Top 5 Tips To Keep Your Guinea's Skin In Good Condition
The kind of bedding that you choose for your guineas can affect their skin. Wood shavings / sawdust are not recommended, especially any that are scented (usually Lavender, Lemograss or Citronella) as these may cause allergies or skin sensitisation. Whilst shavings are great for absorbing urine, they can also absorb the natural oils from your guinea’s skin, leaving them more prone to skin problems. Dust / oils in the wood can also lead to respiratory disease that can be fatal to guineas, and irritating to their Humans.
You only have to put your nose into a bag of shavings so see how strong the smell 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. So what else can you use?
- Equisorb / Jopack / Hippofan - 3 brands of Flax bedding designed for horses that 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. More information about Equisorb can be found here. Use over a thick layer of newspaper. DO NOT USE LINCORE which is another type of Flax bedding - it contains Citronella Oil which is not suitable for guineas. Available from farm shops / riding stables and some branches of Countrywide Stores.
- Bed O'Linum - Flax bedding that comes in smaller bags. 12.5ltr and 35ltr sizes are available from various online shops.
- Dengie MediBed - short chopped, medicated straw designed for horses, loved by guineas, and economical to use (large 25kg bales). Visit Dengie's website for a list of stockists. Use over a thick layer of newspaper. Russel Bedding is similar, and available from pet shops in smaller pillow packs. Use over a thick layer of newspaper. Please DO NOT NOT use straw designed for rabbits (long, thick strands, usually barley straw) as this can cause eye poke injuries to piggies.
- Hay - nice fresh meadow hay can be used as bedding, but doesn't absorb urine as well as Flax or MediBed. Large bales of hay from your local farm / riding school cost between £3 and £5 and are very economical. Use over a thick layer of newspaper.
- Vet Bed - hygienic, easy to wash, and ideal for use after operations, or for sick 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 and change regularly. Wash at 60C+ with non-biological washing powder (no conditioner required). Always provide a separate area with unlimited hay to enable your guineas to express their natural behaviour and forage / play / bury themselves in it:)
Cages need to be cleaned and thoroughly disinfected at least twice a week, especially when it is very hot or very cold. Damp bedding should be removed and replaced once or twice a day - depending on the number of guineas in the cage. When the weather is hot, bacteria, fungi and viruses can grow very fast, and in cold weather, damp bedding can freeze. Recommended cleaning products include:
- Conficlean 2 (our personal favourite)
- Virkon S
- Formula H
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. Conficlean 2 and Virkon S are available online from The Hay Experts.
After bathing your guinea, always remember to put him back into a CLEAN cage!
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.
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.
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 such as Lice and Fungal infections, 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.