Why is grooming and cleaning guinea pigs important?
Grooming is as important to the health of your guinea pig as proper diet and safe living quarters. Even the cleanest cage will not help a guinea pig through shedding as much as a good combing or brushing.
When a guinea pig is shedding, it is losing hair so that new hair can grow in its place. Combing, brushing, and, in some cases, bathing are the only ways to really get your guinea pig clean.
When should you groom and clean your guinea pig?
You should groom your guinea pig on a regular basis. When and how much you groom depend on the breed and on the individual guinea pig. Long-haired breeds require more grooming than short-haired breeds, and some guinea pigs keep themselves cleaner than others.
You'll groom more often when your guinea pig is shedding. If you are overzealous and bathe or comb your guinea pig too often or too much at one time, its coat may lose its density. Of course, as you get to know your guinea pig, you'll be able to judge when it's time to groom.
How To Clip Guinea Pig Toenails
The toenails of your guinea pig must be kept short to prevent them from breaking off or curling under as they grow and poking into the footpads. Nail clippers made for humans, dogs, or cats may be used for trimming your guinea pig's toenails, depending on which you feel most comfortable using. Have some styptic powder handy and ready to use in case you cut a nail too short.
Hold your guinea pig on its rump or back close against your body or in your lap. Get help the first time you try clipping nails and until you and your guinea pig are comfortable with the procedure.
Before you cut a nail, look very carefully through the nail for the quick. The quick is a bit of flesh inside the nail; it has little blood vessels running through it and appears pink in colour. The quick is very easy to see when the guinea pig's nails are white or clear. To find the quick in a dark-coloured nail, hold a good, bright light behind it.
Do not cut the quick! If you do accidentally cut the quick, place some styptic powder on the nail immediately to stop any bleeding. Give your guinea pig a little rest, then finish clipping the nails.
How To Bathe Guinea Pigs
Place a towel in the bottom of the sink or dishpan and add 3-5cm of lukewarm water. Place your guinea pig's rump in the water first. Hold the forelegs and chest out of the water at all times. Gently pour water over the shoulders, back, and rump. Then add a little tearless shampoo and work up a good lather. Work small sections at a time, cleaning the hair from the body outward. On long-haired breeds be very careful not to tangle the hair.
When you are satisfied your guinea pig is clean, rinse thoroughly. For long-haired breeds, continue with a tearless conditioner. Follow the directions on the conditioner and then rinse twice thoroughly.
Place your guinea pig on a large bath towel. Pull the towel up around your guinea pig and rub gently to get most of the water out of the coat. Place your guinea pig on another towel to finish drying with a blow-dryer. Use the low setting (not cool, cold, or hot), keep the blow-dryer 10-15cm away, and keep moving it around the coat to prevent your guinea pig from getting too hot.
When drying long-haired breeds, use a metal wide-tooth comb to separate and comb the hair as you dry. It's especially important to keep your guinea pig away from drafts after a bath. Make certain your guinea pig is completely dry before putting it back into its living quarters.