Tips for Your Male Guinea Pig’s Routine Boar Cleanings

Hobbes, guinea pig boar cleaningImage courtesy of Michiko Vartanian

Guinea pig, Hobbes, helping an OC Cavy Haven volunteer learn boar cleaning.

I adopted my first pair of boars, Ethan and Hobbes, from OC Cavy Haven several years ago. It’s fair to say that I love boars and I’m often surprised by the fact that people tend to want to adopt sows. We tend to keep boars in the rescue a lot longer than sows and, while I certainly am not anti-sow – to me, a pig is a pig and they’re all great! – I have a hard time understanding why anyone would not want an awesome herd of boars like mine!

Perhaps it’s the boar cleanings?

I got so lucky the day I adopted Ethan and Hobbes because their foster mom, Holly, would not let me leave her house with them until I knew how to do a boar cleaning. They had lived with her for quite awhile and I could tell she was not letting them leave her without being assured they would be taken care of – and that means boar cleanings. So she picked up Ethan and demonstrated the technique. Then she picked up Hobbes, handed him to me, handed me a q-tip and watched carefully as I did my first boar cleaning. So I left that day with my two adopted boys and the idea that boar cleaning was just another thing to do, just a part of the routine. So all these years later, when ‘boar cleaning’ shows up on my calendar every few weeks, I just get out my gear and do the routine and it seems very simple and ordinary to me. To be quite frank, I actually enjoy it because I love helping my boys feel comfortable and clean.

For those who are not familiar with the routine, here are some tips:

Clean the Anal Sac
This should be done about every three weeks, more often in older boars who have lost some elasticity in their muscles and are more prone to impaction. Have your mineral oil and q-tips ready, then place piggy on your lap with his back resting up against you so his back is supported because, of course, his spine does not bend backwards. Then use one hand to gently pull the anus back so you expose as much of the sac as possible – do not be rough here as you don’t want to stretch out piggy, but you do want to make sure the sac is being cleaned well. With the other hand, dip the q-tip in the mineral oil and insert it into the anal opening, then scoop all around to move any debris from the sac. Sometimes there will be a lot of build up and you will have to repeat the process with several q-tips. Just do this until the q-tip comes out clean.

Address Impaction
If your boar has not been cleaned regularly, he may develop an impaction, which will interfere with him producing the caecal feces. Caecal “pellets” are the softer pellets that are rich in Vitamin B complex, the ones you see your piggies reaching down to eat. Those of us less well versed in technical terminology often refer to this process as “taking their vitamins.” If you are not fully comfortable with boar cleanings, an impaction will require a trip to an experienced cavy vet who can do a deep cleaning to remove the impaction. If you are comfortable with it, then you should be able to remove the impaction with a liberal amount of mineral oil and some patience. You may even want to enlist a friend to help hold piggy still as you gently try to loosen the impaction.

Clean the Penis
A thorough boar cleaning includes checking piggy’s penis to remove the smegma that can build up around the shaft. This requires holding piggy securely with his back against you and gently pushing down on both sides of the penis so the shaft comes out. Remove any white debris with a moistened tissue. If done regularly, the build up will stay at a minimum.

Check the Grease Gland
The last step in the boar cleaning process is to check piggy’s grease gland. This is a dime-sized area located about half an inch above the anus which has a leathery and often greasy feel to it. If grease has built up, you can use coconut oil to break up the build-up. Some people swear by Dawn dishwashing detergent. You can lather some onto the grease gland and let it stand for a few minutes. Then just rinse thoroughly and continue to clean the area so the grease doesn’t clog it, which can lead to infection.

Dispelling a Myth
It is commonly believed that neutered boars do not need to have boar cleanings. While it is often the case that neutered boars will not be prone to build up of debris in their anal sac, it is not always the case. According to my vet, who is one of the premiere cavy vets in SoCal and has been seeing guinea pigs for over 15 years, the most impactions he sees – by far – are on neutered boars. This may be due to the fact that their owners believe boar cleanings are not necessary. So to be on the safe side, my neutered boar gets his cleanings right along with the rest of my herd.

Happy boar cleaning!

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Michiko Vartanian

Michiko has been a volunteer of Orange County Cavy Haven since she adopted her first guinea pigs five years ago. She currently cares for four adopted guinea pig boys and three fosters. She really enjoys being involved in rescue and associating with so many great people who care so much about these wonderful animals.

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10 Responses to “Tips for Your Male Guinea Pig’s Routine Boar Cleanings”
  1. Erin Schimpf says:

    I also use Mineral Oil. I got a lot of slack for it but I am glad this is still what is suggested. 😀 Thanks for adding this.

  2. Sally says:

    That was a wonderfully written article. Not a boar owner myself (I’m one of those sow-only people), I will find this very useful to pass along when boar owners ask me what to do.

  3. michiko says:

    Glad it is useful!! I know a lot of people are squeamish about it. I don’t think I managed to make it as “routine” sounding as I intended to. Honestly, it’s such a simple and easy process once you’ve done it a few times. I actually met up with someone who adopted boars from us yesterday to clean her boys. I have a travel kit and I’m happy to meet adopters if they can’t make it to Supply Day, where we offer the service. The most important thing is that the boys stay clean and healthy!!

  4. Pam says:

    Gorgeous Guineas recommends using Virgin Coconut Oil, as studies have shown that mineral oil can increase the risk of tumours in mice.

    Erin, I didn’t give you “slack” for it; I was just sharing information for the benefit of guinea pigs, as I am doing here.

  5. michiko says:

    I switched from rats to guinea pigs after years of having my heart broken by the tumor issue. Rats and mice are bred in labs to develop fast-growing tumors and the lab population has inbred with the pet population. They are the best little creatures but, thanks to humans, are so prone to tumors. They breed them to develop tumors and then put out stories that they develop tumors. Really?!!

  6. Lisa says:

    I actually wasn’t aware that boars needed to be cleaned if they didn’t have an impaction problem.

    • Michiko says:

      Actually, no, they should be cleaned throughout their entire lives – starting at about 6 months old or so. Keeping them clean will avoid many impaction problems. It’s also a lot more comfortable for them.

  7. Danya says:

    My boars are about a year old. They have big healty poops & poop a lot like they are supposed to. Do I still need to clean them out? I thought this was an older age problem.

  8. tobiekoda says:

    can I use baby oil for this or should it be mineral oil?

  9. michelle says:

    When I got my guinea pigs I didn’t know you need to do a routine cleaning. I believe my guiena pig has impaction now. This article really helped me, thank you! I’m just nervous to take care of it and I don’t think I’ll be able to take him to the vet.

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