The importance of grooming
Guinea pigs, like most other hairy creatures, moult just before the hottest time of the year and grooming them during this time will help them to shed unwanted hair and keep them cool. Guinea pigs also lose a small amount of hair all year round and so weekly grooming helps to keep the coat fresh and free of old hairs.
Grooming also plays an important part in maintaining the grease gland. All guinea pigs have a grease gland on their bottoms, and if the grease isn't regularly cleaned away it can start to cake on into a greasy scab which will then need to be painstakingly removed with a degreaser (such as a mild washing up liquid or Swarfega) and a flea comb.
This is more of a problem in boars because they create more grease than sows do. Please read my guide to cleaning a grease gland to keep it clean and fresh.
When grooming watch out for:
- Scabs on the skin
Have a rummage through the fur with your fingers before grooming to see if there are any scabs. Groom around them gently to avoid damaging the scab.
- Knots in the hair
Your first go with the comb should be slow and gentle just in case you find any knots. Untangle them gently with a de-matting comb.
- Grease gland grease
Both boars and sows have a grease gland located on their bottoms. As is the case with boars in particular, the grease gland creates a lot of excess grease that cakes onto the hair and makes it sticky. Be very careful when grooming around this area because if your brush or comb catches a greasy patch you can pull out the hair!
It may come as a surpise to learn that there are actually a few different types of comb you can use to groom your guinea pigs with. You can choose the best combs for your guinea pig depending primarily on coat length, as guinea pigs with longer coats benefit from having a de-matting comb handy for example.
- The flea comb
This comb has very fine teeth to get deep into the fur and comb out debris such as skin flakes, lice and their eggs and general dirt. The flea comb is also useful for very gently combing away caked on grease around the grease gland on boars.
I wouldn't recommend using this comb on long haired guinea pigs because the teeth are very close together, making it especially unsuitable for guinea pigs with thick hair, and longer hair is more likely to be pulled out with a metal comb - this is painful for your guinea pig! Use a plastic comb with teeth that are further apart for your long haired guinea pigs.
- The Slicka comb
This comb has wide rubber teeth for grooming out water after bathing. It can also be used to gently massage guinea pigs around the back, neck and shoulders.
- The de-matting comb
This comb has curved serrated teeth to help you gently tease out knots in longer hair. Make sure this is done very gently indeed, and once the knots are untangled, swap to a plastic comb with wide teeth to finish the job.
- The teasle comb
This comb has very long and flexible teeth that are wide apart. It is good for general grooming and removing loose hair. Don't use this brush on long knotted hair because it will pull the hair out. If you have long hair yourself and try to brush it out instead of using a comb after washing it, you know how painful that can be!