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?
Table of Contents
- Concerns with pine shavings and cedar chips
- Studies on wood toxicology
- The bottom line with wood shavings
- Other bedding options
Concerns with pine shavings and cedar chips
Pine and cedar shavings became popular as materials for pet beddings because they contain some natural insecticide properties (cedarwood shavings can repel or kill bugs and lice) and are good at controlling odor.
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, 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 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 carried out to discover what influence these wood shavings have on pets have shown that animals 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 anesthetics.
However, such information isn’t available on a connection between these changes and clinical or disease symptoms.
The discovered liver enzymes are problematic for guinea pigs and other research animals, but their impact on pets has not been adequately studied.
The bottom line with wood shavings
Based on the result of studies that showed that compounds from these wood shavings harm the bodies of research animals, it is commonsensical to avoid cedar as beddings and litter for our pet animals, especially since there are a variety of readily available alternatives.
The problems are not evident yet regarding pine shavings, 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 of hydrocarbon though they are aromatic, which has 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 for their respiratory system.
Since we have at hand about the problems between wood shavings and potential health problems in animals, 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 many 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 are many pellet and litter types of products in the market, 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 you are caring for a rabbit or a ferret, using a harder pellet product in the litter box is better.
However, the perfect option is caring for smaller pets like hamsters who need to be kept in a cage with bottom-filled, soft bedding or litter.
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.
Some new alternatives include 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.
These litters are made from various organic substances like aspen wood, cherry wood, wood pulp fibers, 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 less of a risk to your pet’s life than wood shavings exist, so take advantage of them.