms. At this point, you can use one hand to access their paws and trim their nails.

Or, if you prefer the “burrito wrap” method, use a towel to wrap your guinea. Now, you can keep them in your lap and use both hands to trim their claws.

Useful tips for trimming claws
Avoid the quick when clipping guinea pig's nailWhen trimming your pet’s nails, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Clip one nail at a time.
  • Be mindful not to trim too close to the “quick,” the visible red line that is the blood supply.
  • To avoid bleeding, position the clippers below the red line.
  • If the nail starts to bleed, apply styptic powder or use a styptic pencil. Apply pressure until it stops bleeding.

Cleaning ears

Those tiny, little ears need to be examined weekly for wax buildup, but also to check that there aren’t any ear mites or bacterial infections. Do those ears smell a little funky or look a bit crusty? If so, you’ll want to book a visit with the vet. Unfortunately, these signs point to ear mites or a possible ear infection.

  • To start, use a Q-tip dipped in mineral oil to clean the outer area of each ear.
  • Avoid damage to the inner ear by keeping your cleaning superficial.
  • Also, clean the base of the ear.
  • Repeat these steps if necessary to remove any visible dirt and wax.

Is there a wax build-up in those perky ears? Then, call your vet and schedule an appointment for ear cleaning. They have the specialized tools to conduct a thorough guinea pig ear examination, and they can figure out why there’s so much wax.

Trimming hair

Guinea pig grooming guide: Trimming their hair

Got a guinea that has a weird looking hairstyle? Sometimes, our little piggies require a trim, depending on the situation. However, if you have long-haired guineas, they’ll need frequent haircuts. With these little guys, their coats drag around and create tangles, and trimming hair helps to solve quite a few issues. Also, their long hair leaves them prone to urinary tract infections, so pet parents will need to keep the hair in that area neatly trimmed to prevent such occurrences.

Trimming hair is a really simple task, as long as you have the proper equipment. As I mentioned earlier on, I use a pair of shears with a rounded tip, the TINY TRIM small pet grooming scissors, as well as a simple comb to help guide my hand when I trim an area.

Cleaning the grease gland

At the base of your guinea’s spine, right below the surface, is a small, dime-sized gland. This gland, known as a grease gland, secretes an oily substance used for scenting and marking purposes. At times, because of secretions, that area of your piggie’s body can become irritated. Accumulated secretion buildup can lead to infection and result in a trip to the vet.

Although my guineas never had any secretion problems, probably because females are less prone to this issue, I learned how to treat this condition. Really, it’s a quick fix, and it only involves a simple wash and a rinse. Depending on the amount of grease your guinea secretes, you may need to use more pet shampoo in that area. If the issue persists, consult your vet for a product recommendation.

More reading: How to litter train your guinea pigs

Dental care

Cavies’ teeth, like other rodents, are “open-rooted,” which means they continue to grow throughout life. Thus, it’s imperative to provide healthy, chewable items, like wood, cardboard, and high-fiber hay for guinea pigs to wear down the surfaces of their teeth. To keep their teeth and gums healthy, many vets recommend a daily vitamin C supplement.

No, you don’t need to argue with your piglet every night to make sure they brush their teeth before going to bed. But, pet parents will want to check on their cavies’ teeth once a week, and an ideal time to do so is during grooming.

What happens when our furry pals don’t eat enough hay or other things that wear down their teeth? Unfortunately, this can lead to tooth root impaction, a painful condition that includes drooling and decreased appetite. Should your pet seem to have trouble chewing or eating, you’ll need to see a veterinarian.

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3 comments

Sheltie Times April 4, 2018 - 2:42 pm

Very detailed and helpful post. I haven’t had much to do with guinea pigs since we had them in the classroom in my elementary school days, but I remember them as being amazingly loving friendly pets. I don’t remember grooming, mostly cage cleaning back in those days. Great tips for those who do decide to own.

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Monika April 5, 2018 - 11:06 am

Thank you for visiting 🙂

Reply
uche July 27, 2018 - 5:59 pm

Cool

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