Possibility of Guinea Pigs With Gluten Intolerance Linked To Bladder Problems

bbddf

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* Disclaimer: This is only a theory that I have come up with. It is not a diagnosis. I am not a medical professional or veterinarian. I made an effort to use reputable resources. I have provided references in relation to my ideas. This is my own research. Please know, I am not forcing the idea that you must have grain-free food for all guinea pigs, this is aimed at guinea pigs with recurring bladder symptoms affecting their quality of life as a suggestion that it could be worth trying. I am not saying that guinea pigs with bladder problems must be on grain-free food. Please know, I am not saying that grain-free food is a cure, only that it is something to consider. *

A common health issue for guinea pigs is recurring urinary tract infections, crystals in urine, bladder sludge and development of bladder stones. Despite some pigs being put on a different hay, going pellet-less (or changing pellet brands), having a low calcium diet, surgeries, and taking medication, the issue persists. How is it that other guinea pigs on the same diet and so forth do not suffer in the same way?

It is always said that these problems to do with the bladder are from excess calcium, even though other guinea pigs around them consume the same amount... So, one must ask, why them? Is it genetics? Or is there an external factor affecting the way that these guinea pigs are processing calcium in their bodies? Right now, no one has an answer for how some guinea pigs are susceptible.

Guinea pigs have been used consistently in laboratories since the 18th century to research health issues, create medicine or vaccines (and cosmetics), study mechanisms of the body, and they are to greatly to thank for the medical knowledge that society has today. Guinea pigs were “…used by medical researchers as laboratory animals because they have many biological similarities to humans”. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200616100818.htm#:~:text=In%20the%2018th%20century%20guinea,a%20guinea%20pig'%20in%20research.)

“In science, the guinea pig is best known as one of the gold standards for modelling human disease. It is used as a model for epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, leukemia, melanoma, and arthritis, among other disorders. The guinea pig is especially important as a model for the human immune system, as its immunological genes are more similar to human than are the mouse’s genes. It is currently our best model for testing biodefense agents and is critical for vaccine testing. The guinea pig is also useful for toxicological studies, since it is exquisitely sensitive to toxic effects and has similar reactivity to humans.” (Guinea Pig Genome Project)

“The few studies involving genetics of the guinea pig have revealed striking immunologic similarities between guinea pigs and humans.” (Europe PMC) Considering the strong resemblance that a guinea pig has to human bodily functions, it cannot be dismissed that a human ailment could be applied as the cause behind the unfortunate symptoms some guinea pigs face with their bladder. We look to calcium in guinea pigs’ food as the reason this may happen, however gluten is now something that should be considered as a reason for their symptoms.

Celiac disease is an allergy to gluten and an inability to digest gluten properly. This negatively impairs bodily functions by treating gluten as an attack on the immune system. There is also gluten insensitivity and intolerance, however these are not as severe, but still do present unfavorable symptoms. There are a range of symptoms in Celiac disease, but the focus here is to look at how Celiac disease may contribute to urinary tract infections and further bladder or kidney issues.

This is all written with the idea that a guinea pig could have Celiac disease or sensitivities and intolerances to gluten. It is exploring an idea that may not have been considered for treatment. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and most grains, which most of the time makes up the bulk of guinea pig pellets. There is evidence that Celiac disease is linked to negative bladder function. Allergies cause the body to release a chemical called histamine. As Celiac disease is an allergy to gluten, when it is consumed histamine will be released as a form of protection for the immune system and because of this “…patients with chronic bladder pain and urgency often have elevated levels of histamine and other inflammatory markers in their urine. These findings indicate that a heightened immune response in reaction to environmental or food sensitivities or allergies may be responsible for bladder symptoms.” (https://www.ic-network.com/gluten-food-sensitivities-and-ic/)

While the body is working hard on protecting itself from the invasion of gluten, other nutrients may not be absorbed into the blood stream properly. Malabsorption of food disrupts the body’s working order and “in active celiac disease, the normal mechanism to get rid of oxalate (calcium binding with oxalate) is prevented by fat malabsorption.”

“If too many fatty acids are present in the intestine, the calcium binds with them instead and is excreted as waste. The oxalate remains to be absorbed into the bloodstream by the colon where it is then excreted into the urine. This process is called enteric hyperoxaluria. “Enteric” means intestinal. “Hyper” means high. “Oxaluria” means oxalate in the urine. Calcium present in the urine binds with the oxalate to form crystals.”

“Oxalate that should have combined with calcium in the gut to be properly excreted in stool now shows up in the kidneys where it combines with calcium to be excreted in the urine. Stones form when the amounts of oxalate and calcium are high, the urine is concentrated and the pH (acidity) is low, all of which allow the calcium and oxalate to precipitate out of the urine to remain in the kidney. To illustrate this problem of concentration, think of stirring sugar into a pitcher of lemonade…add too much sugar and it begins to fall to the bottom of the pitcher.

If nothing changes, stones remain in the kidneys to grow and block the passageways of urine excretion.” (https://glutenfreeworks.com/blog/20...-calculus-causes-treatment-in-celiac-disease/)

Burgess Excel Guinea Pig Mint Nugget Ingredients - Grass, Wheat*, Soya Bean Hulls*, Oat Feed, Hi Pro Soya*, Lucerne, Yeast, Sugar Beet Pulp, Mint (1.25%), Soya Oil*, Limestone, MonoCalcium Phosphate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, Ligno-Cellulose, Short Chain Fructo-oligosaccharides(0.25%), Minerals.*

Oxbow Guinea Pig Ingredients - Timothy Grass Meal, Soybean Hulls, Soybean Meal, Cane Molasses, Wheat Middlings, Sodium Bentonite, Soybean Oil, Salt, Lignin Sulfonate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Monophosphate (Vitamin C), Monocalcium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Yeast Culture, Hydrolyzed Yeast, Zinc Proteinate, Niacin, Copper Sulfate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Manganous Oxide, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Magnesium Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Proteinate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Cobalt Carbonate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate

These two brands are popular which is why I have chosen them to show. You can see that Wheat features high up in the ingredients list for them both. Oxbow uses Wheat Middlings, and they are commercially also used to create pasta, bread, cereal and so forth. Both types of guinea pig food contain gluten because they contain wheat, and this makes them not gluten-free. Celiac disease patients avoid wheat and gluten containing products to alleviate their symptoms.

My girl Daisy who I adopted as an adult six months ago has had ongoing issues with her bladder. She has had a UTI, bleeding, pain when urinating and using the toilet, crying out when toileting, thick sludge-like urine, has been on antibiotics and pain medication, has had an ultrasound and x-ray showing an excess amount of crystal in her urine. She was bloated all the time and touching her stomach was painful for her. She would get random instances of diarrhea and sometimes even bleeding from her anus. Pats were not nice for her either because she was always uncomfortable.

I changed her (their) food over a month ago – going for the one with the “0.1%” less calcium content than Burgess Excel had, out of desperation. It so happens it is grain-free because I thought “why not, give it a go, sounds good!” She is a different guinea pig. It’s the only thing I changed – diet is the same, she hasn’t been taking any medication either. She doesn’t present any of the same symptoms, her stomach is no longer a balloon and it’s actually squishy and she doesn’t bat an eye when I touch it now, her coat is the softest and silkiest it has been, when I pat her she closes her eyes in enjoyment, she’s able to run and walk around now without looking stiff in her movements, and she doesn’t cry out in pain when toileting now (which broke my heart to listen to).

Guinea pig owners that have guinea pigs who are struggling with bladder problems and who are struggling themselves to find a way to help their guinea pig – I greatly suggest trying some grain-free (gluten free) pellets for your guinea pig to see if there is some improvement. I know that medical conditions are complicated, that there is not one straightforward “recipe” and that all kinds of causes can create different symptoms, but there is no harm to try it. I didn’t transition her to her new food, I just swapped it, but I’ll leave that up to you. It has most certainly done Miss Daisy some good.

If you are interested, there are some grain-free guinea pig food brands that you should come across if you Google for "grain free guinea pig food".

Thank you for taking your time to read this, I really do hope that it was useful in some way. I also hope that if you have a guinea pig with bladder related issues that they can find good health.

***
Please check back in to update if you have a guinea pig with bladder issues, you have changed their food to a grain-free one and if there is positive improvement!
***
It would be great to get a collective idea if this does work for people and help their guinea pigs. It may end up being helpful knowledge to share further.
***

celiac_intestine2.gif
- Malabsorption
 
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Siikibam

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I think you will find that quite a few people try to feed grain free, especially in cases where their piggies have had stones etc.
 

bbddf

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I think you will find that quite a few people try to feed grain free, especially in cases where their piggies have had stones etc.
Hi Siikibam, that is great that they tried! Obviously all bladder issues won't relate back to gluten or Celiac disease, but it is a small part of the puzzle to consider and it may work for some, like it seems to have for my girl. There are so many causes to everything so it is not always a case of one size fits all. This is a contribution for people who may not be aware of that option or this idea. When I tried to search if anything like this had been discussed I couldn't find anything, so I am sorry if I am repeating myself or if this is a common discussion.
 

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That’s okay. Grain free is suggested on here and there is also a pellet list somewhere. What you have to remember is that pellets only form a small part of their diet - they should only have a tablespoon a day.
 

bbddf

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That’s okay. Grain free is suggested on here and there is also a pellet list somewhere. What you have to remember is that pellets only form a small part of their diet - they should only have a tablespoon a day.
Thanks Siikibam. I understand that 1tbsp is the guideline. I always follow the individual feeding guidelines for the pellets as that will ensure they have the correct nutrition each day with an exact amount to provide it. Daisy and the others currently have 25g of pellets each per day. They are not overweight. Under feeding pellets can cause a lack of nutrients that a guinea pig gets and may even contribute to stones in and of itself on a broader scale. But if it is a sensitivity to gluten then they will react no matter the quantity. Dark greens are a major contributor for sure, I know that as well. I think a guinea pig, depending on the severity of their problems would have to be on a grain-free pellet for at least a few months before a difference is noticed - that is if it is gluten related.
 

Siikibam

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25g is too much. You do realise you should only have one account. You need to ask for one of them to be deleted. Which one do you want to keep?
 

bbddf

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25g is too much. You do realise you should only have one account. You need to ask for one of them to be deleted. Which one do you want to keep?
It is the feeding guideline though, so it shouldn't be too much. If I fed less they would miss out on nutrition. I realise that. I'm sorry, I'd like to keep this account.
 

Siikibam

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@sport_billy please can you delete the brumbydashy account.

@bbddf next time don’t sign up for another account when you already have one. I don’t know what guidance you follow with regards pellets but a tablespoon is enough. Going by what’s on the packet isn’t correct - they’re in it to make money. Pellets make up the least important part of their diet (5%). Remember they get nutrients from hay and a varied veg diet. Pellets are the chocolate of the piggy world.
 

Piggies&buns

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Pellets can serve a purpose in bridging gaps in nutrition, but they also are not completely essential and there are many who don’t feed pellets at all, or only feed them a few times a week (mine only have pellets about three or four times a week). If you can provide plenty of hay, grass, a variety of veg, safe weeds, then their nutritional needs can be met. However, as not everybody can do that, this is why pellets can serve their purpose.
I, personally, will not go by what the packaging says and instead follow vet advice regarding quantities.

My piggies. Vet says to feed one tablespoon which weighs approx 6g. Packaging says to feed 50g.
My rabbits. Vet says to feed one egg cup full which weighs approx 11g. Packaging says to feed 100g per day.

These are huge differences here.
 

piggieminder

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I have been researching the relationship between food and stones too. My research has also been human based as very little research has been done into guinea pigs. My findings are that oxelates are a major contributing factor in the build up of stones and sludge. Some high oxelate foods we are likely to be feeding guinea pigs are
Wheat, legumes (soy), spinach, parsley, chard, beets, beet greens, sweet potato, there are many more but not so likely to be in a piggy diet. Most pellets contain high levels of wheat, the next highest ingredient is often soy, even many of the grain free ones contain a lot of soy. Oxelates bind to calcium to leave the body so we have to be careful when limiting calcium intake to much, it's easy to swap one problem with another. Calcium is also needed for strong bones and teeth, if not enough is taken in then the body strips it from the bones.
In the case of cystitis I've found different foods can be triggers with different animals. I've had one that seemed to be triggered by lettuce. I presently have two that are triggered by celery.
There are two brilliant articles in Guinea Pig Magazine on bladder problems. No.43 March-April 2018 and No.41 November - December 2017. Back issues can be ordered from guineapigmagazine.com.
I would encourage everyone concerned with their piggy's diet to do their own research and reach their own conclusions. I'm not an expert or academic. There are differing opinions on line. I've watched youtube videos from Saskia LAGPR, Skinny pigs 1 and Lyn at Cavy Central all have slightly different views. I've spoken to the nurses and Drs at the Nephrology clinic I attend for my own kidney stone problems, bet they wondered why someone with cystine stones kept asking about calcium ones! I've googled and googled and googled and as a result my own piggies are now on a mixed type hay, fresh grass, pepper, cucumber diet. They have a few grain and soy free pellets a day. I am keeping any other veg as very occasional very small bit treats.
Any change in diet should be done gradually especially introducing fresh grass
Feeding Grass And Preparing Your Piggies For Lawn Time
 

sport_billy

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It is the feeding guideline though, so it shouldn't be too much. If I fed less they would miss out on nutrition. I realise that. I'm sorry, I'd like to keep this account.
I have merged your accounts together it means all your posts will be together
 

bbddf

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@sport_billy please can you delete the brumbydashy account.

@bbddf next time don’t sign up for another account when you already have one. I don’t know what guidance you follow with regards pellets but a tablespoon is enough. Going by what’s on the packet isn’t correct - they’re in it to make money. Pellets make up the least important part of their diet (5%). Remember they get nutrients from hay and a varied veg diet. Pellets are the chocolate of the piggy world.
I will remember not to do that Siikibam. I go by my own guidance of logic, making my own choice from the conflicting information on the internet. I go to a vet with strong experience with guinea pigs and on my trips there and discussions about food, she has never said anything about pellets being 1tbsp per day. Suggesting pet food companies are in it to make money, sure, but 1tsbp a day out of a packet gives a whole lot of time for the nutrients in the pellets to degrade while the packet sits around (most notably the vitamin c which is vital). 1tbsp will not contain the entire daily intake of nutrients required. The 25g of whatever amount suggested on feeding guidelines is chosen to accommodate the concentration of these nutrients in the pellets to provide what nutrients are required for the day. If you are given a medicine (not that pellets are, but as an example) with a strength and dose, you don't lessen the dose because they want to make money and you might find the medicine in other things. You take it as is because that's how it has been formulated. If they can be fed vegetables and hay to compensate, sure, but knowing exactly what mineral/vitamin/nutrient is in each vegetable and providing a daily balance of that is a bit difficult and may actually end up costing more money because more vegetables are bought. If they do not put on weight from the feeding guidelines, getting all parts of what their daily nutrient needs are and can also get more nutrients from vegetables on top, then what is the harm right? In my opinion - pellets are the cereal of the piggy world. Fruit is the chocolate of the piggy world. And I might guess that the 1tsbp thing came about to avoid obesity when guinea pigs had small cages or enclosures and couldn't get adequate exercise. Or it came about when pellets were basically cardboard, with fibre, and not much else to them, so it was advised to feed less so that the guinea pig can focus on hay for the same fibre and for their teeth. And that maybe old school vets are suggesting it, and that others are repeating it with no thought into "why".

I think that we could debate how many pellets should be fed to them back and forth, but the real point here is the possibility that gluten (in whatever quantity of pellets fed) could cause some symptoms in some guinea pigs because of sensitivity. This is what the post is about. Even feeding 1tbsp a day, gluten will still be present. An allergy to something only needs a speck to have a negative body reaction.
 

bbddf

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Pellets can serve a purpose in bridging gaps in nutrition, but they also are not completely essential and there are many who don’t feed pellets at all, or only feed them a few times a week (mine only have pellets about three or four times a week). If you can provide plenty of hay, grass, a variety of veg, safe weeds, then their nutritional needs can be met. However, as not everybody can do that, this is why pellets can serve their purpose.
I, personally, will not go by what the packaging says and instead follow vet advice regarding quantities.

My piggies. Vet says to feed one tablespoon which weighs approx 6g. Packaging says to feed 50g.
My rabbits. Vet says to feed one egg cup full which weighs approx 11g. Packaging says to feed 100g per day.

These are huge differences here.
There are huge differences. But there are also some people who need pellets as support and to not risk depriving their guinea pigs of nutrition by having a complicated feeding routine to abide by. It's easy and convenient. I don't think people should be told to feed 1tbsp per day unless they have willingly researched it themselves. It's an interesting thing the mistrust that people have in pet company feeding quantities. I haven't had vets here say anything about 1tbsp. What are the benefits other than cost? Mine aren't overweight, they're shiny and soft, they have healthy digestion, their teeth are good, they eat boat loads of hay, they are active and thriving. I don't understand why it is discouraged to feed them following the packet. People aren't always in a place to feed 1tbsp. I do believe that 1tbsp only won't help their growth and development or health in the long term. It's undercutting and complicating a guinea pigs health over a golden rule that doesn't really make sense. A lot of vet websites do not say anything about 1tbsp. I am strongly attached to the idea that it is old school.

Let me ask, @Siikibam and @Piggies&buns , are your guinea pigs glowing in health? If they are great, as long as they are truly healthy.

I think it is wrong to condemn others for choosing to feed pellets following the guinea pig food packet guidelines. If my guinea pigs are healthy, there is no need for me to change what I am doing. If others' guinea pigs are healthy, I don't think they should be encouraged either that they need to change the amount and are doing it wrong.

This is supposed to be a supportive place, I thought. I didn't realise people wanted to pick holes in the most minute of details.

Once again, this is not about amounts of pellets that should be fed. It is about gluten in pellets and the affect it may have on some guinea pigs.
 

bbddf

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I have been researching the relationship between food and stones too. My research has also been human based as very little research has been done into guinea pigs. My findings are that oxelates are a major contributing factor in the build up of stones and sludge. Some high oxelate foods we are likely to be feeding guinea pigs are
Wheat, legumes (soy), spinach, parsley, chard, beets, beet greens, sweet potato, there are many more but not so likely to be in a piggy diet. Most pellets contain high levels of wheat, the next highest ingredient is often soy, even many of the grain free ones contain a lot of soy. Oxelates bind to calcium to leave the body so we have to be careful when limiting calcium intake to much, it's easy to swap one problem with another. Calcium is also needed for strong bones and teeth, if not enough is taken in then the body strips it from the bones.
In the case of cystitis I've found different foods can be triggers with different animals. I've had one that seemed to be triggered by lettuce. I presently have two that are triggered by celery.
There are two brilliant articles in Guinea Pig Magazine on bladder problems. No.43 March-April 2018 and No.41 November - December 2017. Back issues can be ordered from guineapigmagazine.com.
I would encourage everyone concerned with their piggy's diet to do their own research and reach their own conclusions. I'm not an expert or academic. There are differing opinions on line. I've watched youtube videos from Saskia LAGPR, Skinny pigs 1 and Lyn at Cavy Central all have slightly different views. I've spoken to the nurses and Drs at the Nephrology clinic I attend for my own kidney stone problems, bet they wondered why someone with cystine stones kept asking about calcium ones! I've googled and googled and googled and as a result my own piggies are now on a mixed type hay, fresh grass, pepper, cucumber diet. They have a few grain and soy free pellets a day. I am keeping any other veg as very occasional very small bit treats.
Any change in diet should be done gradually especially introducing fresh grass
Feeding Grass And Preparing Your Piggies For Lawn Time
Hey Piggieminder,
It's so great to hear that you've been well into your research as well. You've also shared some very interesting information. I agree that everyone should be doing their own research, but some people need a starting point or they are at a dead end and need one last piece of information to look into. I am only trying to suggest that it is something to consider, not a be all and end all. I am sorry that you have kidney stone problems, I hope you are recovering well. And I am glad that you have figured out a good diet for your own guinea pigs.

Eating oxalate containing food for guinea pigs that could be gluten sensitive is not necessarily the issue. The issue is that when they ingest gluten that their small intestine will not function properly, the calcium won't be absorbed into the blood stream. By eating gluten daily their ability to absorb and process nutrients from food is hindered due to the gut working overtime to fight off the allergen (gluten). This causes the intestine to have a malabsorption of fat, with this it cannot process the calcium through the small intestine to bind with the oxalates to be absorbed into the bloodstream as nutrients. Because it can't be absorbed into the blood stream, it creates an imbalance, and then the calcium and oxalates end up in the kidney for excretion - causing crystals and stones. If there was no reaction to gluten, the gut would function properly and be able to transfer the calcium and oxalate together into the blood stream. The food doesn't help of course, it worsens the situation, however, gluten could be behind why it affects some guinea pigs more.

Yes, oxalate foods are a cause. But some oxalate foods make no difference to other guinea pigs. So, I have looked deeper into the cause. As you can see above, I have going one step above oxalate foods as a cause, and turned it to gluten foods as a cause that oxalates become an issue.
 

PigglePuggle

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Sorry not sure what this is all about, is it your dissertation or something? Can you give a reference list if it is, and say what uni/supervisor you are with? Its all a bit... erm... long for the usual style of forum post, so a few of the staff/mods/H&I team were just wondering what your sources are, and your motivation... it would help us a lot, if you can link in the scientific veterinary journals supporting all whatever this is about that you want to share?
 

bbddf

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Sorry not sure what this is all about, is it your dissertation or something? Can you give a reference list if it is, and say what uni/supervisor you are with? Its all a bit... erm... long for the usual style of forum post, so a few of the staff/mods/H&I team were just wondering what your sources are, and your motivation... it would help us a lot, if you can link in the scientific veterinary journals supporting all whatever this is about that you want to share?
I'm trying to educate on what gluten can do to the human body, and then what it may be able to do to a guinea pig body as we are similar in nature. I know a lot of people struggle with no way to stop their guinea pig's bladder issues, so I am trying to suggest something different that could cause it. As in gluten intolerance being behind the formation of kidney stones by not absorbing oxalates into the blood stream. It is not a dissertation. It was something I spent a long time on and was really excited to share. I have provided quotes and references in what I wrote. Each website has their own list of references at then end of the page, all of them reputable and medical in nature.

All I want to do is explain why I think that people should consider a grain-free diet for their guinea pig. That's all. And I am quite upset because I am feeling really rejected in my idea, with not much support and interest. I thought people might've been excited as I was. But they are offended somehow. There is no specific study for guinea pigs and celiac disease that I could find. So as I said in my disclaimer, this is a theory. It's just my ideas linked together. It's anecdotal. It's some correlations I've made and some similarities I've noticed. Switching to grain-free food is not exactly harmful to try. I just wanted to help solve a problem and test it. I don't know why that is hard to see. I only wanted to present the idea as an option to try.
 

Siikibam

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Quite a lot of members have switched their piggies to grain free pellets, some after issues with bladder stones etc. As for gluten, they shouldn’t have wheat or any type of grain, although it’s used as fillers in some pellets.
 
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