When we got our first guinea pig, there were many things that we thought we needed as a first time owner.
A hutch for it to stay in, a water bottle to drink out of, food for it to eat, hay to chew, and wood shavings to put on the floor of the hutch.
This is what the previous owner even said that’s what we needed and even the girl in the pet store said that’s what we needed.
So we happily went along with this for many months.
Finding out more about guinea pig care.
As our passion for guinea pig care grew, we became more aware of the things that we should be doing to get better at looking after guinea pigs.
One of these things was to be more aware of what we were using for bedding.
Most people have no problem with laying down wood shavings for bedding, but when researching guinea pig rescues in the UK, I came across some videos that Wood Green Animal Shelter put together for guinea pig owners. In particularly this one
One of the things they mentioned, and were quite adamant about was that you should never use wood shavings or sawdust as bedding for guinea pigs.
This took me by surprise as I had never before heard such an exclamation, but got me intruigued as to why.
The benefits of wood shavings for guinea pigs
So why are wood shavings used so much for guinea pig bedding?
- They are very cheap to purchase,
- they are very easy to sweep up and throw away,
- they are biodegradable,
- They absorb pee
- They provide a comfortable bed for piggies to sleep on
So taking all this into consideration, the question that I hadn’t considered which ‘Wood Green’ had stimulate was ‘are wood shavings safe for guinea pigs?’
If you buy them in pet stores or supermarkets, they are marketed as being environmentally friendly, biodegradable and easy to use. Which of course sounds great.
Other guinea pig owners had warned of the dangers of using cedar and pine shavings because of the long term damage they do to guinea pigs.
Here’s what else I found;
- Inhaling sawdust will make the guinea pig vulnerable to difficulties in breathing and infection
- They remove the oils from skin and leave them feeling dry.
- Wood shavings can cause skin problems such as fungal infections
- They can cause eye problems when particles irritate the eye.
- They can cause ulcers on the feet.
- Although they may not show it at first, being in an environment where they are constantly around wood shavings and even worse, sawdust, will cause then health problems in later life.
I started to look more closely at the content of wood shavings, and I was interested to find that a lot of wood shaving packs did not disclose what types of wood they were using for their shavings. Why did they not want to let on what they were using?
I had a pack of wood shavings that did not disclose what type of wood they were, and I had to contact the retailer directly to find out. They came back to say that they were ‘pine shavings’.
So taking all this into consideration, what alternatives are there?
Alternatives to wood shavings for guinea pigs
Carefresh is a man made bedding for piggies which is non-toxic wood shavings substitute
Meadow Hay is an option that many piggie owners use to lay down, providing comfort and warmth for your guinea pig.
Megazorb is a highly absorbant bedding, which is non toxic and is made from wood pulp.
Vetbed is a pro-fleece product that can absorb pee very easily. Can be washed in a washing machine. Very comfortable for piggies.
Fleece is often used by piggie owners often in indoor cages. Needs to be washed on a daily basis though.
Newspaper is a basic option but effective all the same. Needs to be changed often if used on its own. Owners often use newspaper as a base bedding and then put other bedding such as hay on top.
Shredded paper can be purchased from large pet stores or you can shred your own. Provides a comfortable non toxic bed for your piggie.
Hutch Hemp is made from the soft core of the hemp plant now grown in this country to produce fine paper, rope, textiles and animal bedding.
A choice to make
Of course, it is up to you what you use for your guinea pig bedding.
If you continue to use wood shavings, do take into consideration the points made above.
Your guinea pig may seem fine, but not wanting mine to suffer in silence, I stopped using wood shavings because of this.
Its not expensive at all to switch. Some of the options mentioned above, are not very expensive at all. Indeed, meadow hay is cheaper than wood shavings!
You could save your piggie a lot of bother in the long run.
If you are looking for more reading on the subject this article from North East Guinea Pig Rescue is great on the subject.