Top Tips For Keeping Your Guineas' Skin In Good Condition

1. Bedding

These days there are many types of suitable bedding available for guinea pigs. Do bear in mind that no one bedding will work for everyone, so please do your research into the different products depending on whether your guineas are kept indoors or outdoors, the ability to wash / dry fabric bedding regularly, or dispose of / compost plant-based bedding.  Reputable Guinea Pig Rescues will often be happy to help with suitable recommendations for your set up. If you have a farm shop / riding stables nearby, they will usually have a good range of bedding and nice fresh meadow hay available in bulk / bales. Local independent pet shops often have a good range of bedding products available in smaller pillow packs, which are easy to store, but more expensive than buying in bulk.

The kind of bedding that you choose for your guineas may affect their skin and respiratory system. Avoid products that are 'scented' as these can be treated with Essential Oils (often Citronella, Eucalyptus, Lavender or Lemongrass), and may cause allergies or skin sensitisation. Dust / oils in some woods may also lead to respiratory issues that can be fatal to guineas, as well as potentially  irritating to their Humans. You only have to put your nose into a bag of shavings so see how strong the aroma is, and your guineas have to put up with this every day of their life:( If you have long haired guineas, it can also get caught up in their hair leading to tangles if they aren't groomed daily. Many guinea pig rescues will not rehome guineas where shavings are being used as bedding, as they have seen so many skin and respiratory problems caused by it.

Here are some quick recommendations to use as a starting point:

Meadow Hay  - provides warmth, comfort, fun and enrichment. Guineas love good quality hay and eat, sleep, poop and play in it. Use over a layer of newspaper and pile the hay on top. It needs regular spot cleaning and topping up once or twice a day. 

Flax Bedding - usually designed for horses and comes in large bales. Dust-free, lovely and soft, very absorbent, economical to use and will reduce the volume of bedding needing to be recycled / composted. Use over a thick layer of newspaper and top up daily. 

Hemp Bedding - usually designed for horses and comes in large bale. Branded as Aubiose, it may be a bit hard on guineas' little feet. It is now also available in a much finer version known as AubiChick, which is softer to the touch and may be worth considering.

Paper Bedding - very soft, comfortable and absorbent. Readily available brands include Small Pet Select Soft Paper Bedding (Unbleached White or Brown) and Carefresh.

Vet  Bed - very soft, warm, comfortable. Especially useful after operations, or for sick / older guineas who can't move around much. Vet Bed wicks away urine and keeps your piggy dry and comfortable. Available from most pet shops, or in bulk from eBay. Use over a thick layer of newspaper or puppy pads and change regularly.

Fleece - soft, comfortable and very popular for indoor guineas, and in C&C Cages (Cubes & Coroplast). Fleece blankets / fleece liners are readily available online. Use over a thick layer of newspaper or puppy pads and change regularly.

When using fabric bedding such as VetBed or Fleece, always consider the practicality of how regularly this type of bedding will need to be washed and dried, especially with the current cost of electricity. Wash with a non-biological washing powder (no conditioner required). Popping used Vet Bed in a Horse Ware Wash Bag can help to prevent your washing machine clogging up with hay.

Whichever type of bedding you choose, please always provide your guineas with a separate area with unlimited  meadow hay to enable your guineas to express their natural behaviour and forage / play / bury themselves in it:)

2. Cleaning

Cages need to be cleaned and thoroughly disinfected regularly so they don't smell, especially when it is very hot or very cold. Damp hay should be removed and replaced once or twice a day - depending on the number of guineas in the cage. Guineas are very clean creatures, and should always have dry bedding available. When the weather is hot, bacteria, fungi and viruses can grow very fast, and in cold weather, damp bedding can freeze. 

Recommended Veterinary- type cleaning products include:

All of these products are far more effective than the usual "pet shop sprays" and work against a wide variety of bacteria, fungi and viruses. 

After bathing your guinea, always remember to put them back into a CLEAN cage!

3. Environment

If your guinea is kept outside in a cage during the winter without any protection from the cold (not recommended), damp bedding can freeze. We recommend that as a minimum, guineas are kept in a shed / outbuilding and protected from the elements. Keeping them indoors or in a heated shed is even better. Guinea pigs are originally from Peru where the climate is warm and dry. Here in the UK they can suffer from skin / respiratory problems in particular, mainly due to the climate which is always humid.

4. Inspection

Regular inspection of your guinea’s hair, skin, ears, nose, mouth, and an awareness of what “normal” scratching is will help you to catch any skin problems sooner rather than later. Look for any signs of redness, dry / flaky skin, hair coming out in clumps with dead skin on the end, cuts, bites, open sores etc. If you find anything suspicious, take action straight away – skin problems can kill guineas if left untreated.

5. Shampooing

We recommend that you shampoo your guineas every 4 - 6 weeks with one of the range of Gorgeous Guineas shampoos. This can help to minimise the possibility of skin problems occurring in the first place. Unless your guinea has a skin problem, they do not need shampooing more often. Too much shampooing can cause their skin to become dry and irritated. Always remember to put your clean guinea back into a clean cage!

Gorgeous Guineas have a range of shampoos for piggies of all ages, all hair types, and for common skin problems so why not start pampurring your piggy?

If you have a guinea with skin problems, find out more about identifying skin problems and how to help your guinea. We've also got recommendations for specific products to use for the most common types of skin problems found in guineas.