Every pet owner wants the best for their animal friend, and that is one reason why people with exotic animals as pets choose to provide them with comfortable bedding materials.
Pine shavings and cedar chips are the most common pet bedding materials but how safe are they really?
Concerns with pine shavings and cedar chips
The reason why pine and cedar shavings became popular as materials for pet beddings because they contain some natural insecticide properties (cedar wood shavings can repel or kill bugs and lice) and are good at controlling odour.
These wood shavings are not only soft, but they smell nice due to some volatile compounds like phenols, aromatic hydrocarbons that are given off. However, it is unfortunate that these compounds which are famous for their sweet smell and other good qualities have been discovered to pose a potential health risk to your pet.
Especially the risk of getting one of these respiratory issues: Inflammation, asthma, allergic response, and even dangerous changes in their liver.
Studies on wood toxicology
Most of the reviews on wood toxicology over the years have been conducted primarily on human beings who are in one way or the other exposed to these woods or their by-products in the industry of wood products ( like people who work in lumber mills for example as they are exposed to plenty of wood dust).
Most of these studies have compared the incidence of infections and diseases in the wood product industry workers compared to workers from other industries. It is however evident that these studies are entirely different from what our pets have to deal with since they are not exposed to breathing in milled wood and dust particles.
The studies that have been carried out to discover what influence these wood shavings have on pets have shown that animals who are housed on cedar beddings experience changes in their liver enzymes. These liver enzyme changes can, in turn, affect the metabolism of medications in the animal’s liver and also anaesthetics.
However, much information isn’t available on a connection between these changes and clinical or disease symptoms. The discovered changes in liver enzymes have been found to be problematic for guinea pigs and other research animals, but its impact on pets is yet to be adequately studied.
The bottom line with wood shavings
Based on the result of studies that showed that compounds from these wood shavings have an adverse effect on the bodies of research animals, it is commonsensical that avoiding the use of cedar as beddings and litter for our pet animals especially since there are a variety of readily available alternatives.
When it comes to pine shavings, the problems are not evident yet as studies haven’t been carried out as much. However, pine shavings also emit the same or similar compounds that are as volatile as what comes out of cedar wood chips even though the risks are not clear yet. It is assumed that when pine shavings are heat treated it may reduce the level hydrocarbon though they are aromatic, that have been discovered to pose potential concerns.
An option such as kiln-dried pine is safer. A few experts have reported that they noticed itching, sensitivities and a host of other allergies to pine shavings on their animals. Which means it may be irritating to their skin even if it is safe to their respiratory system.
Since what we have at hand about the problems between wood shavings and potential health problems in animals is circumstatial information, it is difficult for us to make any firm recommendations. However, if you have access to any other type of bedding for your pet, it is better to opt for that option over wood shavings so you can eliminate worries about the potential health risk.
Other bedding options
Because a lot of persons are concerned about the beddings of their pets, the pet bedding market has experienced an explosion. As far as wood shavings are concerned, aspen is a better option than pine and cedar, and it is widely available. There is a rising number of pellet and litter type of product in the market at the moment, which are very appropriate for use in litter boxes and as beddings.
However, the best option for your use depends on what animal you have as a pet and what the pet litter is used for. If what you are caring for is a rabbit or a ferret, it is better to use a harder pellet product in the litter box.
However, if you are caring for smaller pets like hamsters who need to be kept in a cage with a bottom filled, soft bedding or litter is the perfect option. Some of these pelleted products are useful as bedding for rodents or as a substrate, mainly when used as a cage liner with some other soft beddings to provide a top layer.
There are some new alternatives include options like paper-based pellets and even fluff like carefresh ultra which is an absorbent kind of bedding that can nicely hold together so that you can scoop out your pet comfortably.
Some of these litters are made from a variety of organic substances like aspen wood, cherry wood, wood pulp fibres, and grain by-products and even paper strips. All these options are cheap and also reasonably absorbent.
Alfalfa pellets are also an often overlooked option, and they are cheap too. Many other options that are less of a risk to your pet’s life than wood shavings exist so take advantage of them.