Guinea Pigs are extremely low maintenance and easy to take care of, despite what some people say. That being said, they do need some day to day care.
The Toe Nails
If you don’t trim your guinea pigs’ toe nails they will grow long and become painful.
Placing rocks, rough stones, bricks and other similar surfaces in their cages will help to wear their nails down so you won’t need to clip them regularly, if at all. Bricks are probably the cheapest but makes sure they are the solid type without holes is them! There is too much of a risk of injury as their feet may caught as they run over them.
Like many other animals guinea pigs have blood vessels in their toe nail. This is commonly called the ‘quick’ and is very painful when cut.
For nails that are clear or light in color the quick is easy to see – the pink area visible from the toe bone extending into the toe nail. All you need to do is cut just above the pinkish area. Not too close though, as pressure exerted on the quick by the clippers can hurt as well.
However for dark or black nails it is nearly impossible to see where the quick begins and ends. Most owners prefer to deal with these by cutting little but often. It is not impossible to cut a long dark toe nail without cutting into the quick; it simply takes time and practice to know how far back is too far.
If you do end up cutting the quick it is gong to bleed – a lot – and you are going to have to stop the bleeding. Many pet stores and vet clinics sell ‘Quick Stop’, which will stop the bleeding altogether however if you don’t have this use iodine on the nail instead.
Your Guinea Pig is most likely going to squirm a lot during the nail cutting process. Wrap your pet in a towel to secure it but ensure the feet are poking out. If you have a second set of hand to help hold your guinea pig, this is going to be easier. One of you can hold the guinea pig while the other cuts the toe nails.
A Tip for cutting their nails on your own is to place them on a tennis racket and cover them with a towel to make them feel more secure. Their toe nails will poke through the under side giving you better access to them.
As with most rodents, your guinea pig has two incisors that grow constantly. which is why rodent tend to gnaw to wear them down. If your guinea pig’s teeth grow too long they will not be able to eat and you will need to take them to the vet to get their overly long teeth cut shorter. Their teeth are not like ours with a hard enamel coating – they are more like thick nails so it isn’t too much of a worry getting them cut if you have to.
The best way to keep their growing teeth in check is to give them hard foods to gnaw at. This is why it is a good idea to keep ‘chew’ toys in the cage such as cardboard tubes or block of wood
Many owners give their guinea pigs hay cubes (available from pet suppliers) or old stale bread (not mouldy) to help them keep their teeth shorter. If you include compressed pellets as part of their diet, this will help also. But remember doing these things does not meant you don’t have to inspect their teeth regularly.
Check their teeth by gently lifting their lips up and make sure they are not too long, and nothing is chipped or broken because this is bad for your guinea pig. If you do find broken teeth or a tooth has fallen out, take your pet to your vet or at the very least contact them.
Brushing Their Coats
Regularly brushing your guinea pig keeps their coat clean, shiny and healthy. For long haired varieties daily brushing is vital but for short haired guinea pigs, a few times a week is sufficient.
Using a soft baby’s brush, with gentle bristles will make the brushing experience enjoyable for your guinea pig. For longer fur which is more prone to tangling, try a metal greyhound comb as this will remove all the loose excess hair and will lessen shredding.
Bathing Your Guinea Pig
You need to be very clear with this – Guinea pigs DON’T like to be bathed. They will become very stressed when you decide to dunk them into water. This much stress can lower their immune system.
It is not unusual for Guinea pigs to go their entire live without bathing and that is absolutely fine for them. It is not necessary to bath your guinea pig unless you have been instructed by a vet, or your pet has got into something particular dirty and smelly. Often times a ‘sponge’ bath (wiped with a damp cloth) is enough.
If you must bath your guinea pig use a shallow container and choose a shampoo that is very mild. Ask your vet for one they recommend for kittens (not cats) or use a baby shampoo sparingly. The only time to use medicated shampoo is when it is prescribed or recommended by your vet.