I have rabbits and guinea pigs. What is the best bedding to use in their cages? Can mites be transmitted through the bedding?
My preference for substrate (bedding) is newspaper pellets such as Yesterday’s News®. These pelleted beddings are made from recycled newspaper so they are environmentally friendly. They are the least reactive material to the pet and the most absorbent. As with any bedding, newspaper pellets still need to be replaced regularly to avoid ammonia build-up from urine waste. Add a little tissue paper or fluffy bedding for species that like to build a nest or burrow. Add a little tissue paper or fluffy bedding for species that like to build a nest or burrow.
Substrates to avoid include cedar, redwood, and some pines as they are aromatic and irritating to your pet’s airways. Also avoid corn cob hulls, rabbit pellets, and wood shavings which all pose a higher risk for fugal and bacterial growth. Straw and other hays are minimally absorbent and tend to be less hygienic, especially of concern when ingested. Wood shavings, such as aspen pine, are safer but they are also minimally absorbent.
Most mites are species specific, meaning a rabbit mite will only infect rabbits and a guinea pig mite will only infect guinea pigs, etc. I suppose it is possible for a pet to get mites from bedding if the bedding was previously in contact with a member of the same species. Otherwise, any free-ranging mites found in beddings are not parasitic, and therefore will not remain on your pet for any prolonged period of time. Free-ranging mites are much less common in pelleted newspaper products. If you do suspect free-ranging mites from the substrate, change to a new substrate and see if the problem persists. If it does, it is best to seek the advice of an exotics veterinarian.
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Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals. Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228. More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.
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