If you are a beginner and have heard about the guinea pig grease gland but still it is not clear that what is it, what it does and why we should clean it on a regular basis then you might be at the right place right now. Moving ahead we are going to discuss possibly everything about it and by the end, I can ensure you that all your queries regarding the same will come to an end.
A grease gland in an opening located at the end part of your guinea pig’s spine, just above their tail bone or where their tail should be (if they had one). As the name suggests, these glands secrete a greasy substance which the guinea pigs used for marking and scenting.
If you get a very young guinea pig for yourself then the grease gland may not be that active and prominent. But as it matured towards puberty the gland becomes much more active.
Usually, it is examined that the more dominant guinea pigs have a more active grease gland as compared to others.
Neutering the boars usually makes the grease glands dormant. It is also known as scent glands or sebaceous glands.
Now that you have learned about what exactly a grease gland is let us look at what is its function and how should we take care of the same.
Do female guinea pigs have grease glands?
Yes, female guinea pigs(sows) also have grease glands just like their male counterparts. But, the grease gland of sows is not as active as that of boars.
Some sows also have an active grease gland although it is quite a rare view among sows.
There is nothing wrong with your sows if they have an active grease gland it is quite natural for some guinea pigs.
Why do guinea pigs have grease gland?
Guinea pigs used their grease gland mainly for the purpose of marking their territory. It usually secretes a greasy substance which becomes solid after being attached to a surface for some time.
Guinea pigs also use the scent from the grease to attract the sows towards them. Usually, they would rub their grease gland against the surface and the secretions deposited serve as an attractant.
Although both male and female guinea pigs have the grease gland, it is found most active among the male guinea pigs only.
Usually, a male grease gland gets more active after they hit their puberty mark.
Male guinea pigs can get territorial as they grow, sometimes it becomes very tough to house two boars in the same cages.
Usually, the dominant guinea pig will mark their area and spread their scent around the area using the grease produced by these glands.
We have an in-depth article on Guinea pig dominance which you can go through to learn more about their dominance behavior.
Where is a guinea pig’s grease gland?
Locating a grease gland of guinea pigs is quite an easy task. The most reliable way is to look for it just above the place where their tail would have been located(if they had one).
Another way is to follow their spine till the back part of the body, you will feel a tailbone there and just above it would be their grease glands.
Male guinea pigs, especially after puberty have more prominent grease glands which makes it easier to locate. While female guinea pigs and young guinea pigs also have one but it can be tough to locate easily as they are not as active and prominent.
If you happen to have a long hair guinea pig with not so active grease gland then it is quite tough to locate the same.
While on the other hand long hair guinea pigs with active grease gland can be prominently identified and are much more challenging to clean as their entire fur of the portion can be covered with the same.
How often should we clean the grease glands of guinea pigs?
The grease glands of guinea pigs need to be cleaned anywhere between once a week to once a month. It totally depends upon how active your guinea pigs grease glands.
You need to keep a watch over the grease buildup of your guinea pigs. Every guinea pig is different, while in some guinea pigs the grease can buildup can be very fast but for others, it can be pretty slow.
It is not a good idea to clean it on a daily basis as some people believe. Cleaning it every day can make the area nearby gland very rough and dry as water washes away the natural oil in guinea pig’s skin.
Consequences Of Not Cleaning A Grease Gland (grease gland infection)
Guinea pigs with active grease glands do need regular cleaning of their grease glands so that the grease doesn’t build up a lot.
If the grease glands are not cleaned on a regular basis then it can lead to irritation in guinea pigs.
In severe cases, it can also lead to infection in the grease gland of your guinea pigs.
It is recommended to visit a vet immediately if you find any signs of infection in a guinea pig’s grease glands.
Also, not cleaning the grease gland for a long time can possibly lead to clogging of the same which can be a challenge to treat later on. So, it is best recommended to clean it on a regular basis.
If you find that the hairs around their grease glands have gone greasy or hard and lots of stuff like bedding, hay, or other things are getting attached to it then it should be considered the right time to clean their grease gland.
How to clean a guinea pig grease gland?
Cleaning your guinea pigs grease gland can be quite easy if you do it on a regular basis and not let the grease build up a lot. Let us look into the steps you need to follow to clean your guinea pigs grease glands:
- Depending upon your guinea pig breed the first step would be to trim the hair around your guinea pigs grease glands. The grease can form lumps in hairs that are difficult to clean especially in long-haired guinea pigs.
- The second step is to apply some Organic coconut oil around the area. Applying some oil and letting it sit for a few hours loosens the hard grease and makes it quite easy for lumps and grease to be cleaned later. You can either use your fingers or a soft towel to apply the coconut oil around their grease glands.
- So, after letting the oil sit for some time (half an hour to an hour or so) you need to go ahead and give them a bum bath. Just cleaning their bum with regular water or shampoo might not be that effective So, It is recommended to use either Swarfega or scent-free Dishwashing/handwash liquid. Note don’t wash their whole body with it, just the bum part.
- After you have the cleaning agent just apply it with very little water first and try to clean up the hard grease portion first. Then you can wash it once and use it again with some more water to get some lather and completely clean the grease out.
- Once the grease is cleaned you can use regular guinea pig shampoo and either bath them fully (only if needed) or just give a final touch at their bum part. This will also clean off any chemicals from their skin that came with the cleaning agent.
- Now you can use a soft dry towel and dry them out. If you find that the area around the grease gland is rough and dry apply some coconut oil and leave them back to their cage.
It is recommended to get the grease gland cleaned professionally if your guinea pig is suffering from an infection. Once it is cleaned you can ask your vet for suggestions to keep it clean by yourself.
Guinea pig grease gland smell
Yes, guinea pigs grease glands can produce a foul smell sometimes. The smell usually is strong if there is a lot of grease buildup around their grease glands.
Guinea pigs use this scent to mark their territory so if you have a dominant boar then you will sense the smell around their cages. A good way to keep it in check is the regular cleaning of their cages.
I would definitely recommend you to go ahead learn more about their smell and cage cleaning from this article: Do guinea pigs smell? How to get rid of the smell? and How To Keep A Guinea Pig Cage From Smelling? (Avoid Unsafe Ideas)
So, coming to the conclusion what is guinea pig grease gland? A grease gland in the guinea pig is nothing but a part of their body which secretes a greasy substance used by them to mark their territory and also acts as an attractant.
Grease glands are more active in boars rather than sores. It is really important to keep an eye on the grease buildup of your guinea pig. Cleaning it on a regular basis not only ensures the good health of your guinea pig but also reduces the yucky smell.
Sources: Management of skin conditions in guinea pigs, Care of guinea pigs, Reduction in aggression and dominance status in guinea pigs, Guinea Pigs: Aggression and Dominance