Guinea pigs are very similar to cats regarding their grooming habits.
These furry little animals will constantly groom themselves to stay clean.
Since guinea pigs are prone to having dry and itchy skin, it is best to avoid bathing them too frequently.
However, there are times when your guinea pig will accidentally get dirty, and a bath is unavoidable.
If your pet urgently needs a bath and you are out of pet shampoo, is it safe to bathe your guinea pig with Dawn dish soap?
While Dawn dish soap is not toxic to animals, it is best to avoid using it to give your guinea pig a bath. There are many harsh chemicals in dish soaps, and they will be very irritating to your guinea pig’s sensitive skin.
Even if a dish soap claims to be gentle or you dilute it with water, it will strip your guinea pig’s skin of its natural oils.
Using dish soap to bathe your guinea pig will result in discomfort, itchiness, and possible dandruff.
Keep reading to learn which shampoos are best for your guinea pig, as well as ingredients to avoid.
Is It Okay To Wash Guinea Pigs With Human Shampoo?
Human shampoo may seem like a good alternative to harsh dish soaps, but it is not recommended to use them for bathing your guinea pig.
Many human shampoos contain harsh chemicals, fragrances, and sulfates, not meant for a guinea pig’s delicate skin.
Some animal rescues use antifungal shampoo, such as Head and Shoulders, to treat guinea pigs with ringworm or a fungal skin condition.
When used appropriately, an antifungal shampoo will not harm your guinea pig.
In a pinch, you may give your pet a bath with baby shampoo as long as it is unscented and properly diluted.
Read more about guinea pigs and baby shampoo in our article here.
However, it is usually better to rinse your guinea pig off with nothing but warm water just to be safe.
If you have questions about the safety of a product, always speak to your veterinarian before using it to avoid causing your guinea pig any harm.
Best Guinea Pig Shampoos
Fortunately, there are several pet shampoos made specifically for guinea pigs.
Do not use kitten shampoo, as it may contain ingredients that cause skin irritation for your guinea pig.
Below are some of the best shampoos rated by guinea pig owners.
Kaytee Squeaky Clean Critter Shampoo
This shampoo is tearless and pH-balanced to be gentle on a guinea pig’s dry skin.
It also features a long-lasting, mild baby powder smell and adds shine to your pet’s dry hair.
J.R. Liggett’s Small Animal Liquid Shampoo
This shampoo is detergent-free, sulfate-free, eco-friendly, and hypoallergenic.
It is a gentle formula designed to relieve dry skin issues, and it is safe for guinea pigs.
The shampoo also rinses cleanly and does not leave any residues to irritate your pet’s sensitive skin.
Fluppets Certified Organic Pet Shampoo
This shampoo is made from natural ingredients, hypoallergenic, and great for sensitive, itchy skin.
There are no detergents, phosphates, sulfates, phthalates, or other harsh chemicals.
It is safe for guinea pigs and gives your pet hydrated skin and shiny fur.
Johnson’s Small Animal Shampoo
This mild shampoo is safe for guinea pigs, and it helps maintain your pet’s natural pH balance.
It gently cleanses and deodorizes without causing your guinea pig’s skin to become itchy or irritated.
Citrus Magic Pet Foaming Pet Cleanser, 8-Fluid Ounce
While this product is not a standard shampoo, it is worth mentioning to use as a bath alternative.
This no-rinse foam cleans and deodorizes with enzymes and is safe to use on a guinea pig.
It is easy to use and does not need to be rinsed with water.
Is It Normal For Guinea Pigs To Smell?
Guinea pigs frequently groom themselves, so it is unusual for them to smell bad.
If you notice a strong odor coming from your guinea pig, the likely culprit is a dirty cage.
Clean the cage more frequently by spot cleaning every day and performing a deep clean at least once per month.
However, if the enclosure is thoroughly clean and you have determined the odor is coming from your guinea pig, you need to investigate further.
Guinea pigs over five years old may have difficulties cleaning themselves and are prone to dental problems.
Overweight or sick guinea pigs may also have difficulty keeping themselves clean.
Guinea pigs also have a small gland known as a grease gland.
This grease gland will release an oily substance, and guinea pigs spread this around their cage as a way of marking their territory.
In guinea pigs with a very active grease gland, the oily substance will build up and cause a foul odor.
You will need to gently clean this gland regularly to prevent the bad smell from buildup.
Even though it is made to clean grease, never use dish soap when cleaning grease glands.
Using unsuitable products with strong chemicals will strip the natural oils away, and as a result, the already gunky grease gland will be overstimulated to produce more oily residue.
How Often Do You Bathe a Guinea Pig?
Bathing your guinea pig too often will remove the natural oils from its skin.
Without these natural oils, a guinea pig will become itchy and flaky, and its fur will be dry and dull.
It is best to only bathe your guinea pig once a month during the summer and every other month in the dry winter months.
If your guinea pig accidentally gets dirty, it is perfectly fine to go ahead and give it a bath.
You may also give your pet a “bum bath,” where you clean underneath the belly and their feet without wetting their entire body.
Guinea Pig Bathing Tips
There are several bathing tips to keep your guinea pig safe and guarantee a pleasant experience for both you and your pet.
Keeping your pet calm during bath time is always important, so the process is easier for you, and your guinea pig is not too stressed about it.
By following these tips, your guinea pig will be less likely to suffer from itchy skin and irritation.
Don’t Use Too Much Product
Even when using products for guinea pigs, avoid using too much.
You will need to rinse the shampoo out of your pet’s hair, and if they are scared or squirming around, it will be more difficult for you to ensure all of the product is rinsed away.
You also have a higher chance of accidentally getting the shampoo in the guinea pig’s eyes or ears.
Too much shampoo may also dry out the guinea pig’s skin, especially if you do not thoroughly rinse the soap residue out of its hair.
Rinse your guinea pig by pouring water on them, and avoid getting any water in your pet’s eyes, nose, or ears.
Getting water in a guinea pig’s nose may cause an upper respiratory infection.
Use a soft toothbrush to gently wash a guinea pig’s face.
Avoid Harsh Chemicals When Possible
Never bathe your guinea pig in any shampoo containing harsh chemicals.
A guinea pig’s skin is very sensitive, and these chemicals will cause a lot of irritation and dryness.
If you are unsure about an ingredient in your pet’s shampoo, do not hesitate to do some research to make sure it is safe.
Keep The Water Level Low
Guinea pigs are afraid of water, and bath time may be very stressful.
To help alleviate some of the stress for the animal, do not use too much water.
Fill a small bowl or baby bath with 1-2″ inches of warm water, and place a washcloth in the bottom, so your guinea pig does not slip.
Do not use hot water, as it may be too hot for your guinea pig, and it will also cause its skin to become dry.
The low water level will help to keep the animal calm.
The water should never be higher than a guinea pig’s shoulder.
Avoid Strong Perfumes and Fragrances
Guinea pigs have a sensitive respiratory system, so you need to use a fragrance-free shampoo.
Since guinea pigs do not have good eyesight, they rely on their sense of smell to tell them where they are.
If all they smell is the fragrance of their shampoo, the animal will not be able to navigate correctly or recognize its habitat.
This loss of smell will likely cause your guinea pig to become very stressed.
Dilute the Shampoo
Even if you are using shampoo made for guinea pigs, it is best to dilute it with water.
Diluting the shampoo will lessen any irritation caused by fragrances, and it will make the product easier to rinse out of your guinea pig’s fur.
Avoid Frequent Baths
As previously stated, you do not want to bathe your guinea pig too often.
At most, a guinea pig may be bathed once per month in the summer and every other month in the winter.
Ideally, a guinea pig will only need a bath 2-3 times per year.
Bathing your guinea pig too often will cause its skin to become very dry and irritated.
Guinea pigs also hate baths, and the experience might stress them out.
Do Not Use Essential Oils
Along with avoiding strong chemicals, do not use any products containing too many essential oils or artificial fragrances.
The following essential oils are toxic or irritating to your guinea pig:
- Cedar oil
- Tea tree oil
It is also best to avoid using these scents in your home.
Guinea pigs may also be sensitive to oils from your skin lotion or perfume, so wash your skin thoroughly before handling your pet.
Dry Your Guinea Pig
One of the most critical steps of bathing your guinea pig is to dry it off as soon as the bath is over.
Guinea pigs get very cold when they are wet, making them prone to respiratory infections.
Place your guinea pig on a dry towel and ensure they are dry before you place them back in their cage.
You may also use a hairdryer with warm air and low speed as long as it does not stress out your guinea pig.
A light fleece blanket may be draped over your guinea pig’s cage to keep out any drafts until your pet is completely dry.
Alternatives To Baths for Guinea Pigs
If you are worried about drying out your guinea pig’s skin or causing itchiness and irritation, there are a couple of alternatives to bathing your pet.
Your guinea pig may also find bath time stressful, so a bath alternative is a better option.
Use these methods to get your guinea pig clean when a full bath is not practical.
Use a damp cloth or a sponge to gently wipe your guinea pig to remove dirt or debris.
This works well if your pet is not too dirty, but a proper bath is necessary for stubborn stains or dirt.
Pet wipes work very well to spot clean your guinea pig or wipe its face.
Pet-friendly wipes are more efficient at removing surface dirt than a sponge.
No-Rinse Dry Shampoo
A no-rinse shampoo like the Citrus Magic Foaming cleanser mentioned above is an excellent alternative to a water bath.
Dry shampoo is also efficient at cleaning, detangling, and moisturizing your guinea pig’s fur without having to use water.
Keeping Your Guinea Pig Clean Between Baths
There are a few ways to keep your pet clean in between baths to avoid bathing your guinea pig too often.
Replace the Bedding
It is essential to remove and replace any soiled bedding from the cage every day to prevent your guinea pig from getting dirty.
Lining the cage with newspaper will also absorb moisture and keep odors from developing quickly.
For more details, check out our article on guinea pig bedding and how much you need.
Spot Clean the Cage Daily
You will need to spot clean your guinea pig’s cage every day.
Not only does soiled bedding need to be replaced, but the areas around the litter trays and food bowls need to be wiped down to remove any residue.
Any waste in the litter tray also needs to be removed.
Disinfect the Cage Weekly
Spot cleaning the cage every day will prevent odors, but disinfecting will also keep bacteria from forming.
To completely disinfect the enclosure, you will need to remove all bedding, water bottle, food bowls, and toys.
Spray the disinfectant on the floor and sides of the cage and wipe it with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Use a pet-friendly disinfectant to avoid adding potentially toxic chemicals to the enclosure.
Once the cage is completely dry, place fresh bedding on the bottom.
Disinfect the water bottle, food bowls, and any other accessories, and allow them to completely dry before placing them back into the cage.
Keep Your Guinea Pig Away From Dirt
It is crucial to provide your guinea pig with plenty of exercise.
Exercise prevents obesity and keeps your guinea pig’s organs functioning properly.
If your pet’s enclosure is not large enough for them to get adequate exercise, you may take them outside to play.
To keep your guinea pig clean, avoid allowing them near any sandy or muddy areas.
Place your guinea pig on grassy areas only during playtime, and it will be easier for your pet to stay clean.
It is also advisable to avoid getting your guinea pig wet.
Not only will being wet make it easier for debris to stick to your pet, but it’s dangerous for your guinea pig.