Guinea pigs are delicate creatures. As a responsible pet parents, we need to make sure the guinea pigs live in a safe and clean environment. The fact that you are taking time to research and read this article already proves that you are on your way to become a great guinea pig parent!
In this article, I would like to share all my findings based on market studies, research papers, and interviews with real experts (vets and relevant lab researchers). Let's get to it!
1. Why is bedding so important for guinea pigs?
Guinea Pigs are susceptible to a range of disease, and bacterial infection is a prevalent one. According to a survey done by the research, they found 40% of the owners reported that their guinea pig had been diagnosed with a bacterial infection at least once during guinea pig's lifetime. This supports the information that I received from the interviews with the experts. The vets and lab researchers with extensive experience with guinea pigs have told me that bacterial infection is the disease that is the most prevalent in guinea pigs. Also that upper respiratory infection is the most common bacterial infection that causes death in many cases. The research paper also says that bacterial infection often lead to serious diseases and possibly sudden death.
The graph demonstrates that upper respiratory infection is the most prevalent. The second most prevalent infection is Urinary Tract Infection, which consists of 47% of "Other" category. Both types of infections can be prevented with proper use of GuineaDad Liner.
As a caring guinea pig parents, it is our duty to do our best in preventing bacterial infection in guinea pigs. Minimizing the chance of bacterial infection will dramatically increase the chance of our guinea pigs to live a long and healthy life.
This is why choosing the correct bedding is extremely important. There are different types of liners and bedding options that you can purchase from. Unfortunately, some are sub-par quality, and some are even outright hazardous for guinea pigs despite being marketed as a product intended for guinea pigs and other small animals. On top of this, different brands produce ranging quality of products, which makes it even harder for the consumers, especially the new owner, to choose the right product for the guinea pigs.
I will talk about all the bedding, worst to best, along with the supporting information. In the end of this article, I will also talk about what got me so upset as a parent of three little princess guinea pigs that I had to decide to start GuineaDad.
2. Worst to Best: different types of bedding for guinea pigs. Which bedding is the best for guinea pigs?
2.1. Cedar bedding and Pine bedding (softwood shaving)
Rating : 1 out of 5
Cedar and pine bedding have that fresh, natural forest smell to it! Contrary to popular belief, "natural" is not always good. Many new guinea pig owners purchase cedar and pine bedding because they are cheap and readily available. They also realize that wood shavings are good at masking guinea pig urine odor. However, did you know that cedar and pine toxins can negatively affect guinea pig's respiratory and liver system? According to the article that references to Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the acid given off by the softwood bedding can destroy cells that line the lungs and trachea. Not only that, the experiments have shown that toxins from cedar and pine bedding can also damage the liver of small animals. The toxicity of these two types of popular guinea pig bedding is well known.
I was far from being a perfect pet parent at the beginning of my journey. When I first got Peanut (my first girl guinea pig), I bought a small pet store cage and pine bedding that one of the sales associate recommended. Using the pine wood shaving for the first three days with Peanut was one of the many mistakes that I made as a new guinea pig parent. As I learned more about guinea pigs, more I realized there is so much to learn.
2.2. Newspaper, straw, corn cob, pellet and hay
Rating : 1 out of 5
Thankfully, I never tried these types of bedding for my girls (Peanut, Tofu and Dumpling). These types of bedding are somewhat a bedding of the past. Their biggest issue is their poor absorbency. The bedding easily gets wet and dirty, providing the perfect environment for mold and bacterial growth. With non-absorbent material, you are essentially exposing your guinea pigs to bacterial infection risks.
They also do not provide adequate cushion for guinea pigs' sensitive feet. Your guinea pigs could end up with a condition called Bumblefoot. While I volunteered at various rescue centers, and I have seen a fair amount of bumblefoot cases. It is extremely painful for guinea pigs, and can lead to amputation in serious cases. Many vets will also tell you that bumblefoot for guinea pigs is rather common among guinea pigs with poor bedding condition.
2.3. Aspen shaving (hardwood shaving) / kiln-dried pine
Rating: 3 and 2.5 out of 5, respectively
Unlike softwood shavings, Aspen does not have the dangerous volatile oil. However, aspen is known to be less absorbent than pine.
Kiln-dried pine is a pine bedding that has gone through special treatment to have weaker pine smell and fewer volatile oil present. Even then, pine is pine. It will still have a bit of smell and oil that could be harmful especially with lack of ventilation around the cage.
Aspen wood shaving and kiln-dried pine shavings both have limited chemical substance that will be considered hazardous for guinea pigs. However, due to the nature of wood shavings, they both contain dust.
Just like every product out there, not all wood shavings are made/packaged/stored/transported the same. Some brands do a better job than others in removing the dust, minimize scent and so forth. Unfortunately for the consumers, the difference is hard to detect for humans. The difference in scent is often subtle. The amount of dust is often hard to tell because the most dangerous type of dust (that irritates and inflames the respiratory system) is so small that it is difficult to detect with our eyes.
2.4. Paper bedding
Rating: 3 ~ 4 out of 5 (huge variance among different vendors)
You can pretty much consider paper bedding to be the upgrade version of the aspen bedding. The paper bedding does not have harmful scent. It is also more absorbent than wooden shavings. Paper bedding is also softer on guinea pig's sensitive feet.
However, I want to emphasize that paper bedding outperforms wood shavings, on average. The reason I said "on average" is that not all paper bedding products are created equal. Some poorly made paper bedding is worse than the best aspen shaving.
The paper bedding is essentially a crumbled paper. The filtering process is extremely important because amount of dust (especially the presence of small particles) are harmful to guinea pig's respiratory system. If you decide to go with the paper bedding option, I strongly suggest that you look past the marketing scheme and find out which one really is the best for your guinea pig.
In the next section, I will cover the downfall of paper bedding and why I started using the fleece cage liners for guinea pigs. Then I will cover why I had to decide to create GuineaDad Liner to make sure my girls stay healthy and happy life.
2.5. Guinea pig fleece cage liners
Rating 4 ~ 4.5 out of 5 (huge variance among different vendors)
After four to five months after raising Peanut and Tofu (I have not adopted Dumpling from the rescue at this point), I started to detect some issue with Tofu's health. Normally guinea pigs secrete white fluid from their eyes, which they use to groom their face and body. One day, I started seeing dried white crust around Tofu's eyes. For first couple days, i did not think much of it because humans get eye crust in the morning too. But then, the crust did not go away even if I cleaned her eyes every day. I called and visited the exotic vet close to my house. The vet told me that I don't need to worry too much especially since Tofu is active, eating and drinking well.
One week has passed and I started to see the red stuff protruding from bottom of her eye. I went to visit the same vet, and he gave me a prescription for an eye drop that I was supposed to apply every day for next week or so.
Another week has passed and I saw zero sign of improvement. I visited two other exotic vets to see what could be an issue. The second vet said the exact same thing and prescribed the same (which I knew at that point, isn't going to be effective). The third vet told me that it is bacterial conjunctivitis and he prescribed me some antibiotics along with an eye drop. Tofu immediately started getting better. I went in for a re-checkup and the doc told me that Tofu was fully healed.
After a month, bacterial conjunctivitis came back. I returned to the doctor, but I couldn't just depend on the treatment. I had to do something to prevent it in the future. I started doing research in regards to all sorts of bacterial infection in guinea pigs. I started calling the experts to arrange a meeting to discuss bacterial infections in guinea pigs and other small animals.
As a result of the meetings and research, I realized when it comes to guinea pig habitat, there were four factors that we had to focus on minimizing. Dust, moisture, bacteria, and coarseness.
The guinea pig fleece cage liner was "almost" a perfect choice for guinea pigs. Unlike paper bedding and wood shavings, fleece liners had zero dust - as long as they were washed clean. The quality varies from fleece to fleece, but the fleece generally provided softer texture for the guinea pig's feet. The moisture control, however, was on par with paper bedding at the best. The bacteria control was equal or slightly better than paper bedding only because fleece liners promoted thorough daily spot cleaning (where you have to remove guinea pig poop and soiled hay daily).
Going back to to Tofu story. Since fleece cage liner solution was similar to paper bedding, but clearly outperforms in two other categories, I immediately changed the bedding from paper bedding to DIY fleece cage liner solution for my guinea pigs. I started using old cotton towel for the absorbent layer and fleece for the top layer. Tofu's red protrusion in the eye improved a bit. The size of the red protrusion got smaller, but it never went away.
2.6. GuineaDad Liner
Rating 5 out 5 (best guinea pig bedding option in the market)
I knew I had to do more to treat Tofu, and prevent bacterial conjunctivitis once and for all. None of the fleece liners or simple DIY solution was going to completely cure and prevent the bacterial infection. Determined to cure Tofu's condition, I started doing more research. I learned about different fabric materials and various creation process. I arranged more meetings and discussions with the experts. With countless repetition of creating prototype and observing Tofu's symptom, I finally ended up with what is now a GuineaDad Liner (actually the version 1).
I didn't create GuineaDad Liner to sell. My sole goal was to cure Tofu's bacterial infection and prevent any sorts of disease for my other two girls, Peanut and Dumpling, as well. Luckily, some people in the guinea pig community was following our story, and also wanted it made for her guinea pigs. That's how we started, and we are where we are now. My wish is the same as every pet owners in the world. I want my girls to live a long, happy, and most importantly healthy life.
(Product shown: GuineaDad 2x1 Small Size Liner w/o Pocket)
GuineaDad Liner is the fruit of love, and has become its own category. I am glad to receive mails from the customers everyday about how GuineaDad Liner has helped their guinea pigs. Not only promoting young guinea pigs to stay happy and healthy, we have helped sick and old guinea pigs until their last day. The guinea pig parents were thankful for the product that it improved their health and strongly believe that GuineaDad Liner extended their time to live happy until the end. Below is one of many emails that I received from guinea pig parents.
"I bought your liners because one of my little ones was very ill and still isn't healthy... I decided to buy them because of his cough. I think these liners help save his live. It's a shame they are not really known where I live! I am from Austria and found them with luck on the internet! Thank you so much for inventing them. Tiberius is still ill but hopefully he stays with me for a few more years!"
GuineaDad Liner requires you do follow a strict maintenance routine. You will need to spot clean daily. You also need to do laundry once a week using cold water and unscented detergent + distilled vinegar. The extreme absorbency of GuineaDad Liner also means it will take long to dry. Most people will also purchase two sets to place another GuineaDad Liner, while one is in the wash.
Despite the above maintenance routine, the pet parents who desire their guinea pigs to live happy and healthy life swear by GuineaDad Liner. When guinea pig comes first, GuineaDad Liner is a no brainer. GuineaDad Liner simply has unmatched performance.
Just remember, being a great guinea pig parent doesn't just stop at using the GuineaDad Liner and spot cleaning often. It also involves ensuring your guinea pigs have large enough cage and access to fresh hay and water 24/7. Bonding and playing with guinea pigs come after providing these necessities.
If you decide to purchase GuineDad Liner, be sure to first sign up for GuineaDad Rewards Program located at the bottom right corner (orange gift icon). You will receive every benefit when you sign up, purchase, share through social media, and even on your birthday. The points can be used for further discount in the future.
You can also watch our YouTube videos where we compare different types of bedding.
In this video, Alex and Ernest compare some of the common types of bedding found in pet stores vs our GuineaDad Liner.
In this animation below! Peanut, Tofu, and Dumpling will go on a quest to find the perfect guinea pig bedding outsmarting the evil wolf.