When you’re used to normal guinea pigs, encountering hairless guinea pigs can be a bit of a shock. However, these guinea pigs are natural and can live long, happy lives like their furred counterparts.
The Two Types of Hairless Guinea Pigs
There are actually currently two breeds of hairless guinea pigs, and more may arise with time. Skinny and Baldwin guinea pigs arise from two separate genetic mutations that occurred spontaneously.
If you’re not into genetics, skip this paragraph. However, both types of hairless guinea pigs arise from a recessive trait. That means the guinea pig has to get a recessive copy of the gene from both parents, which can make breeding challenging since the odds aren’t great when breeding with haired guinea pigs.
Skinny guinea pigs are not entirely without hair. They have little tufts on their feet, legs, and noses. However, the rest of them is completely hairless. They are born like this, and while they may grow a few other hairs over the years, skinnies generally have the same hair pattern for their whole lives.
Skinny guinea pigs first appeared in a research facility in the 1970s.
Baldwin guinea pigs are an odd genetic mutation. These guinea pigs are completely hairless, even though they are born with a typical coat. A Baldwin guinea pig will start losing the fur it was born with about a week into its life and be utterly hairless by the time it is three months old.
Baldwin guinea pigs are often compared to mini hippopotami.
Special Habitat Considerations for Hairless Guinea Pigs
All hairless guinea pigs require a few changes to their habitats. Otherwise, the guinea pigs will not be as comfortable throughout their lives.
Due to their lack of fur, all hairless guinea pigs need options to keep them warm. Most of the time, adding shelters or fleece pockets works well. You can also help these guinea pigs by maintaining a slightly higher room temperature around their habitat.
Bedding for Hairless Guinea Pigs
A normal guinea pig’s fur provides a protective layer between them and the bedding. However, hairless varieties lack this protection and should be kept in soft bedding like fleece to prevent irritation.
Most types of guinea pigs without hair also eat a little more since they lack fur to hold in body heat. Granted, the difference may not be noticeable if you’re free feeding your guinea pigs hay, but it is still a consideration.
Health Concerns with Hairless Guinea Pigs
Being hairless, these piggles have some specific health considerations that may mean a few vet visits to work out solutions throughout their lifespan. However, it’s not anything horrid like what’s required to care for inbred guinea pigs.
Skin Sensitivity and Hairless Guinea Pigs
As previously mentioned, most guinea pigs have a coat that acts as a barrier between their skin and possible irritants. Skinnies and Baldwin guinea pigs lack this, so their skin can be more sensitive to things like oils in bedding or residues from laundry detergent if you’re using fleece liners.
Without a protective coat, the skin of skinnies and Baldwin guinea pigs can burn just like yours can. If you take your guinea pigs outside for any reason, consider keeping them in a shaded area or enclosure to avoid sunburn. Remember, human sunscreen is not meant for guinea pigs and can harm them.
Unfortunately, skinnies and Baldwin guinea pigs are also a little more susceptible to skin injuries as well. In most cases, you just need to watch your guinea pigs for little skin injuries. However, anything you suspect of infection means an urgent vet visit.
Skinnies and Baldwin guinea pigs still produce oil to maintain their skin’s moisture, just like you do. They do not require the addition of moisturizers normally. However, your vet can recommend a guinea pig-safe moisturizer if you see dryness or cracks.
As you can see when you look at hairless guinea pigs, they tend to be a little wrinkly. Like people, these guinea pigs can develop fungal, yeast, and other infections in their folds. Please see your vet to remediate these infections and the best control options to limit them.