By LisaBeth Weber
When it comes to small pets, many people opt for the cute and adorable guinea pig. Popular as a first pet, guinea pigs are typically good with children. There are many types of guinea pigs, but among the more unique looking varieties are the long-haired guinea pig breeds. The most common of these types of guinea pigs are the Abyssinian, coronet, Peruvian, silkie and texel.
Some of the more exotic breeds, like long-haired guinea pigs, started making an appearance in the 16th century when European traders brought them to France.
Melinda Wolff-Foster, owner of The Pines Pet Pampering in Joshua, Texas, has a background working with exotic pets, including long-haired guinea pigs. The most common breeds she sees are Abyssinian and Peruvian. Dr. Kimberly Mickley, DVM at Quakertown Vet Clinic in Pennsylvania, also sees mostly Abyssinian guinea pigs and Peruvian guinea pigs at her practice.
Types of Long-Haired Guinea Pig Coats
Each of the long-haired guinea pig breeds have their own special look to their coat. One very noticeable characteristic of the Abyssinian guinea pig is their rosettes, or “cowlicks.” The texel guinea pig has “wavy” or “curly” hair, while the silkies, Peruvians and coronets tend to have long, flowing coats. The Peruvian variety occasionally has cowlicks, and the silkie breed coat doesn’t cover the face.
Maintenance for Long-Haired Guinea Pigs
Dr. Mickley’s most important advice is to keep them as clean as possible by establishing proper guinea pig grooming routines. Here are some tips for the experts on how to groom long-haired guinea pigs.
General Coat Care
Owning a long-haired guinea pig does require a bigger commitment than their short-haired counterparts. Their manes are beautiful, but can be a challenge to maintain.
“They require careful daily combing with a stainless steel comb,” says Wolff-Foster, “along with regular, professional grooming so their coat, skin and nails remain in good condition.” A comb like the Resco professional combination comb can be used for combing your long-haired guinea pig’s coat.
Wolff-Foster recommends a four- to six-week schedule for professional grooming if the pet owner is diligent about daily combing. A wire brush isn’t recommended as it can irritate the skin, but a bristle brush can be gently used as a finishing touch.
There’s no sugarcoating the fact that guinea pig bedding can get tangled up in the longer hair, and that their longer hair can adhere to their litter as well as urine and fecal material. Dr. Mickley says some owners will very carefully try to trim the fur so it doesn’t drag as much on the bottom of the guinea pig cage or in the bedding.
Bathing Do’s & Don’ts
Dr. Mickley notes that when deciding whether to get a long-haired guinea pig, you should take into consideration that they are inherently messier than short-haired guinea pigs and will need to be cleaned often. This can be done at home if the pet parents understand safe handling, especially in the tub or sink.
Known for holistic pet care and volunteering her grooming skills at a local animal shelter to encourage more adoptions, Wolff-Foster uses a coconut surfactant-based shampoo, like the Earthbath Hypo-Allergenic dog and cat shampoo, to bathe guinea pigs, and doesn’t use any conditioners or leave-in products, since most guinea pigs also clean themselves.
Wolff-Foster recommends placing the guinea pig on a folded towel in the basin of the tub or sink during baths to help them to feel secure and avoid any slipping issues. Holding them gently with one hand while bathing with the other will prevent sudden jumps that can cause an accidental fall. She says that you should never use a grooming “loop” around a guinea pig’s neck. After bathing, it’s important to clean and dry both sides of the ear flaps, but never use a cotton swab inside the ear.
She doesn’t recommend using blow dryers, but suggests providing a warm, quiet space for them to air-dry and then combing to remove any loose hairs.
Deciding if a Long-Haired Guinea Pig Is the Right Pet for You
Dr. Sari Kanfer, DVM at the Exotic Animal Veterinary Center in Pasadena, California, thinks that long-haired guinea pigs are calmer than other breeds and enjoy being groomed. “They make wonderful pets for parents to share with children. They’re sweet, gentle and great for people that enjoy doting on their pet.”
They’re higher maintenance, though, and are best for people who understand their grooming requirements. Guinea pig cages need to be kept clean, and the daily diet consists of dark, leafy greens, timothy hay, fresh water, fresh vegetables, a minimal amount of pellets and supplemental vitamin C.
Before deciding on a long-haired guinea pig as a pet, make sure you are knowledgeable about their needs and are comfortable with weekly at-home grooming and safe handling. Do your research in advance so you can properly welcome to your newfound four-legged family member (the kind you don’t have to take for a walk).
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