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Question about hard water/water softener.

Cryptillian

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I’ve had guinea pigs for 5 years, we moved into an older house last year and I noticed calcium spots on the fleece that I hadn’t had before (or if I did it was rare) and at the time I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t really pay much attention to this because they were small and I had assumed they were dried up boar glue for the longest time (this is my mistake).

In the winter of last year we learned we had extremely hard water, it was so bad from the snow it took weeks to get the minerals out of my hair and caused rashes on everyone in my house. Everyone in my house and all my animals drink this water, I never noticed anything wrong with drinking it but I know that doesn’t really mean anything for my pigs. We got the water evaluated and had a water softener put in and it helped a lot, but I never saw a difference in the white spots. A while ago I learned they were from calcium in their pee ofc, but everyone seemed to agree online from what I read that as long as the spots were small and not gritty it should be fine which is the case for me so I didn’t worry about it. I was just doing some more looking and I read drinking water that goes through water softeners are dangerous for pigs, is this true?

I feel pretty embarrassed I didn’t realize what those spots were until recently, and again they only started to become regular when I moved so it’s most certainly the water. I don’t feed them lettuce everyday and they have been on oxbow pellets their whole time I’ve had them (usually I do kale or spinach as a leafy greens so it’s not from that). Luckily I may be moving soon and the water where I’m moving is perfectly fine, but in the meantime I wanted to make sure if there are any dangers with the water to my pigs that I address them.
 

Siikibam

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Kale and spinach are high in calcium so fed too often they can cause more calcium deposits in the pee. Having said that, pellets and water contain even more calcium than the high calcium veg. However, you can’t eliminate all calcium as they do still need it.
 

Wiebke

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I’ve had guinea pigs for 5 years, we moved into an older house last year and I noticed calcium spots on the fleece that I hadn’t had before (or if I did it was rare) and at the time I didn’t know what they were. I didn’t really pay much attention to this because they were small and I had assumed they were dried up boar glue for the longest time (this is my mistake).

In the winter of last year we learned we had extremely hard water, it was so bad from the snow it took weeks to get the minerals out of my hair and caused rashes on everyone in my house. Everyone in my house and all my animals drink this water, I never noticed anything wrong with drinking it but I know that doesn’t really mean anything for my pigs. We got the water evaluated and had a water softener put in and it helped a lot, but I never saw a difference in the white spots. A while ago I learned they were from calcium in their pee ofc, but everyone seemed to agree online from what I read that as long as the spots were small and not gritty it should be fine which is the case for me so I didn’t worry about it. I was just doing some more looking and I read drinking water that goes through water softeners are dangerous for pigs, is this true?

I feel pretty embarrassed I didn’t realize what those spots were until recently, and again they only started to become regular when I moved so it’s most certainly the water. I don’t feed them lettuce everyday and they have been on oxbow pellets their whole time I’ve had them (usually I do kale or spinach as a leafy greens so it’s not from that). Luckily I may be moving soon and the water where I’m moving is perfectly fine, but in the meantime I wanted to make sure if there are any dangers with the water to my pigs that I address them.

Hi

How many pellets are you feeding? Please don't feed more than 1/8 cup = 1 tablespoon per piggy per day. Be aware that even no calcium added pellets contain more calcium weight per weight than even the veg highest in calcium, kale and spinach.

I would strongly recommend to not feed kale and spinach on a daily basis. You don't want to cut out all calcium but very regular calcium pees indicate that the balance is currently out and that this can lead to the formation of bladder stones or sludge, especially in piggies where there are other contributing factors.

Be aware that any changes in diet are not instant; it takes several weeks to work through the body as the calcium absorption process is very complex. But they are worth making. Make sure that you feed a bit more on the fluid high veg side like cucumber and lettuce to help flush out the bladder with stronger pees. if necessary, have your piggies checked for potential stones; which unfortunately is not quite cheap but may be cheaper than any emergency operation.
Here is our comprehensive diet guide: Long Term Balanced General And Special Needs Guinea Pig Diets
 

Cryptillian

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Hi

How many pellets are you feeding? Please don't feed more than 1/8 cup = 1 tablespoon per piggy per day. Be aware that even no calcium added pellets contain more calcium weight per weight than even the veg highest in calcium, kale and spinach.

I would strongly recommend to not feed kale and spinach on a daily basis. You don't want to cut out all calcium but very regular calcium pees indicate that the balance is currently out and that this can lead to the formation of bladder stones or sludge, especially in piggies where there are other contributing factors.

Be aware that any changes in diet are not instant; it takes several weeks to work through the body as the calcium absorption process is very complex. But they are worth making. Make sure that you feed a bit more on the fluid high veg side like cucumber and lettuce to help flush out the bladder with stronger pees. if necessary, have your piggies checked for potential stones; which unfortunately is not quite cheap but may be cheaper than any emergency operation.
Here is our comprehensive diet guide: Long Term Balanced General And Special Needs Guinea Pig Diets
As I mentioned this has nothing to do with their diet, nothing about it has changed and I’ve never had issues with it. I was asking about the water softener. This only started after we moved and there was no diet changes, I feed 1/8 cup of oxbow once a day, I feed a leafy green, carrots, cucumbers, and bell pepper. I don’t use kale and
Hi

How many pellets are you feeding? Please don't feed more than 1/8 cup = 1 tablespoon per piggy per day. Be aware that even no calcium added pellets contain more calcium weight per weight than even the veg highest in calcium, kale and spinach.

I would strongly recommend to not feed kale and spinach on a daily basis. You don't want to cut out all calcium but very regular calcium pees indicate that the balance is currently out and that this can lead to the formation of bladder stones or sludge, especially in piggies where there are other contributing factors.

Be aware that any changes in diet are not instant; it takes several weeks to work through the body as the calcium absorption process is very complex. But they are worth making. Make sure that you feed a bit more on the fluid high veg side like cucumber and lettuce to help flush out the bladder with stronger pees. if necessary, have your piggies checked for potential stones; which unfortunately is not quite cheap but may be cheaper than any emergency operation.
Here is our comprehensive diet guide: Long Term Balanced General And Special Needs Guinea Pig Diets
f
I wanted to point out this isn’t a diet issue, nothing has changed from they diet, this only started when we moved. I give them the correct amount of pellets and various vegetables everyday. Second all over this forum it says if guinea pigs are have sludge to NOT feed lettuce so that’s why I switched over to kale and spinach more often which hasn’t changed anything either. Is this not true? I’m thoroughly confused.
 

Wiebke

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As I mentioned this has nothing to do with their diet, nothing about it has changed and I’ve never had issues with it. I was asking about the water softener. This only started after we moved and there was no diet changes, I feed 1/8 cup of oxbow once a day, I feed a leafy green, carrots, cucumbers, and bell pepper. I don’t use kale and
f
I wanted to point out this isn’t a diet issue, nothing has changed from they diet, this only started when we moved. I give them the correct amount of pellets and various vegetables everyday. Second all over this forum it says if guinea pigs are have sludge to NOT feed lettuce so that’s why I switched over to kale and spinach more often which hasn’t changed anything either. Is this not true? I’m thoroughly confused.

Hi!

Have you considered filtering the water?
'Lettuce' is not like lettuce. Some varieties like iceberg (which has a nutritional value of zero) and lettuces or salad greens that are related to kale (like arugula/rocket), too high calcium ( like spinach) or too spicy (like radicchio) etc. should not be fed or only rarely. They are not poisonous, just not ideal for a regular diet. Romaine, Cos, gem lettuces are perfectly OK to feed daily. When you look at the sample diet picture, you can find lettuce on the plate, but kale and spinach are clearly listed as use only with caution. ;)
In some cases, lettuce can be a trigger food for guinea pigs with a sterile interstitial cystitis (an antibiotic resistant bladder infection) but our experience on here has shown that this actually more a case of feeding foods they are not getting all the time and that any sensitivities are very individual.

The odd calcium pee is nothing to worry about but if you are getting them very constantly, then the calcium: phosphorus ratio is generally out of kilter and this can lead to the formation of stones or sludge in the longer term. You do not need to have crystals in the calcium pees for that to happen.

Unfortunately with conditions varying a lot all over the world there is no perfect one size fits all diet for every single location. A lot is down to what is available where you are, how hard your water is, how high calcium and how many pellets you feed and then to the calcium content of your veg mix and any treats. That is a lot of variables and why diet is such a confusing area; and why it is so difficult to get it right.
You can either go for a general diet that is comparatively low in calcium or for a very high calcium diet - but in the second case you need the ca : ph rate exactly right or you piggies are prime candidates for stones, especially if they have an underlying predisposition or are not good drinkers.

You may think that your question is just about the water but our answers are aiming at the balance of all food groups. If one element changes, the whole balance changes. Does that make more sense to you now?
 

Cryptillian

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Joined
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New Hampshire, USA
Hi!

Have you considered filtering the water?
'Lettuce' is not like lettuce. Some varieties like iceberg (which has a nutritional value of zero) and lettuces or salad greens that are related to kale (like arugula/rocket), too high calcium ( like spinach) or too spicy (like radicchio) etc. should not be fed or only rarely. They are not poisonous, just not ideal for a regular diet. Romaine, Cos, gem lettuces are perfectly OK to feed daily. When you look at the sample diet picture, you can find lettuce on the plate, but kale and spinach are clearly listed as use only with caution. ;)
In some cases, lettuce can be a trigger food for guinea pigs with a sterile interstitial cystitis (an antibiotic resistant bladder infection) but our experience on here has shown that this actually more a case of feeding foods they are not getting all the time and that any sensitivities are very individual.

The odd calcium pee is nothing to worry about but if you are getting them very constantly, then the calcium: phosphorus ratio is generally out of kilter and this can lead to the formation of stones or sludge in the longer term. You do not need to have crystals in the calcium pees for that to happen.

Unfortunately with conditions varying a lot all over the world there is no perfect one size fits all diet for every single location. A lot is down to what is available where you are, how hard your water is, how high calcium and how many pellets you feed and then to the calcium content of your veg mix and any treats. That is a lot of variables and why diet is such a confusing area; and why it is so difficult to get it right.
You can either go for a general diet that is comparatively low in calcium or for a very high calcium diet - but in the second case you need the ca : ph rate exactly right or you piggies are prime candidates for stones, especially if they have an underlying predisposition or are not good drinkers.

You may think that your question is just about the water but our answers are aiming at the balance of all food groups. If one element changes, the whole balance changes. Does that make more sense to you now?
Yes thank you, I just kept seeing stuff about lettuce causing this sometimes so I thought switching it up would help (I started using more kale/spinach a couple weeks ago), but nothing changed. That’s why I mentioned it in my question because I thought lettuce was bad to give them when this happens. I’m sure when I move this issue will be resolved and for now I’ll look into filtering the water myself better, but thanks for more info on kale and spinach.
 
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