What is a Skinny Pig?
A skinny pig is an almost hairless breed of Guinea pig. We say almost as they do have small patches of hair around the feet and muzzle.
The Skinny Pig is a fairly new addition to the long list of Guinea pig breeds. When back in the 1970’s Scientists started breeding them for dermatological testing.
Sources suggest a haired variety of Guinea pigs was cross-bred with a hairless lab strain. This resulted in a nearly hairless crossbreed.
Although fairly unusual, Skinny pigs are quite popular amongst Guinea pig enthusiasts. This is due to the different patterns and skin tone variations.
This guide will give you all you need to know about Skinny pigs. How to care for them and ensure years of happy Guinea pig ownership!
Skinny Pig History
The skinny pig breed of guinea pig originated from a crossbreeding program between regular-haired Guinea pigs and a hairless lab strain.
The hairless strain was a genetic mutation in a group of lab-bred Guinea pigs first discovered back in the 1970s in Montreal.
The new breed of almost hairless Guinea pigs was bred in labs for use in dermatological studies. They are still used to this day.
The Skinny Pig was introduced to the pet trade in the 1990s. They have gained in popularity over the years with Cavy enthusiasts and pet owners alike.
There is another breed of hairless guinea pig known as the Baldwin Guinea pig which, has even less hair!
If you are interested in breeding Guinea pigs, although not difficult, there are a few important considerations.
Guinea Pigs are sexually mature from about 1-2 months old. Females, or the Sow, should be less than 10 months old at the maximum. Sows older than 5-6 months may have complications due to a fusing of the pubic
symphysis, which will cause complications during birth and most likely result in a Caesarean section being required. Therefore this is not recommended. The age of the male is not overly important as long sexual maturity has been reached.
Skinny Pig Genes
The Skinny pig Gene is recessive, which means the breeding pair must carry the gene. This could be breeding two skinny pigs together, where you are sure the gene will be present.
Haired Guinea pigs may also carry the gene. Which makes it possible for 2 haired Guinea pigs to produce Skinny Piglets. But unless you know the breeding history, it is impossible to tell!
Because of the recessive gene, it has been known for some Guinea pig breeders to inbreed their skinny pigs to ensure skinny piglets. This, however, is detrimental to the health of the piglets and weakens the immune system considerably. Always select your breeders carefully and ensure they are sourcing mates from different gene pools.
Gestation Period and pregnancy
Female guinea pigs are pregnant for approximately 2 months. The average litter size is 3 piglets, but this can vary depending on mother nature!
As with any pregnancy, there can be complications. Look for signs of changes in appetite, bodily functions, and activity, and get them checked by your vet. It is extremely risky for older Sows to give birth, so this should be avoided if at all possible.
Guinea piglets are born ‘Prococial’. The very high-level summary of this term is that the Piglets are born with their eyes open, and can move around on their own soon after being born. They will still nurse shortly after birth for a period to get some essential vitamins from mum, but they are also able to consume normal food such as hay almost immediately!
This is not overly common in other mammals, so a real unique experience if you are considering breeding.
The Skinny Pig and Medical Testing
Guinea pigs have many biological similarities to humans and have been used in medical research for centuries. Hence the term ‘Human Guinea pig’ is frequently coined for human subjects.
The Skinny pig in particular, with its near human-like skin, has been useful in many dermatological studies and was bred for exactly that purpose.
Studies on Guinea pigs have to lead to the discovery of :
- Vitamin C
- the tuberculosis bacterium
Studies on Guinea pigs have helped in the development of:
- Vaccines for diphtheria and TB
- Replacement heart valves
- Blood transfusion
- Kidney dialysis
- Asthma medicines
This video tells us more about the history of medical testing on Guinea Pigs and is well worth a watch if this interests you.
Hairless Guinea pigs tend to encounter a few more health problems than the haired variety.
Due to their history and breeding complications, immune systems can sometimes be weaker than that of a haired Guinea pig. However, a well-bred skinny pig should have the same resilience as a haired Guinea pig.
Hairless Guinea pigs need to be kept warm since they do not have any natural insulation in the form of hair. This means you cannot keep them outside and should be kept indoors in a snug and warm environment.
If you are considering letting your hairless guinea pig have a trip outside, be sure to apply a high factor sunblock to protect their skin from burning and skin cancers.
Lacking that extra protective layer of fur can also lead to an increase in bumps and scrapes. Be sure to keep your Skinny Pig in a safe environment and consider selecting bedding and substrate that is not too abrasive on their delicate skin.
Why Skinny Pigs need vitamin C
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is an essential nutrient that is used in the repair of tissue, prevention of scurvy, and helps boost the immune system.
As guinea pigs are unable to form their ascorbic acid naturally, it is important to supplement your piggies’ diet with Vitamin C to maintain health and promote healing for scrapes and wounds.
Bladder stones are tiny crystals of calcium that can form anywhere in the urinary tract, most commonly in the bladder or urethra.
Guinea pigs which have a high pellet diet, and less hay and fresh fruit and veggies are more likely to suffer from bladder stones, so it is important to vary your buddy’s diet as much as possible.
Some of the more common signs that your Guinea pig has bladder or Urinary stones can be more frequent urinating, or straining to urinate. Also, be on the lookout for blood in the urine or red patches around the hindquarters.
More advanced cases of bladder stones may cause your Guinea pig to have low energy levels, and may appear to have a hunched posture.
Unfortunately, surgery is often required to remove these stones as they are too large to be passed through the urinal tract. If in any doubt it is always best to seek advice from your local veterinary surgeon as to the best cause of action for your Guinea pig.
UTI Urinary tract Infections
Unfortunately, Guinea pigs are also prone to developing UTIs or urinary tract infections. Which we’ll learn about more here.
The main causes are again too much calcium in their dirt, or as they are fairly short little creatures, their genitals coming in contact with harmful bacteria from their hutch floor.
The tell-tale signs that your buddy has contracted a UTI are very much similar to that of the stones. Painful urination (listen out for squeaks when peeing), blood in their urine, and more frequent urination are all good indicators that there may be a UTI.
Again the best course of action if you detect any of these signs is a trip to your local vet, who will be able to diagnose further.
Treatment for UTIs is usually a course of antibiotics to clear up any infections. Prevention is, of course, better than cure, so be sure to feed your Guinea pig a varied diet with plenty of water. Vitamin C, as discussed above is crucial to help your piggy fight infections as and when they develop. It is also really important to clean out your Guinea Pig cage regularly to reduce the risk of coming into contact with feces and urine left in the substrate.
We have discussed above the various health complications you might experience with Skinny pig keeping, so how can we ensure we are giving our little non-furry pets a good chance at avoiding all of these?
A well-balanced and healthy diet is the number one place to start.
Firstly, a readily available supply of freshwater is a must. We recommend having multiple sources of water available as a safety net in case one of your dispensers is faulty or gets blocked up. There are many good quality water dispensers on the market to suit all budgets.
Secondly, a skinny pig’s diet must contain a good supply of vitamin C. As mentioned above Guinea pigs are unable to produce their Ascorbic acid, so a supplement in their diet is essential to maintaining health.
And last but not least, a varied and balanced diet.
Avoid a completely pellet-based diet, which is high in calcium and can cause UTIs and bladder stones.
What is the best Hay for a Skinny Pig?
Grass Hay is a staple for Guinea pigs, so ensure there is plenty available. Popular healthy hay types include:
- Timothy Hay
- Orchard Grass
- Meadow hay
Avoid feeding your Guinea pig Alfalfa hay as it has a high calcium content and can cause bladder stones.
What are the Best Vegetables for a skinny pig?
Be sure to include fresh, leafy green vegetables, with high vitamin C content. Some of the more common examples are listed here:
- Lettuces (excluding iceberg lettuce which has no nutritional value)
- Carrot tops
- Chicory greens
- Curly endive
Add some other fresh vegetables. Some good healthy options are:
- Celery leaves
- Pumpkin (deseeded)
- Turnip greens
- Corn Husks
- Beetroot (not pickled)
skinny guinea pigs should have a varied diet of fresh vegetables and fruit
Add in some other fruit and veggies in moderation:
- Apples with skin – remove the toxic seeds!
- Pears, again with no seeds
- Cranberries. These are especially good for UTI treatment/ prevention.
- Kiwi fruit
- Cantaloupe melon
What should I avoid feeding my skinny pig?
Foodstuffs to avoid feeding a skinny pig include:
- Anything in the cabbage family, which can cause bloat if fed regularly so best to avoid.
- Iceberg lettuce – little or no nutritional goodness
- Potatoes – Skin is poisonous, plus they are very starchy and high in Oxalic acid
- Nuts, seeds, lentils, and beans. except for green beans.
- Pickled vegetables
- Chilli peppers!
- Dairy products
- Avacado – high-fat content
- Coconut – High-fat content
- Garlic and onions
Remember to remove the toxic seeds if feeding your Hairless Guinea Pig apples!
A common misconception is that pet allergies are always caused by the animal’s hair or dander. Quite often it is, in fact, the skin or saliva of the animal causing the allergy.
It is also much more common to be allergic to your pet’s bedding materials or foodstuff than it is your actual pet, so be sure to rule any of this out by changing the bedding type and food before you declare yourself allergic to your little buddy!
The Skinny Pig, although completely hairless apart from patches around their feet and muzzle, often have varying skin pigmentation giving them a unique appearance.
The most common variations are :
There are also Albino skinny pigs, as well as a variety with Dalmation like markings. But probably the most common and popular variation amongst skinny pig enthusiasts is the chocolate variety.
Hairless Guinea pigs tend to be slightly smaller than a regular haired guinea pig when fully grown.
Babies tend to range from around 3-4 inches at birth, with fully grown piggies around 8-12 inches at full maturity around 14 months.
The hairless guinea pig, like their haired counterparts, are very sociable animals and should be kept together. However, with their lack of a hairy protective coat, They take more looking after than the haired variety so be sure to house your piggies to the required levels of the resident hairless guinea pig.
Hairless Guinea pigs are much the same as their haired relatives. Most of their behavior is demonstrated with unique Guinea pig sounds and movements. Popcorning is a particularly strange, but interesting physical demonstration of emotions!
The Hairless Guinea pig is a sociable animal and should be kept in groups. They have no problem living with other guinea pigs.
Skinny Pig Care
Looking after and caring for our pets is important to ensure a long and healthy life.
Due to the lack of hair acting as a protective barrier from the everyday rigors of foraging and playing, skinny pigs need some extra care to ensure they remain happy and healthy.
We have identified some of the key areas in which care is required, along with some handy tips and advice to help you provide your pet with the greatest levels of care possible.
Skinny Pig Nail and foot care
Like all other Guinea pigs, Skinny Guinea Pigs require a regular trim up of their nails or claws to avoid discomfort infection or even Bumblefoot!
Maintaining healthy skinny pig skin
Hairless Guinea Pigs, by nature, have extra skincare requirements than their hairy relatives.
To keep your piggy healthy and happy, you will need to pay special attention to the care of their skin, by identifying issues and maintaining healthy skin.
Common hairless guinea pig skin issues
Sunburn and skin cancer
Hairless Guinea pigs lack the natural barrier of a fur coat protecting their sensitive skin from harmful UV rays. It is very important to not expose your piggy to prolonged periods of direct sunlight, and use a suitable and safe sunblock if you intend on letting your piggy play outside.
Some hairless Guinea pigs suffer from oily skin, which is caused by an overproduction of natural oils and can cause blockages in the pores of the skin. Symptoms may include scratching and itching on the back, and around glands. Be sure to keep an eye out for this and remedy it by wiping it with a warm cloth to remove excess oily residue.
On the other hand, skinny pigs may suffer from dry skin, caused by a lack of natural oil production. this can lead to irritation, scratching, and itching. if you suspect your piggy has dry skin, use a small amount of a natural unscented moisturizer, free from chemicals to relieve the dryness. This could be a natural moisturizer such as coconut oil, or a delicate baby lotion. The key here is to use sparingly as Skinny pigs have very sensitive skin. As always, consult your local friendly vet for further skincare advice
Mites and parasites
Skinny pigs are also prone to mites. Check for red sore areas on the skin, and use your fingers to feel around the uncommon areas such as under the chin and armpits. If you suspect the presence of mites or any other parasitic infestation, contact your vet immediately.
Skinny Pig Bathing
Skinny Guinea Pigs are clean animals. They do not have the complication of maintaining a furry coat like regular guinea pigs, which can become soiled and dirty, therefore can keep themselves clean by grooming using their tongues and paws. It is, of course, important to keep their living quarters clean and tidy by changing their bedding and substrate regularly, with regular deep cleans to remove any soiled dirt and feces.
With this in mind, bathing your skinny Pig, or any regular guinea pig is rarely required and should be avoided.
Skinny pigs have natural oils in their skin to prevent dryness, and bathing your skinny will wash this natural oil away and potentially cause skin irritation.
Should you need to bathe your Skinny pig, then avoid any soaps or detergents and simply rinse with tepid water, and dry with a warm dry cloth.
Skinny Pig Temperature
Because of the Skinny pigs’ lack of fur, it is important to keep your piggy in warm conditions and provide ample bedding and borrowing materials. Skinnies will be very happy in a room temperature environment, which is usually around 23°C or around 70°f.
Skinny Pigs like to be kept warm!
Dental care for Skinny Pigs
Like all other Guinea pigs, oral care is important to avoid abscesses and complications such as weight loss and infection caused by dental issues.
Weighing your Skinny Pigs
Skinny pig weight, as for any regular guinea pigs can be a really useful indicator of overall health, and help detect underlying health issues.
If you notice a change in your guinea pig’s weight, it’s time to act.
Caring for Senior Skinny Pigs
As Skinny pigs get older and become less active, they may require some additional love and care to ensure they live out their twilight years as healthy and happy as possible. There are several tips here which will ensure your senior citizen is receiving all the help he can in maintaining a happy and healthy lifestyle.
Regular Health checks for Skinny Pigs
We hope by reading and understanding this guide, and other Guinea pig care-associated articles on this site, you should now be well equipped to identify health issues before they become more serious. In addition to your regular care regime, it may also be a good idea to schedule regular trips to the vet for a full check-up by a professional in case there are any more subtle underlying issues not always noticeable to the untrained eye.
Cages and enclosures
Skinny Pigs require some additional considerations to that of regular guinea pigs when selecting their new home.
Being nearly hairless, you will need to keep your piggy indoors at room temperature to ensure they are not too cold. additionally, you will also need to ensure their living quarters are adequately shaded from any direct sunlight to avoid harmful rays.
Your Piggies home needs to be safe and secure. They do not have the protective layer of a fur coat, so it is critical to ensure their cage or hutch is free from sharp abrasive edges, and have adequate space for foraging and exercise.
Price and cost of care
How much do skinny pigs cost? The answer is largely dependent on where you get your new piggy from. The average cost of a skinny pig is around $25. But you can expect to pay anywhere near $40 if you are going directly to a breeder.
Skinny Pigs As Pets
Ultimately, after reading this blog you should have a good idea of what it takes to keep a Skinny pig as a pet. Similarly, you should also have a good base understanding of the levels of care and attention you need to provide your cavy for a long and happy life together.
Certainly, They are more demanding than your average Guinea pig, so if that is a worry to you, perhaps you should look for a furry breed instead.
If however, reading this helpful guide has fuelled your interest in the world of Skinny pigs, then what are you waiting for! you are sure to have many rewarding and fun-filled years looking after your unique piggy or piggies!
Interesting Skinny pig Facts
When were Skinny Pigs first introduced?
Skinny pigs were bred in a science lab back in the 1970s for medical trials.
Do Skinny Pigs live in the Wild?
Skinny pigs do not exist in the wild.
Do Skinny Pigs have any hair?
Skinny pigs are almost hairless and have hair on their faces and feet.
Do Skinny Pigs require more or less care than other Guinea Pig breeds?
Skinny pigs require more care than their hairy relatives due to not having the layer of protection a furry coat provides.
What temperature do Skinny Pigs like to live at?
Skinny pigs like to live at room temperature. They are sensitive to cold temperatures due to the lack of hair!
Do Skinny Pigs get sunburn?
Yes! Skinny pigs should not be exposed to direct sunlight as they have no protective hairy coat!
How long do Skinny Pigs Live?
Skinny pigs can live for up to 8 years, much the same as their hairy relatives.
How big do Skinny Pigs get?
Skinnies average size is around 12 inches when fully grown
Why does my Skinny Pig hop around?
Skinny pigs can ‘popcorn‘ which is a little jump in the air when happy!
We come across this video on youtube, which covers care considerations, and is definitely worth a watch if you are considering becoming a Skinny pig owner! credit to Skinnypigs1 for the Video