How to Brush and Groom Guinea Pigs Properly

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Grooming guinea pigs is not only essential for their health and comfort, but it’s also a great chance to bond with you cavy and get them comfortable with being handled.

If you’ve never done it before, though, the first time can be a bit daunting.

Don’t worry, I’ll help you out!

Just keep reading for tips on the safest and easiest ways to groom your cavy!

Related: 7 Best Guinea Pig Brushes

How to Groom Guinea Pigs 

While we love our cavies for being low maintenance, regular grooming is vital to avoid matting, remove dead hair, prevent infections, and stop overgrown claws.

Since they are tiny pets, though, it’s essential to start by making sure your cavy is comfortable and secure.

Do not start on a high table they can fall off. Rather secure an area lower to the ground, with a basin of warm water for bathing, and a small area in which to groom.

Make sure you have all the essentials you need to start.

Grooming Kit Essentials

  1.  A safe bathing area  with about an inch of water (if bathing is necessary)
  2. A hair dryer (if bathing is necessary)
  3. Treats to keep them busy
  4. A sturdy table or clean area on the floor your guinea pig can’t escape from
  5. A clean towel
  6. Guinea pig shampoo
  7. Best guinea pig nail clippers (scissors or guillotine type)
  8.  Mini grooming kit with a mini-slicker brush, a double sided comb, and a soft brush.
  9. A needless syringe
  10. Coconut oil.

Getting Started: Bathing

guinea pig taking a bath

Guinea pigs do not often need to be bathed, unless they have managed to get very dirty, such as by getting feces stuck in their coat.

In general, bathing should be avoided as it can dry out their skin and coat. 

But if your cavy needs a bath, place them gently in shallow, lukewarm water, with their feet first to let them get used to it.

Let them nibble on a treat to keep them distracted.

Do not stress them out. If they become agitated at any stage of the grooming process, simply let it be and try again at a later stage when they are calmer. 

While shielding their faces, gently pour warm water over their back. Then softly massage in baby or guinea pig shampoo. Be careful not to let any get into their eyes or ears.

Wash their faces carefully with your fingertip. If you are bathing because of parasites, follow the instructions given.

Rinse several times to remove all traces of the shampoo.

Towel dry your cavy afterward and use a soft, low setting on the blow dryer for longer coats if they are comfortable with it. Be careful not to direct it at their sensitive ears!

How to Brush Guinea Pigs: Different Coat Lengths

Whether or not you bathed your guinea pig, you will need to brush them to keep a lookout for parasites and minimize shedding.

How often you brush your cavy and the methods you use depends on the length of their coat. 

Short Coats

For a short-haired guinea pig such as a Himalayan or a rex, you only need to brush about once a week.

A slicker brush can gently tease out any dead hair, while a soft-bristled brush can get their coat glossy and health-looking.

Run the brush along the direction that their coat falls and if there is a lot of shedding, you can wet your hand run it over their coat to remove the loose hair. 

Long-Haired Coats

A long-haired guinea pig, like the Peruvian or the Abyssinian, will need to be brushed three or four times a week. 

A fine, narrow, double-sided comb is needed to gently tease out any knots or tangles. Be careful not to pull or yank. Keep in mind, a wide-toothed comb might not be effective for such fine hair.

After the comb, a slicker brush will remove any dead hair from the undercoat and a soft-bristle brush can be used to get the final glossy shine in the coat.

You can wrap the ends of the coat to keep it from getting dirty, or gently trim them with ball-tipped scissors. Trimming long hair can also help avoid bacterial infections.

Check this video for a demonstration:

Teddy Cavies and Abyssinians

For a Teddy guinea pig, use a metal flea comb to remove any dirt from the coat. 

The use of a wide-tooth metal comb to brush the hair toward the head so that it stands upright. Work section-by-section from the head to the rump. 

For Abyssinians, brush the entire body with a soft brush, then use a simple toothbrush to groom each individual rosette. 

Check out this video to learn the signs that your guinea pig likes you.

FAQs

How do you wash a guinea pigs ears?

a lady bathing a brown guinea pig

Take a little coconut oil, and use a needless syringe to squirt some over the visible folds of the ear. Don’t let any run into the ear. Use a cotton pad to gently wipe off any dirt or debris from the folds of the ear.  Be careful to avoid the ear canal throughout.

How do you clean a guinea pig’s grease gland?

If you notice a gunky patch above where your cavy’s tail should be, it may be time to clean their grease gland. Grease glands are usually cleaned between once a month to once a week depending on the cavy. You can remove the gunk by putting some coconut oil onto a soft cloth and rubbing it in soft, circular motions over the area. The oils should naturally break down the grease.

How do you trim a guinea pig’s nails?

a lady trimming guinea pig nails

Bundle your cavy up and let them munch on a treat while you work.  When they are relaxed, gently secure a toe and clip the part of the nail that is white at a 45-degree angle. Do not cut the pink bit, as this is quick, and will cause pain and bleeding. If you do cut too deep, wet a styptic pencil and hold it to the nail to stop the bleeding.

For guinea pigs with black or dark-colored nails, where you can’t see the quick, stick to only cutting of the furthest edge of the nail, at the same 45-degree angle. Check our guide on how to cut guinea pig nails for more tips.

FYI, if your cavy becomes aggravated during clipping, let them go, and try to do one or two more nails later, when they are calmer. 

Conclusion

It’s true guinea pigs are much easier pets to keep than say, a dog or a cat, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need maintenance. Keeping your clean and well-groomed is part and parcel of having a healthy, happy cavy. It also provides you with invaluable quality and bonding time together. 

References

  • “Guinea Pig Grooming Guide Ear Clean.” n.d. https://www.connectedvet.co.uk/storage/app/media/pdf/Guinea%20Pig%20Grooming.pdf.
  • Hess, Laurie. 2017. “Grooming Care for Your Guinea Pig.” Petmd.com. PetMD. July 12, 2017. https://www.petmd.com/exotic/grooming/grooming-care-your-guinea-pig.
  • Riggs, Shannon M. 2009. “GUINEA PIGS.” Manual of Exotic Pet Practice, 456–73. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-141600119-5.50020-2.
brushing a long haired guinea pig

Do you have other tips in grooming guinea pigs properly? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Tamsin
Tamsin

Hi, I’m Tamsin. I’m a serious animal lover and dog behaviorist and trainer. In fact, I live on a farm with nine rescues! So, I love writing about and creating awareness around the health and wellness of all animals. Find her on Linkedin. Read her latest articles Learn more about her HERE.

10 thoughts on “How to Brush and Groom Guinea Pigs Properly”

  1. I’ve never had a Guinea pig. My daughter babysat one for a friend and she said they were a bit of work. I never knew that they needed delicate care with their glands, ears, and grooming. I thought you only had to change their cage.

    Reply
  2. I’ve only had short-haired guinea pigs. I never thought about how long-haired guinea pigs would need to be brushed more often.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for giving such detailed information! I wouldn’t have thought about switching to different types of brushes or combs depending on the guinea pig.

    Reply
  4. I think that maintenance is very important in every animal care. So we need to know how take care of our pet in a properly way!

    Reply
  5. Thanks for that. However, just to note, I have 4 long haired silkie guinea pigs and I tend to cut their hair much shorter after their monthly kitchen sink shallow bath. I cut them carefully using good hairdressing scissors in regular snips to about 2 inches all round to allow them to groom themselves without choking on their long hair. Mankind bred them to have long hair via recessive genes so it’s not ideal for them and better to keep it a bit shorter. I use Beaphar guinea pig and rabbit shampoo, a small towel to lift them out, a big towel to sit them on to dry them, a low setting on the hairdryer and a couple of brushes, one soft and one to smooth the hair once cut n dry. I do their nails too while they’re soft using Dr Dre normal nail cutters from Amazon. I only press gently with the nail cutters about 2mm from the end of each nail and if the guinea pig doesn’t pull away I then press down fury and cut. You really don’t have to cut them too short. Just use common sense. Anyway, thanks for video and happy bathing!

    Reply
  6. Thanks for that. However, just to say, I have 4 long haired silkie guinea pigs and I tend to cut their hair much shorter after their monthly kitchen sink shallow bath. I cut them carefully using good hairdressing scissors in regular snips to about 2 inches all round which then allows them to groom themselves without choking on their long hair. Mankind bred them to have long hair via recessive genes so it’s not really ideal for them and better to keep it a bit shorter. I use Beaphar guinea pig and rabbit shampoo, a small towel to lift them out, a big towel for them to sit on to dry them, a low setting on the hairdryer and a couple of brushes, one soft and one fine comb to smooth their hair once it’s cut n dry. I also cut their nails once a month too while they’re soft after bathing using Dr Dre normal nail cutters from Amazon. I only press gently with the nail cutters at about 2mm from the end of each nail and if the guinea pig doesn’t pull away I then press down fully and cut. You really don’t have to cut them too short or cut them all if not required. Just use common sense and try not to let them curl too much. Anyway, just my thoughts. Thanks for the video and happy bathing!

    Reply

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