Some guinea pigs have spurs that grow on the sides of their front paws. These may be trimmed using human nail clippers so that they don't get torn off or possibly infected. Trim a small amount each time so that you do not cut into the foot pad. If you have any doubts as to whether or not it is actually a spur or how to trim it, please see your guinea-pig-knowledgeable vet.
Since I wear glasses and have trouble seeing the nails when I trim them, I attach flip-up magnifying glasses to my reading glasses so that I can see the nail better. I hold the pig upright with the pig’s back against my stomach while I am sitting down and proceed to trim the nails below the quick. If your pig starts squirming around wait until he has stopped before you trim the nail since sudden moves can result in a clipped quick. You may try wrapping him in a hand towel or having someone hold him while you trim the nails but make sure that he does not get stressed out. If so, try it again another day.
Guinea pigs need to have their nails trimmed periodically. If they are not trimmed on a regular basis, they can grow too long and start to curl and/or grow into the foot pad. The result is that the guinea pig will be in pain and may have difficulty walking. Also, longer nails may be easier to get caught on something and break or tear the nail.
Trimming light-colored nails are the easiest since you can see the pink quick in the nail. Dark nails are more difficult to trim, particularly if they are black. However, shining the light from a flashlight at the back of the nail will allow the pink quick to be seen in dark (non-black) nails. I use Four Paw's cat nail clippers to clip the nails of my guinea pigs. Human nail clippers are also an option. When trimming black nails, it is best to just trim the points often so that you don’t accidentally cut into the quick and cause it to bleed and be painful. I keep styptic powder nearby in case I accidentally cut the quick and need to stop the bleeding.
Guinea pigs really don't need a lot of baths. In fact, some rarely are bathed. I just give mine a bath if they are dirty or they need an anti-fungal/medicated bath. The reason is that repeated bathing can tend to dry out the skin of guinea pigs. Long-haired pigs tend to get dirtier than the short-haired breeds. With the long-haired breeds such as Texels, Peruvians, and Shelties, you can just give a "butt bath" if the hair is dirty from urine. (I trim the hair of the long-haired breeds to cage-floor length and sometimes shorter around the rear end so that the hair does not get soiled from the urine.)
When I bathe a guinea pig, I first put a hand towel or non-slip rubber mat in a sink. Next I cover the towel with a small amount of warm water. I then put the pig in the sink on the towel or mat so that she will not slip. I use a plastic glass to pour warm water over the pig to get her wet. When she is wet, I place a small amount of the shampoo in my hand and then lather it on the pig. (If it is a medicated shampoo, it will usually need to remain on the hair for up to 10 minutes.) Next I rinse the shampoo off using the glass to pour the water over the pig. Sometimes I will hold the pig underneath the running water to make sure that all of the soap is removed. I then squeeze out the water from the hair and wrap the pig in a hand towel. I hold her or put her in a basket with a lid on top. I let her sit wrapped up and change the towels a couple of times, letting her shake the hair/water between towel changes. Next I take a hair dryer and, with the setting on "low", I dry the hair. I place my hand between the guinea pig and the hair dryer as a buffer against the heat of the hair dryer. As I move my hand, I ruffle the hair to let the air get at it. It is important that the hair be dry before returning the guinea pig to the cage. Also, make sure that she is not in any drafts during the bathing/drying process. Not doing either one of these items could set your guinea pig up for illness due to cold hair and drafts. After the guinea pig is dry, you can trim toenails and the hair if needed. Also, it is a good time to weigh the pig and check her over to make sure that there are no problems such as cuts, abscesses, lumps, URI, torn toenails, etc.
REALLY IMPORTANT: Make sure that you have a secure hold on your guinea pig when bathing her or him. Guinea pigs can and sometimes will try to leap out of the water. They can be quite slippery with the shampoo and could easily get injured if they do succeed in jumping out of the sink.
BATHING HAIRLESS GUINEA PIGS: Basically, hairless guinea pigs rarely need baths but when they do I have used a very mild shampoo. Remember, no hair dryer and no rubbing with a towel to dry the skin. Virgin cold-pressed coconut oil can also be used to clean the skin of a hairless. Gently apply to the skin; do not wash off. In addition, I have used Virbac's Humilac spray to keep the skin moist and supple.
Click here for information on the care of long-haired guinea pigs. Click here for information on cleaning grease glands.
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