Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Can You Use Dog Shampoo On Guinea Pigs? Is It Effective For Cleaning?

person shampooing guinea pig

Vet approved

Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet) Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Tabitha Henson (Vet)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Guinea pigs have become extremely popular over the years, and many people have them as pets. If you’re a guinea pig owner, you are already aware of their cuddly nature. They are entertaining, fun to play with, and very lovable.

Like all other pets, you need to provide them with love and care, including feeding, maintenance, and hygiene. Many people are unsure what they need to use to wash a guinea pig. Commonly, guinea pigs are kept indoors due to their size, so they don’t get dirty often, but you may need to bathe them when they are especially dirty or incapable of cleaning themselves. Regular baths are not recommended for guinea pigs as rodents are very sensitive to temperature changes. If you’re also a dog owner, you’ve probably thought about washing your guinea pig with dog shampoo.

If that’s ever crossed your mind, we advise against it. The dog shampoo might be effective for cleaning, but your guinea pig can suffer from some serious health issues. We will talk more about this topic below and provide you with information on how to bathe your guinea pig safely, so keep reading.

divider-dog paw

Why is dog shampoo unsafe for guinea pigs?

Dog shampoo is specially made for dogs and includes chemicals and substances good for dog skin and fur. Also, many dog shampoos contain anti-flea ingredients that could potentially be deadly for your guinea pig. We strongly advise you never to use any other animal shampoo on your guinea pig because they are so small and sensitive.

The consequences might be minor, with just scratching and skin issues, but at the same time, you could endanger the life of your guinea pig.

two guinea pigs bathing
Image Credit: Ase, Shutterstock

Avoid human and baby shampoo

Another thing you should also avoid is human shampoo. Our skin products have more substances and chemicals, and our skin pH is not the same, so human shampoo would likely harm your guinea pig. You should also avoid baby shampoo, regardless of it having fewer chemicals than human shampoo. Guinea pigs have very sensitive eyes, so these shampoos could quickly damage their vision or even make them blind.

In some situations, if you’re feeling desperate because you do not have any other products around, you could mix a couple of drops of mild baby shampoo with lukewarm water to wash your cavies. You could also take a small amount and test it out on the guinea pig’s skin to see whether there’s a reaction. Still, as this can be harmful, we suggest avoiding this method or consulting with your vet to verify if the product is safe to use.

Even if your vet says it’s okay, try not to make a habit of it because guinea pigs need appropriate care for their fur and skin.

Other options and substances to avoid

Since guinea pigs are pretty sensitive and their skin can easily become dry, there are substances you need to avoid to ensure your cavies will remain healthy. Here’s a list of ingredients you should avoid when finding a product for bathing your guinea pig:

  • Cedar oil
  • Sulfates
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates

Also, stay away from any products with heavy fragrances and any scented products since they could harm your guinea pig’s lungs and cause other issues.

guinea pig wrapped in towel
Image Credit: Evgeny Gorodetsky, Shutterstock

What kind of shampoo should you use on guinea pigs?

You can find a lot of different critter shampoos or shampoos that have a balanced mixture of ingredients safe for all kinds of rodents, including guinea pigs. Those products have substances that will reduce dryness, rashes, and skin conditions in your cavy.

You shouldn’t panic if you don’t have guinea pig shampoo when it needs a bath. You can use safe alternatives that won’t irritate your guinea pig’s skin.

divider-paw

What to use if you don’t have guinea pig shampoo

You’re probably wondering what you can use if you don’t have guinea pig shampoo. There are many different, harmless ways to bathe your cavy while not damaging their skin or fur. Below you can see our top picks for safe alternatives for guinea pig shampoo.

Warm Water

Warm water is an excellent option for washing your guinea pig. It’s the simplest solution that wouldn’t have any harmful effects on your cavy. Also, warm water has no chemicals and won’t dry out their fur. Still, if your cavy is very dirty, warm water might not be enough to remove all the filth.

Oatmeal Soap

Oatmeal soap is another excellent alternative for washing your guinea pig since it’s gentle and doesn’t contain harsh ingredients. You would need to dilute the soap and test it out on your cavy’s skin to ensure there are no reactions. It might not remove all the dirt, but it’s a safe option you can try out.

Guinea Pig Shampoo
Image Credit By: Shchus, shutterstock

Pet-friendly Wipes

Pet-friendly wipes are also great when you need to quickly clean your cavy, as they do not contain harmful substances. Also, this is the fastest method to clean excess dirt on your guinea pig, although pet-friendly wipes cannot permanently replace bathing.

Diluted All-Natural Apple Cider Vinegar

Another solution you can use occasionally is diluted all-natural apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is scented and acidic, but it can be safe for your guinea pig once you dilute it, as long as you don’t use it frequently. So, before you use apple cider vinegar, dilute it in plenty of water. It will have antimicrobial properties and will reduce bad smells from your cavy.

divider-paw

How often do guinea pigs need baths?

Guinea pigs are excellent at cleaning themselves, so they do not need frequent baths. Only bathe your guinea pig if absolutely necessary.

Too frequent baths can make your guinea pig prone to colds and dry out their skin. It’s best to keep their habitat as clean as possible to reduce the need for bathing.

Here are some indicators that will help you to notice if your cavy needs a bath:
  • Your guinea pig has a stinky smell
  • Its fur is greasy
  • After playing outside

If your guinea pig is older than 5 years, it might be more challenging to groom itself, so you should bathe it more often. There are also occasions when you should never wash your cavy, which applies to guinea pigs younger than 6 months and pregnant guinea pigs.

Guinea Pigs Bathing
Image Credit: MAKY_OREL, Pixabay

How to bathe a guinea pig

Bathing a guinea pig can be a stressful experience since they’re not fans of bath time, so ensure you calm down your cavy before bathing. Before washing, take a damp cloth and remove surface dirt from its skin. It’s best to wash your guinea pig in a small container with around 2 inches of water inside.

Ensure that the water is lukewarm but not too hot, which could damage your guinea pig’s skin. Before placing the cavy in the container, set a small cloth at the bottom of the container to prevent slippering. Slowly place your guinea pig into the water and give it time to adjust to the water temperature.

Always stay close so that your guinea pig can feel comfortable in the water and develop a positive association with bath time. Gently scoop water with your hand or a small cup and rinse your cavy. Ensure no water gets into its face and ears. If its face is dirty, it would be best to wipe it with a damp cloth.

Since they’re sensitive and can become scared, try to be as gentle as possible. Take a small amount of shampoo and gently rub it into your guinea pig’s skin. Again, rinse the cavy using a small cup or your hand and ensure there’s no more shampoo on their fur.

After you finish bathing your cavy, you should carefully wipe it with a clean, dry towel. After it’s dry, brush its fur. This step is essential if your guinea pig has long fur since it can become tangled.

Tips to keep your guinea pig clean between baths

It’s always good to take precautions to keep your guinea pig clean between baths. Since they spend most of their time in cages, keeping the cage clean is crucial.

Here are some tips to ensure your cavy will be clean between baths:
  • Regularly change the guinea pig’s bedding
  • Sanitize their cage regularly
  • Clean the toys, food, and water bowls every couple of days
  • Spot clean the cage when needed

divider-dog

Conclusion

So to sum everything up, never use dog shampoo on guinea pigs. If you do not have appropriate shampoo in your home, you can use some of the safe alternatives provided in the article, which won’t harm your cavy. Ensure that you provide it with the needed care, and make bath time an enjoyable routine that won’t scare your guinea pig. By using harmful products, your cavy will be healthier, and its fur will always look clean and shiny.


Featured Image Credit: Shchus, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets